For the last few years I’ve had a real drive to get better. Not at anything in particular, but just to be better at being me than I have been. I don’t really have goals per se – never have – and I was greatly influenced by systems thinking that Scott Adams talks about in his book “How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life which you can find here on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com.au/How-Fail-Almost-Everything-Still-ebook/dp/B00COOFBA4 (I have no affiliation with this, nor do I get anything from Amazon. Google it yourself if you don’t want it from Amazon!)
The book talks about a system of thinking that is goal oriented, but structured in such a way that no matter if you reach the goal or if you fail, you can still build value and get something worthwhile from the exercise. Here’s an example: I want to learn how to build websites with PHP and MySQL database backend for various web projects I’m interested in developing – some for work and some for me. If I can successfully learn how to do this and I’m able to implement it then that’s great – goal reached, but if I fail at this objective, I will still get a comprehensive overview of these activities and if I engage a professional to do this work, I have greater understanding for the efforts involved, the work that needs to be done and the security that needs to be in place. The follow on is I will be able to intelligently assess quotes and the end product in a way I cannot do now.
Implementing personal OKRs is another step in self improvement – an attempt to systematise my activities so I’m not running around like a headless chook trying to finish projects or courses. A really big objective I have is early retirement and this is a series of OKRs I’m working on building up. I’ll share it when I get further along the path but it’s very rough right now. Using projects to organise all my work with time frames and activities along the way is starting to bear fruit – when I’m asked to report on what I’m doing, or what I’ve completed it’s all there in the project management system (OpenProject for the win here – https://www.openproject.org/). Even writing this blog and working on improving my writing is a systematic effort at improvement – if I fail to reach 1000 posts, I’ll still build some quality information online, spend time on working on my writing and hopefully improving it and add value to the world in my own tiny way.
My point in all of this is as follows:
constant improvement is great if it’s directed
systems are better than goals for long term achievement
build discipline to support the systems
Undirected efforts never get the same result – they’re usually all over the place and it’s hard to pull it all together. I have had great success with using systems for this improvement. My Masters in IT is a great example of this.
When I decided to start studying I had a new born boy in the household and I knew I was going to struggle at times with tiredness and baby duties (plus all the usual stuff including work and supporting my wife in this demanding time). In order to survive and fulfil my desire to help with the new bub, I had to have systems in place to get the work done. I developed some real discipline around waking up and working, getting assignments completed and time management. It meant working hard with my wife and family to make sure they weren’t left out. The end results I think were good – Masters is done and dusted, managed to spend plenty of time with the family and I learned to apply this discipline to other activities. Discipline is a muscle and like a muscle strengthens the more you use it (I’m going to write more on this later). I recommend developing this strength to anyone. So from my studies I gained the following:
a Masters degree and all the skills learned in that degree
discipline strength, in particular with regards to waking up and time management
improved deep work focus
an ability to ignore the ongoing riot a (now) 3 and 7 year old can create around the house
better writing in different formats
an appreciation for project management that I had never had before
Most people enter into study to get the degree. I was hoping for more and tried for it. The end results have been great. I point towards the system thinking for these wins and hope you can find something in this that is useful to you!