Systems Save

I am a big believer in systems – as a freelance writer, I’ve developed many of them to keep myself focused and grounded. When they work and I work them, they tend to become second nature and I can rely on them to get me through rough patches.

So when my dear friend and writing buddy Nancy sent me an article about the value of systems vs. goals, I was intrigued. It’s called, “Why Setting Big Goals Can Make You Miserable,” and it’s written by Aytekin Tank, an entrepreneur (

In a nutshell, goals focus on the end game of a project and because of this, they quickly lose their value as motivators. Systems on the other hand, focus on process – the “how” of getting to a goal you may have set for yourself. Systems are about the journey, goals are about the destination. In his story, Aytekin offered advice on setting up systems. Here are a few pointers – the whole article is worth reading:

Step 1: Understand your real priorities – While a goal goes away once you attain it, a system can sustain you over time and help you find deeply satisfying ways of working, which is what really matters. The true value of a goal is that it helps us understand what you want, but, says Aytekin, “when you dig deep and find the why behind your goal, you’re better prepared to choose a path that will truly boost your happiness. If you’re struggling to find that why, flip your thinking: what don’t you want? What are the elements of a terrible, draining day? What do you want to avoid?” Once you know this, you can begin designing a day that really feels fulfilling for you.

Step 2: Narrow and refine — The brilliant James Clear often writes about the difference between goals and systems: “If you’re a coach, your goal is to win a championship. Your system is what your team does at practice each day. If you’re a writer, your goal is to write a book. Your system is the writing schedule that you follow each week… He says that goals set direction, while systems build progress: ‘In fact, the primary benefit of a goal is that it tells you what sort of system you need to put in place.’” By focusing on how you want to work, you can craft systems and routines to actually accomplish the work you want to do.

Step 3: Maintain your momentum – Once you have systems in place that feel fruitful and energizing, keep going! Strive for continuous improvement: keep playing with them and adjusting them until they really make your work day more satisfying.

Systems work if we work them. Bravo, Aytekin and Nancy! Write on!


About karinwritesdangerously

I am a writer and this is a motivational blog designed to help both writers and aspiring writers to push to the next level. Key themes are peak performance, passion, overcoming writing roadblocks, juicing up your creativity, and the joys of writing.
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