Episode 48: Jenn Uren on What is a System (and Why Does it Matter)?Jan 04, 2022
Jenn Uren defines exactly what a system is and why it makes such a difference.
This is a transcript of the This Mom Knows Podcast - Episode - 48
Recently, I was having a conversation with another mompreneur about systems. And as we got deeper into that conversation, I realized, we were saying the same words, but we were not talking about the same thing.
She was hearing the word system and immediately relegating it to high level business processes and felt overwhelmed. I was coming at it from a different perspective. So I thought today, we would talk about exactly what a system is, and why you need them now, and not later.
So what is a system? Well, a system is merely a methodical or systematic way of doing something. It's that simple. But a good system is a powerful thing. And so I'm going to tell you four components of every system. And then I'm going to share with you some benefits that having good systems will provide you.
Before we start, I want you to stop and think about your favorite recipe. Now, if it's your grandma's, your mom's, they might have even written it out in a recipe card. So think about what that look like, what does that recipe contain? Well, there's things that every single recipe has. And without them, you simply can't make what's on that card. So for a good recipe, you need to know what you're making the ingredients needed, the time required, and the ordered steps to pull it all together. That recipe is a system. So every system, just like the recipe needs a few things in order to work.
First of all, you need to have a purpose, or a goal. In a recipe, this would be the same as what you're making. So let's go with a very simple system. Here is an example. Let's use processing the mail. As an example. That's our system, the purpose or the goal is to put the mail where it needs to be, and not leave a paper pile on the counter. So this is a basic, simple, basic system that is going to address those paper piles that tend to pile up.
Secondly, the tools that we need, we could call these the ingredients. And so for processing the mail, you might need a letter opener, a post it pad and a pen. You might not need any of those things. But it's important to determine what are the tools that you're going to need? What are the ingredients needed for this system to happen.
Thirdly, you need to know how long it's going to take. So a recipe will often estimate both prep time and cook time, which then gives us our total time. And this is how much time you need to allow in order to make the thing hard. So for basic system like process the male, you're probably going to have a pretty accurate idea of how long it's actually going to take you. But for bigger systems, when you come up with that time, double it, because human nature has a tendency to be overly optimistic with how fast we can do something. And it doesn't usually account for problems when we run too long the way. So it's probably fair to say that for the male, we can do it in 10 minutes or less. And you'll see this might be including some things I don't have on our steps, right.
So number four, would be then our step by step instructions. We know our desired outcome, we know the tools that we need to do it. And we know how much time to allow. So now we need to do it. And this is the part that many people just ad lib. But no matter how basic it is, it's really important to actually document these steps. You would not ad lib this in a recipe, you would document exactly what you need to do so that you know you know how to move forward. So for the mail, it might look something like this.
First bring in the mail. And this is where I mentioned before, you might not have it on the steps. Bringing the mail at my house means I open up the door, I stick my hand out and I grab it from the mailbox at your house, it might mean that you have to walk down to the end of the driveway and it's a quarter mile walk. So this is where that time allowed is going to change depending on where your your first thing is located. So first step bringing the mail. There could be more steps involved with that.
Second, we're gonna Use the letter opener and we're going to open all the mail.
Third, we're going to remove everything one by one from their envelopes and place them in the appropriate piles, garbage recycle bills, need to respond, and so forth, things like that.
Fourth, we're going to use that post it note pad and the pen. And we're going to make notes on anything. So for example, if something requires a signature for someone else, you make a note on that, post it note and slap it on to that piece of mail. Or if maybe there's a credit card statement that came in and there's a charge on there that is going to be reversed, you might say, short payment of this amount, or confirm that we got the credit before pain, something like that.
Fifth, you're going to now take all those piles you just created, and you're gonna put them where they belong. Throw out the garbage, recycle the junk, put the bills in your bill folder, put mail for your kids on their beds. And this is where those the step where those posts really pay off. Because whoever touches that piece of mail next knows exactly what needs to be done. And you don't have to be involved. You don't have to remember to tell them, you don't have to answer the explain it, you might have to answer some questions if they don't understand. But now you don't have to go back into the recesses of your brain because you wrote it out on this post it note you can look at it right there.
So do you see what we just did there? We systematically accomplished a goal, we used a system. It's that easy, guys. But a system even as simple as processing the mail actually has some very far reaching benefits. And so I want to tell you what some of those benefits are.
The first benefit is that now it's repeatable. You know what to do, when to do it, and how to do it, you have a recipe you have for your system. So it's not a mystery recipe where you dumped in different ingredients, you loved it, and you can never do it again. Because you don't you don't know what you did. It is something that you can do over and over and over again, because you know exactly what went into it.
The second thing is that it can now be delegated. Because you know what you did, you can now teach someone else how to do it. And you can teach them when to do it. And it's one less thing for you to do. So whenever we can delegate something, even if it's occasionally like I'm out of town for a week, you're responsible for this now, it's going to remove us as the potential bottleneck, and it's going to keep things humming along.
Thirdly, it becomes automatic. Now the more you do it, the less you have to think about it. It shifts it from something where you look at that list, and you follow it to you closely to make sure that you don't forget anything. And it becomes something where you can do it now without thinking about it. Your grandma can probably make her cookie recipe without even pulling out the card. But she still pulls it out. And you know why? Because she wants to make sure she doesn't miss a step right? It's when it becomes automatic like this. This is when it becomes routine. So if you've been frustrated that your routines, which are really just systems by the way, if you're frustrated that they they don't stick, and you know you set out with this, I'm going to have a morning routine an evening routine. Maybe you need to consider that you've skipped some key steps. And you need to go back and write down the recipe for your system that you want to become a routine.
Number four, it can now be tweaked. So when something stops feeling natural, or the circumstances change, you can easily go back through those steps and figure out what needs to be changed or adapted. So maybe your child is off to college now. So you open their mail, and you send them a picture of it so that it doesn't pile up. Or maybe you stick it in an envelope and mail it to them once a week. So you don't have to change the entire system. You just tweak it. This happens with recipes all the time where possibly there's now a food allergy. And so one ingredient can't be used. We have to come up with a different ingredient. But it doesn't mean that we can no longer make that recipe. We just have to do it differently. We adapt.
And fifth - and this is where this other mom and I were talking, this is where we were disconnecting on what a system does - but the fifth thing that a system does is it gives you energy. Don't confuse this with energizing, because it might not energize you. But a good system that becomes routine requires less from us. Therefore, we don't expend energy into it. Because we know what to do. It's become automatic and we are much more quickly able to identify those rough patches. So where she saw systems as high level, a little bit overbearing, I see systems as foundational and the path to freedom to having things run really smoothly.
So really, it's pretty simple, isn't it? But it's amazingly powerful.