I know that it is common, now that it is near the end of the year, to set goals for 2019. New Year’s resolutions some people call it. I remember asking one of my close friends once about her New Year’s resolutions and she remarked in what I thought was a smug tone (but later realized that’s just my friend being herself) that she set goals every month and that she didn’t normally follow what others did.

What about me? I had a similar approach in a way – I regularly set goals for myself although when I was younger, I did set out to make several New Year’s resolutions that I failed to achieve. It’s probably another post to explore why I failed these resolutions but after reading Scott Adam’s book on How to fail at everything and still win big, I realized that it is much more effective to set systems in place rather than to set goals.

What’s the difference between setting goals and setting systems?

Losing 15 lbs in 4 monthsEating less meat and more servings of vegetables every day OR being more active
Writing a book and getting published in 6 monthsBlogging and writing every day

In a way, what I understand goals and systems to be is that goals is some result or outcome that we want to achieve. Interestingly, both the people that are successful and the people that fail have the same set of goals; however, those that are successful will certainly have systems in place whereas those that fail probably do not.

Systems are, in other words, a mindset, a habit that takes hold, or a certain story that you tell yourself about what you are or what you would like to be. If you are an active person with a healthy lifestyle, you are going to choose to eat more vegetables and take the stairs whenever possible. If you are a writer, you do not just devote a couple weeks or months to writing a book, you write every single day to develop your craft. If you focus on the systems, the results will certainly follow, slowly but surely whereas if you focus on goals, you may or may not achieve them and goals have a way of demotivating us when we do not achieve them.

There are two good blog posts about systems vs. goals: one by James Clear and one by Scott Adams that I’ll point you to get more information. With that said, here are a few systems that I want to improve / establish in 2019:

  • Waking up early – Waking up early, as I have mentioned previously, is a keystone habit – it’s a habit in which many other good habits follow. As I try (very hard) to wake up earlier in the day, I also find that I am quite a bit more productive in the mornings than in the afternoons and waking up early will help maximize that time and energy I have and focusing on the things that matter.
  • Leading an active and healthy lifestyle – I don’t count calories and I try not to sit for too long (although a lot of my work is sitting at a desk and working on a computer) but as much as possible, I’m going to try to get up, eat more veggies and less meat and remember that once I feel 80% full, I should stop. I have also thought about trying what Tim Ferriss does – eating only rice and beans for a week and trying to make me think about what it is like to be extremely poor and minimalistic to guard myself against getting into the mindset of avoiding risk.
  • Writing every day – Technically I do write every day, if I count things like messages but my schedule this year has been blogging twice a week which, for the most part, I have been consistent in. I do find blogging twice a week to be a challenge but I recently read a post about another blogger’s process for writing which made me re-think how I blog – the process that he follows is to separate the generation of ideas from writing and then separating writing from editing. Too often, I sit in front of a blank page and I try to think of ideas, then I try to formulate an outline in my head on how I should be organizing my thoughts and then I put pen to paper which the blogger argues is too much for one session (and I tend to agree). Therefore, what I’ve been doing recently is to come up with ideas when I’m not writing and then when I sit down to write, all I do is choose an idea that I have already come up with to write on. I found that this method has helped me significantly relieve the stress and anxiety of trying to find ideas to write about and then to write about that idea in the same session.
  • Spending more time with loved ones – When I talk to friends who are not in consulting and I tell them that I am working late at night or on weekends to finish a project, they shake their heads in disbelief. Although I thought it was strange that they thought it was strange at first, after talking to quite a few friends and getting the same reaction, I realized that maybe I was the weird one. While in the past, I might prioritize work over other activities, I’m trying to get into the mindset that there will always be work whether I work or not and yes, while there are deadlines that I have to meet, I shouldn’t be killing myself to meet those deadlines (and rather, I should be extremely focused to get as much done as possible while I’m working and eliminating as many distractions as I can). Over the holidays, I have also been studying for my PMP and realized that there’s quite a few things that I (and certainly others in my company) that have not been doing effectively in project management – for one thing, an unrealistic schedule is the responsibility of the project manager and that means that if you are working nights and weekends to meet specific deadlines, the project manager did not plan effectively or did not ask for the input from team members (or both). If you ever find yourself torn between ‘work’ and ‘life’, remember this: nobody at your eulogy will say “it was so great that Bailee worked 60 hours a week on the JSNT project”.
  • Get into the philosophy of action and giving – I like to think that reading over 50 books a year makes me pretty smart but really, without action and giving away ideas and takeaways to others, it’s really just lipstick on a pig. While I’m going to continue to read and summarize books (I really just write so that I can learn from what I’ve read), I want to share more of these lessons and takeaways with others – I will continue to maintain my monthly e-mail newsletter and thought about expanding this into books, courses and podcasts.

What are the systems you want to improve or establish in 2019? What systems do you currently have in place?

About the author:

Wang is a management consultant, self-published author, Distinguished Toastmaster, co-host of a podcast, Udemy teacher, former Uber driver and all around hustler. He is also obsessed about books and he reads books so that you don’t have to. Want a list of Wang’s top ten formative books in his life and career? Interested in book summaries and recommendations every month? Subscribe to Wang’s e-mail newsletter!