Using Simple Systems to Achieve Big Results

When I’m speaking to groups and organizations I’ll often joke with the audience that I’m the person they bring out when they need something taught in such a simple way that absolutely everyone gets it. Delivered with my southern accent (I’m from Alabama), this usually gets the audience chuckling.

I’m only half joking of course.

I love simple. Simple works. When things are explained in a simple manner concepts translate into results.

Developing the habit of creating simple controls helps ensure you accomplish more in your daily life. It is the small, seemingly mundane daily tasks that determine whether or not you will see through to completion your larger goals and desired outcomes.

So how can you put simple to work in your daily life? By using Support Tasks.

Support tasks are a series of smaller things needed to accomplish your bigger goals. While they may be far from glamorous, these are the things required in order to move you closer to your coveted goal.

For example, to become a great writer, you first must begin to write. In many cases, you don’t start out writing well, often it’s the act of doing over time that leads to improvement. The getting started and putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard keys) are support tasks.

Let’s look at a hypothetical situation and then make up and apply some Support Tasks so we can see firsthand how we can use simple systems to benefit to us.

Hypothetical: I want to develop a positive habit of walking daily.

For this example, I’m not setting out to do anything monumental like climbing Mount Everest or even training for a marathon. We’re talking about something I’ve got the ability to do no

And yet…this will still require me to make a conscious ongoing decision to see it through to the point that it becomes a habit.

To create this habit, I would use the following Simple System:

– Write the words “walk now”, or “go for your daily walk” in black sharpie marker (it’s bolder then regular pen) on several 3×5 index cards.

– Tape one card on my bedroom door. Why? It will stare me right in the face whenever I walk in or out of the room (including first thing in the morning).

– Place another card on the dashboard or right by the radio of my vehicle.

– Place a card on my refrigerator and on the desk where my computer is located — places where I’m certain I will see the message on each card.

– Set up a recurring reminder on my smart phone (most any cell phone can do reminders and alarms).

In short, in a very low-tech way I would literally bug the tar out of myself (said in a southern accent ;)) to the point where it is just easier to do the thing which needs getting done.

This system is simple in nature. The power is in the reminding

The reality is this: in most cases, we don’t need to know what to do. We’ve already got that part figured out. Rather, we need only strategically place in front of us what we know we need to do in a way that reminds us to the point that we opt to do the activity rather than continue to experience the ongoing sense of “gentle guilt” that pops-up every time we see one of our little reminders.

What’s additionally powerful about this simple system is that when you’ve actually gone for the walk and then you see one of those reminders you’ve set for yourself, you get the added positive feeling of having done what you know you committed to doing. The support tasks allow you to re-experience the positive feelings associated with completing your goal, moving you that much closer to what you want.

Simple systems work. There is great truth in the old saying, “out of sight, out of mind”. The things we keep front and center tend to get done more often than those things we lose track of.

Get creative with the idea of simplicity. Look for ways you can implement your own simple systems to get from desire to the finish line. I’d love to hear what you come up with. 

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Leave A Reply (4 comments So Far)

  • Motivation + Reminders = Power!

  • Josh…love the word SIMPLE especially when it comes to making positive changes. Your article reminds me to ask, “Do my rituals support my values and goals?” Thank you for another great read. Appreciate you so much. 

  • Working backwards, leveraging the power of simplicity, and keeping priorities front and center.

    Great tips for creating smart systems! Thanks, Josh.

  • Working backwards, leveraging the power of simplicity, and keeping priorities front and center.

    Great tips for creating smart systems! Thanks, Josh.