A system doesn't have to be engineered toward excellence.
Systemizing your business should eliminate inefficiencies and make your employees' lives easier. The average office worker receives 120 emails every day. Now add in all those other messaging tools with their endless notifications. In a world of constantly streaming information, email, meetings, and to-do lists, it’s easy to get distracted and overwhelmed.
How do you reduce distractions, increase productivity, and maintain well-being all at the same time?
Systemization may be the answer you’ve been seeking.
Systemization, the process of setting up a routine or process that helps you approach your tasks more efficiently, not only changes how you perform but also reduces mental workload, overwhelm, and burnout.
This means you work faster and more efficiently because instead of thinking about what needs to be done individually every single time, you’ve already established a system for handling these tasks. These systems help you automate repetitive tasks, save time when completing specific tasks, and teach your brain how to do certain things faster.
In this piece, you’ll learn about three ways that creating habits and systemizing tasks in business increases productivity and well-being.
What is systemization?
Systemization is the process of creating a purposeful routine of codified, repeatable tasks. You can systemize most things: from dealing with a customer complaint to recruiting top talent and running weekly team meetings.
Creating a system may feel overwhelming at first, but the better your system, the better – and easier – your business and life will be. Systems save time and keep you at peak efficiency, productivity, and creativity.
Take the example of weekday dinners. It’s draining to think about what you’re going to cook and what you’ve got in the refrigerator daily. You’re much more relaxed when you can shop once a week, so you have what you need and are ready to cook for the week ahead.
It’s the same in business.
Whenever you need to think about how to do something, even if it’s as small a task as writing an email to a customer, it takes time. Without a consistent process, this time could be spent on greater outcome-producing tasks, or perhaps having a coffee break with a colleague.
Systemization isn’t simply about better time management – it’s about harnessing the power of systems to create more resources. Inconsistency, as it turns out, isn’t just the enemy of an efficient business and work schedule; it doesn’t like your well-being that much, either.
Most of us spend an extraordinary amount of time trying to solve the same problems over and over when those tasks could be systemized to create the space and capacity to focus on work that yields results.
The positive correlation between productivity and systemization means that the more efficiently you systemize, the more productive you are. The secret most high performers know is that it isn’t how well they do something once; it’s about doing it well again and again.
The more consistently you deliver great work, your business will deliver great customer experience and top-notch results. You wouldn’t go back to a shop whose clothing sizes changed each time you visited. If there’s one thing customers love, it’s a business that always delivers.
Practice doesn’t make perfect, but it does nudge the odds in your favor; your consistent performance determines whether you reach your goals or miss the mark.
Okay, so systemization increases the odds of success of a specific activity, career, and business, but did you know that systemization makes a significant difference to your well-being?
Decreasing mental workload and burnout with systemization
Seventy-nine percent of employees worldwide suffer from mild, moderate, or severe workplace burnout, which decreases productivity by as much as 68%.
LinkedIn’s 2021 Workplace Learning Report shows that 30% of manager burnout comes from unclear job responsibilities. In other words, not knowing what’s expected or a lack of systemization leads to burnout.
Burnout also occurs as a result of unmanaged, long-term, work-related stress. In many cases, this stress is due to sustained cognitive overload causing employees to be less effective and productive.
Cognitive load theory explains this phenomenon. It states that people have difficulty performing tasks and learning new things if they’re trying to process too much information at once. Additionally, humans tend to make poorer decisions the longer they have to deal with cognitive load.
“After a long period of thinking hard, making decisions that favor ease in the short term, but are worse overall, appears to be a biological regulation tool to combat cognitive fatigue. ”
Writer, CNN Science and Wellness
What does this have to do with systemization?
Systemization, at its best, reduces decision-making fatigue and cognitive burnout, giving you more mental energy for other tasks. Systemize your routine at work and what you and the family are having for dinner, and you may just find yourself with the energy to do that evening workout or join that class you’ve wanted to start.
Systemize your business and scale up in ways you’d never have imagined.
3 ways to use systemization to increase productivity
Systemization is the way forward when looking to increase productivity in your business. Here are three ways to tackle systemization and drive efficiency.
1. Make your processes more efficient
Start with the right mindset to make your processes more efficient.
Think about your morning routine. It likely includes brushing your teeth, showering, and combing your hair. These are things you’re already doing. Systemization is just about recognizing the daily activities you have in place and optimizing them.
"The talent to recognize patterns is something most people don’t know they need or realize that they already have. If we can turn data into a pattern or rule, then near-magical results ensue. We no longer need to remember a mountain of data; we need only to recall one simple law.”
The Ravenous Brain
So, how to make your processes more efficient once you’ve got your mindset right?
Step one is to recognize what’s working and what isn’t. Spending an untold amount of time answering emails or the same questions from team members? It’s a sign that the process isn’t working.
Once you’ve identified what isn’t working, outline the steps to identify inefficiencies. Can certain steps be eliminated, combined, or automated? Can the process be redesigned altogether?
Taking half a day out of your life once a quarter or even once a year may mean you get to take additional days of vacation, reach goals in a shorter time, or actually enjoy that elusive work-life balance that everybody talks about. Imagine that!
2. Automate repetitive tasks
A McKinsey report on productivity and automation states, "About 60% of all occupations have at least 30% of constituent activities that could be automated." That means there's a lot of unnecessary work being done.
Get a Slack message whenever your brand is mentioned in the media. Copy one calendar event to another. Send an automated email whenever someone clicks on a certain page of your website. Set your employee handbook for automated review. The ideas are endless.
People worry about automating aspects of their jobs for fear of job loss, but actually, automating repetitive tasks could enhance your career, helping you to deliver more. The fact is that automation doesn't generally eliminate jobs. Automation generally eliminates tedious and repetitive tasks to leave room for strategic thinking, relationship building, creativity, and innovation - some of the most highly valued skills in today’s workplace.
Google is a real-world example everyone can relate to.
Imagine if Google relied only on humans to search for relevant information on billions of daily search queries. You'd have to wait years to get the right and relevant information.
“The key to Google’s quality and speed is automation: by explicitly defining the rules of how the system operates, the search engine programmers are able to automate the day-to-day operation of the system.”
The Personal MBA
Does Google still need engineers and other personnel? Absolutely. They’re more in demand than ever, but automating tasks frees team members to work on other projects.
3. Utilize technology
Forty-six percent of employees report increased productivity as a result of digital tool usage, but you have to choose the right platforms.
The bottom line is that technology needs to work for you, not the other way around. The whole reason for systemization is reducing workload and optimizing activity. It’s no good onboarding a new tool requiring additional steps over a sustained period.
- Use available simple technology, like your calendar, to systemize.
- Choose specific technology to solve a process challenge.
- Choose a technology provider that gives you the support you need to implement their tools seamlessly.
Small changes add up to big results
Most people think that being more productive, efficient, or successful means completely overhauling their lives or businesses. But small changes lead to big results and creating a business culture and personal mindset of continuous improvement achieves much more than a single and potentially short-lived overhaul.
“The people and organizations that can do the right things more consistently are more likely to maintain a slight edge and accumulate disproportionate rewards over time.”
The 1% Rule
The small differences in performance grow into a series of large victories when repeated over time.
Case in point, in 2003, when British Cycling was all but doomed, they hired Dave Brailsford, a coach famed for his approach to marginal gains. Up to that point, the performance of British Cyclists had been so underwhelming that one of the top bike manufacturers in Europe refused to sell bikes to the team out of fear that it would hurt sales.
Five years later, in 2008, the British Cycling team won an astounding 60% of medals at the Olympic Games in Beijing.
If it worked for British Cycling, it might work for you.
So, adopt a continuous improvement mindset instead of trying to systemize your entire business or life in one week. It’s about making tiny changes and improvements every day. Your mental workload will lighten, and as you see improvements in your personal and professional life, you’ll be motivated to keep adopting systems that promote little wins.
Reflecting, you’ll see that a small adjustment in your work means big results.
Simple systemization hacks to implement today
The perfect approach to systemization doesn’t exist. It all depends on your type of work, role, the size of your team, as well as your personal preferences. A few simple hacks that you can establish today will make a world of difference to your well-being and productivity tomorrow.
1. Systemize your calendar
Look at your calendar right now. It’s probably full of requests from other people, but is it in line with your priorities and objectives?
Systemize your time with your calendar by marking the time you complete a particular task and aligning the task with a goal.
Two things might happen. You’ll realize you spend a bunch of time on work that just isn’t that important, or you’ll actually start to allocate time to your priorities to help you focus and complete tasks by a certain date. Both ways, you win.
2. Manage notifications
Do you get distracted every time you receive an email or message? Systemize your notifications by setting up Slack channels for specific notifications or tasks to keep you focused. Alternatively, set an allocated time when you view notifications or simply delete the ones you don’t need.
Do you respond to customer queries by writing out a response each time? Do you create the same style of document for each meeting? Use templates for repetitive tasks to reduce the time it takes to create documents.
Templates actually increase the opportunity for continuous improvement, and they're easy to update and manage, providing consistency within a project or process.
4. Create processes
Consider a workflow that lives in spreadsheets, emails, or purely in someone else’s head. How could that workflow become a business process that is more efficient for everyone? If it works in the case of weekday dinners, it’ll work in a professional capacity.
Document the process and break it up into repetitive tasks on a calendar via a template or specific tasks on a project management system and watch your teams thrive.
5. Prioritize tasks
Prioritize tasks the way it works for you – whether completing urgent tasks first or starting with something light to warm up. This sets you up for the day and reduces anxiety. Combine this approach with automating tasks that you previously spent hours on, and you’ll find yourself winning on the productivity front.
6. Plan your day toward a better output
People tend to have a routine for their personal lives that centers around eating, sleeping, socializing, and caretaking. But you can – and should – plan your day for optimal results.
If you’re a morning person, systemize doing deep work in the morning and having meetings in the afternoon. Need hours to concentrate on a specific piece of work each week? Block it off in your schedule and create a meeting-free day.
But remember, it’s ok to have an unproductive or bad day. Don’t beat yourself over it. Focus on learning forward.
Every day the clock resets
When 61% of the average workday is spent on tasks of little to no value, it’s time for a change.
It doesn't often occur to people that they have a say in spending time and energy. How you've always done something may not be the most efficient way. Does that something even need to be done at all?
When managing your time, you have a few choices: do it yourself, delegate it, or delete it. Or you can systemize it!
McDonald's, with over 38,000 locations in over 100 countries, has 93% ownership by independent local business owners. They've used systemization to achieve consistency, customer service excellence, and optimal efficiency.
Seem too overwhelming?
Even if you’re not currently systemizing, you still have a process. You still take a series of steps to get from A to B. It’s just that your methods are probably not – absolutely no offense intended – that efficient. More than likely, you’re spending a ton of energy and time completing your to-do list every day.
If you’re concerned with achieving your potential, delivering your best, and contributing within your role, systemization can do nothing but provide you with much-needed relief and benefits.
As Brian Tracy says, “Good habits are hard to form but easy to live with. Bad habits are easy to form but hard to live with.”
Systemization delivers a better work-life balance, decreases overwhelm and burnout, increases productivity and creativity, and raises the potential for success.
Working from home can take a toll on systemizing everyday tasks. Here's how to work from home (from anywhere in the world) without hurting your routine.