Setting Up Systems

During hurricane Matthew I was without power, bored, with not much to do. Luckily I had loaded up some books on my Kindle and spent most of the day reading through “How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big” by Scott Adams. If you don’t know Scott, he is the cartoonist behind the comic strip Dilbert.

One of the first concepts he covers is setting up systems over goals. Whether it is for work, side projects, fitness, or any other activity you can build up systems for success. The big distinction made between a goal and a system is once you achieve a goal, it is over and you have to start fresh. While with a system it continues working because you setup a plan and continue to follow it. It is more of a life choice versus a milestone.

Systems for Fitness

Take fitness for example. I have had a goal to lose some weight for a couple months and have not made much progress. I kind of track my calories… I kind of go to the gym… But overall I have made little progress towards my goals. I didn’t spend enough time really thinking of the work that I needed to accomplish to get to my goals, just that I know where the finish line is. Fitness is pretty simple when you break it down:

  1. Calories out has to be more than calories in. As an engineer this concept is so simple. Calories In <Calories Out. This is a low of the universe and is the only way to lose weight. When I’m hungry, I eat. I’m indulging myself for instant satisfaction but not showing enough discipline for what my true goals are. Using an app like MyFitnessPal can help when it comes to tracking calories.
  2. Going to the Gym is important… but not as important as tracking calories. At the gym you can build muscle and may add a couple hundred more calories to the “Calories Out” part of the equation, but overall there is not much else you can do at the gym to lose weight. The couple hundred calories expended at the gym can easily be re-consumed with a chocolate bar or some bad meal choices.
  3. Consistency is key. Without consistency you can never make progress. If you eat too much a couple days of the week, you tip the scales in the wrong direction which is very difficult to tip back. If you don’t continuously go to the gym you will lose muscle and definition. These are life choices that need to be followed every day if my goal is to “get in shape” and stay there.

One day down. Forever to go.

Going Beyond

Fitness systems are just a starting point. Scott also has systems in place for creating his comics. Systems in place for blogging. Systems in place for his side projects. And you know what? They all sound so great. They help him work fast, stay on the right track, and get shit done.

I kind of think of these systems like dividend payments on life. If I can even be 10% more productive over the next 10 years, I would gain over 150% back my investment by setting up my own systems.

So here is to my health, fitness, and blogging. Lets see where the next year takes me.


P.S. I’m hungry right now :’(