189: How Systems-Thinking Can Fast-Track Success | Tanya Dalton Skip to the content
Tanya Dalton quote on balance
September 8, 2020   |   Episode #:

189: How Systems-Thinking Can Fast-Track Success

In This Episode:

Having strong systems in place is key to running and scaling a highly profitable and successful business, as much as it’s key to keeping things running smoothly at home. In this episode, I’m not talking about doing more. I’m talking about accomplishing more through systems. We’ll dive into what it means to be a systems-thinker, plus why you have to design systems that are unique to you, your lifestyle, and your definition of success. We’ll also discuss how systems-thinking can help you get to the heart of any problem to finally solve it.

Show Transcript:

The Big Idea

Systems make everything easier.

Questions I Answer

  • How do I create systems?
  • What is systems thinking?
  • How can I get more done in less time?
  • How can I increase my productivity?

Actions to Take

  • Do an assessment of areas in your life that could use a new or improved system

Key Topics in the Show

  • Freeing up more space for yourself to dive fully into the projects you enjoy

  • How a slight change in your thinking process will make implementing systems easier

  • What it means to be a systems-thinker in the world today, and how to go about it

  • Two things you can do to start implementing systems-thinking right away

Show Transcript

This is The Intentional Advantage podcast with your host, Tanya Dalton, an entrepreneur, best-selling author, nationally recognized productivity expert and mom of two. This season is all about strategies for success, helping you confidently step into leadership, purposefully, intentionally, and mindfully. 

Are you ready? Here’s your host, Tanya Dalton. 

Hello, everyone. Welcome to the intentional advantage podcast. I’m your host, Tanya Dalton. This is Episode 189. This season is all about Strategies for Success, and last week we dove into defining success on our own terms. So this week I want to build on that because I want to challenge you to start using your definition of success, to create some systems in your life. Now, I want you to keep in mind that we talked about the fact that success doesn’t just happen between the walls of your office space, but it also happens at home. 

And here’s the truth: We need systems at home just as much as we need them at work. When you have a solid foundation at home, when things are running smoothly and easily, we can accomplish so much more at work. Having strong systems at home is key to running and scaling a highly profitable and successful business. 

Now, quick note, I’m not talking about doing more. I’m saying accomplish more. There’s a really big difference here. You see, we want life to run smoothly. We also want to gain some control over your time so that the success you want can truly happen. But first, let’s back up a bit, and let’s ask the question, What do we mean when we talk about systems? 

I feel like this is a question worth exploring because we hear that term a lot. And especially considering that this whole season, we’ve been talking about strategies for success. Let’s back it up a little bit and talk about what systems are. 

Here’s the thing I want you to keep in mind when it comes to systems: simply put, systems are nothing more than well-structured strategies that streamline some of the specific aspects of your life for the better. 

So really what we’re doing is we’re lasering in, on different areas of your life at work and at home and anywhere else you might be struggling and then we’re finding ways to help them run smoothly. It’s just a well-structured strategy. 

1 of 10 

© The Intentional Advantage podcast

So if you were to approach this idea visually, and I think sometimes that does help. If you think of the strategy as a train depot and the system as the train, polished and set to take off down the track, smooth and on time. 

And the best part is that you don’t have to be the driver of the train all the time. That is the beautiful thing about systems, but truly what I love most about the different systems that I have in my life is that they’re all designed to take a lot of the thinking out of my day. 

The systems I have in place for myself personally and professionally, they bring this element of structure, focus, and control–which of course helps me. And it helps my team; our productivity increases, our creativity increases, and our overall happiness increases. 

I don’t want to think about the minutia. I don’t want to think about how everything runs from day to day. I want to focus on the big things and that really helps me and my team. Now, when I talk about team, you know I’m talking about my team at work and I’m talking about my team at home: my family. Because even the systems that I have in place at home with my family, they also bring this element of ease into my life. 

The system that we have in place to handle laundry each week, for example, and the systems that we have surrounding the prep and the cleanup during and after mealtimes . . . again, what this does is it takes a ton of the thinking out of these situations that otherwise become super stressful really, really quickly. 

And it brings in, again, this element of control, probably like the second or third time, I’ve mentioned that word control. 

So we’re going to get back to that in a minute because I know that is a word that triggers some of you guys. We’re going to talk about why we want to be able to be a little bit more in control in just a little bit, but let’s talk first about this idea of the stress that we are alleviating by implementing systems. 

If you have ever in your life grappled with a mountain of laundry at home, you know what I’m talking about here, right? I mean, laundry becomes a stressful situation, which is ridiculous because it’s laundry, but laundry is one of those things that we all have to do. So it’s a great example of something to automate because it applies to every single one of us. Laundry, as benign as it is, somehow seems exponentially more challenging. 

The bigger that pile of laundry grows . . . Am I right? The bigger, the pile of laundry, the bigger that knot of stress gets at the back of your neck. It’s needless because 

2 of 10 

© The Intentional Advantage podcast

again, we’re talking about laundry here. So if you have a system that outlines who does their laundry, when, or who’s in charge of what stage of the process, the sorting, the washing, the folding, or whatever that helps alleviate some of the chaos that otherwise builds up when the end of the week arrives . . . and we realize, no one’s got clean underwear. 

I know I’m not the only person who’s ever been in that situation where no one has clean underwear. See, laundry is a great example because we can all relate to the best part about systems: No matter where we put them into place, they create the harmony that we’re always emphasizing here on the show and in my programs and everywhere else that I talk. 

Remember, it’s not about balance. Nothing in life can truly ever be in perfect balance. So let’s focus on the harmony instead. Harmony is what blends all those different factors of our lives together as smoothly and fluidly as possible. And that’s why systems are so important because we get all the aspects of our lives running easily on time, just like that train we talked about. 

Okay, let’s back up just a little bit because I want to go back to that mention of control from earlier. I want to dive into that because I do know that a lot of times I hear this from a lot of women, ‘Ooh, I don’t want to be controlling.’ We have this thing about control that we don’t want to be labeled as a control freak. 

So here’s the thing by gaining a little bit of control over the different aspects of our day, that would otherwise slow us down or bring us the unwanted stress, like laundry. You know . . . the things that we have to do that we have very little interest in actually doing? When we control those things, we’re able to free up time for ourselves to focus on the things that we do want to spend our time on 

Time, energy, focus. Those are our three most precious resources. So let’s choose to control how we spend them by creating systems for the things that we don’t necessarily love to do. We can free up more space for ourselves to dive fully into the different projects that we want to work on and that we love to work on. We are freer to focus on the people that matter most to us. 

And we have more time to give a little bit of that love we gain back into ourselves. That’s important too. Doesn’t that sound like a marvelous thing? We can use different systems to control the chaos in one area of life while freeing up time and space for ourselves to focus-in on another area of our life. Harmony: that’s what I love about harmony. 

So here’s the thing when I sat down and I was first thinking about this episode and researching what I wanted to talk about. I thought that maybe I would simply dive 

3 of 10 

© The Intentional Advantage podcast

into some of the different systems that you can and should explore for your business and your personal life. 

But then here’s the thing: I can tell you what systems you need. You know, maybe it’s communication between you and your clients or communication between you and your team . . . or systems for onboarding and hiring new members . . . or systems for your finances. Things like paying the bills and your vendors, or staying on top of your P and L statements or processing payments. 

There are a thousand places where systems will help, but I don’t want to tell you an exact list of what you need, and ‘here’s how to do it.’ That never works because we’re all different in how we run our lives and how we run our businesses. 

And I have to tell you, I truly do hate those articles that say things like 10 things you have to do before breakfast or five things you must do to optimize your funnel. No one can tell you what you must do, or what you have to do. Those lists are made by well-meaning people, but they’re just piling on more stress than you really need. 

You don’t have to be like everyone else. You have to be like you. So make your systems run for you. If you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it a million times from me: You and your priorities should be sitting front and center. 

Create systems so that they too remain front and center. My point here is this. There is a multitude of systems that we could touch on that would benefit you at your home or at your office or wherever you are. But to me, it doesn’t really matter how much we dive into each one. What matters is that you’re making the decision for what systems you need and where you need to implement them based on how you want to spend your time. Which is again, based on what success looks like for you. 

So instead of just giving you this long list of systems that I think you should implement, which ones work, which ones don’t work, maybe some that don’t work so well . . . I want to talk about how you can make the process of creating and implementing systems easier by making a slight change in our thinking process. 

And I think that’s going to help you more. It’s going to be more beneficial. Because, in other words, I want to dive into the concept of success by exploring how we can adopt systems thinking. 

We can use this systems-thinking approach to our lives. Systems-thinking sounds intriguing, right? By changing the way that we think about success based on our own terms and by looking at what needs to occur in our own lives in order to make that success happen, we can easily tap into using systems as a strategy. That’s going to springboard us to that goal. 

4 of 10 

© The Intentional Advantage podcast

We’ve all heard that saying that you can give a man a fish and he’ll eat tonight, or we can teach him how to fish and he’ll eat forever. That’s what I want for you. I want you to have the tools to design a life for you. So it’s not just what I think you need. 

And here’s how I think it should work It’s really about what you think and how you want to define success. How do you want these systems to work for you? 

So let’s dig into what it means to be a systems-thinker in the world today and how you can adopt this mentality into your life, personally and professionally. And then I’m going to give you some momentum builders to help you get started on your own journey towards becoming a systems-thinker. 

And I’m going to give you a little sneak peek on what you can expect when you tune in next week. But first, before we dive into all of that, you guessed it . . . It’s time for our mid-episode break. 

Today’s episode is all about creating systems. So here’s a question for you: How is your planning system shaping up for 2021? Not so good . . . Maybe feeling all right about it? Well, I’ve got some good news for you because the inkWELL Press launch for 2021 is happening tomorrow, Wednesday, September 9th, starting at 10:00 AM Eastern. And when you go to our site, the inkwell press site, which is my own company, where we have the tools that align perfectly with what we talk about here on the show . . . You’re going to find what you need to really create some strategies for success in your own life. And that’s one of the things I truly love about the products that we offer is that they are able to be customized fully to you and what you want in your own life. And all of our planners come with a free course to help you set it up and figure out how to create a structure to your week. 

So that comes free. Anytime you order one of our main planners, the weekly planner, the daily planner, or the monthly planner, that is our free gift to you because we want you to be successful. We want you to have the strategies to feel empowered for 2021. Just head to inkwellpress.com to find the tools you need to boost your productivity and to crush your goals. 

All right . . . Now, let’s get back to that idea of systems-thinking that we touched on right before the episode break. What does that mean when we talk about this idea of adopting a systems-thinking approach to our lives? 

Well, I think it might help to say what it’s not, it’s not a collection of tools or methods. It’s not a life hack or a quick fix. It’s not one of those clickbait strategies that over promises and under delivers and essentially wastes our time. It’s not any of those things because it’s a philosophy. It’s a way of being and thinking and doing. 

5 of 10 

© The Intentional Advantage podcast

It really is this idea of thinking about how we are thinking. And when we do this, when we approach life with this systems-thinking strategy, with this philosophy . . . it helps us make things smoother and easier. And what I love about it is it’s actually a philosophy that you’re probably somewhat familiar with already. 

For example, at the doctor’s office, we can see the systems thinking philosophy at work. When you are sick, you go to the doctor. And what they do is they take a look at your physical and your mental state. They assess your symptoms. They consider every single part of us and how that influences our health holistically. So they take this bigger kind of bird’s eye view of what’s going well in our body. What’s going well, what’s not going so well. And then based off that assessment, we’re given a diagnosis and maybe even a treatment plan is decided upon. 

That’s essentially systems-thinking. We can approach our lives from that same philosophy and that same perspective. We can use it as a diagnostic tool to assess what things in our life are working well for us, what things are not working so well–because there are always things that are going really well and there are always things that–maybe–not so much. 

At face value, systems-thinking is nothing more than having an awareness of this circular nature of the world that we live in. I mean, we already know this, right? For every action, there is some sort of reaction. I’m feeling relatively certain that this is a familiar concept for you. And we can easily see it in our own lives. Every time there is an action, there’s some sort of reaction. 

When life runs smoothly, when our systems are running well, life feels easier. It feels happier because it’s smoother, right? So for example, applying this systems-thinking into your life at home . . . That mountain of laundry that we talked about earlier? When you look at your current strategy for tackling the laundry each week, what’s working well for you? What’s not working well for you? Do you have a strategy at all or are you just sort of like throwing caution to the wind and get to it whenever it’s most convenient for you? 

Ooh, that’s when we end up with a ‘no clean laundry’ situation; that’s when we end up in that scenario because we forget about it. Because you know why we don’t want to think about laundry? I want you to think about that. Do you honestly want to think about laundry ever? I’m guessing right now, you’re thinking, ‘Hell no, I don’t.’ 

You know why no one wants to think about laundry. So this is why perhaps you don’t have a system because you don’t want to think about it. But by not having a system, you’re creating more stress in your life. For every action, there is a reaction. 

6 of 10 

© The Intentional Advantage podcast

So be honest with yourself. How is that working out for you? Is it really working well or is it not working so well? Whether we’re talking about laundry or something else, it’s not enough to say that your approach to anything specific in your life just isn’t cutting it. I mean, that’s, that’s just too general. It’s not enough to say that ‘The mountain just seems to get bigger and bigger, no matter what I do.’ Spoiler alert: there is a way to get ahead on the household chores that you don’t enjoy, just like there is a way to get ahead of the never-ending tasks that you have on your plate at work. 

So instead of complaining that, ‘Well, this is just not working,’ let’s dig in a little deeper into why it’s not working. Only then can you determine how to make it better; complaining alone is not doing anything. 

How’s that working out for you so far? Uh, it’s not. I can tell you right now because I know when I complain about something like laundry or dishes in the sink, it doesn’t really work out. But when I dig into why we’re having this struggle, why it’s causing me this irritation (why it’s making me grumpy), we can get to the heart of the issue and it can be fixed. 

And that right there, that is what systems-thinking is all about. Systems-thinking is taking the time to truly assess the areas in your life that could use improvement and then creating a system that’s customized to your unique issues. That’s the key, your unique issues, your unique stumbling blocks, the unique things that drive you crazy. 

Do the dishes in the sink drive you crazy? Then create a system for them. Do the dishes in the sink, not drive you crazy? Then don’t worry about making a system for them. But if it’s adding stress to your life, let’s choose to alleviate it. 

We don’t have to sit in discomfort. We can choose to get out of that. We can choose to create a system, to make life easier. For every action, there is a reaction. 

So dive in, what are your pain points, and what’s causing them? Not just what are they, but why are they there? 

This is one of the most important questions to ask: Why. Whatever you are diving into trying to figure out how to make something more successful, start asking that question. Why, why is this an issue? Why does this make me grumpy? Why is this a frustration? Why is this not getting fixed? 

Don’t just leave it at that surface level of it’s not working because that’s not going to solve anything. Let’s use our systems-thinking to get to the heart of the problem, and let’s fix it so that we don’t have to think about it ever again. Instead, it will just run like that train smoothly, easily, and perhaps with someone else driving it. 

7 of 10 

© The Intentional Advantage podcast

So now that you have a better idea of this systems-thinking, I want to discuss a couple of momentum builders to help you get more comfortable in adopting this philosophy to your life. Okay? 

So momentum builder, Number One: I want you to do an assessment to the different areas of your life that could really benefit from creating and implementing a new system . . . or by possibly by changing up an existing system that’s just not really cutting it for you. 

So do a quick check: How is your time spent at work? Are you still focusing way too much time and energy on answering emails throughout the day? After all, big blocks of time spent in your inbox are big blocks of wasted time. So ask yourself, are you structuring your days effectively so that you’re focusing on your most important tasks and your priorities? 

And if you really dig into it, Why is it that I’m not spending my time on the things that are important? Why is it that this is causing a problem for me in order for you to have success in your career or in your business? What is it that you need to streamline? 

What might you need to think about to calm the chaos and start doing the things that truly need to do or feel would make you more productive and more effective with your time? Start asking that question. Why, why is this causing a problem for me? Why is it that it’s not getting done? Get to the heart of it and then create a system so that it is no longer your stumbling block. It really is that simple. 

And here’s the truth: You might try something and it might not fix it right away. That’s okay, go back and try it again. Tweak it a little bit. Things need tweaking from time to time. We all need tweaking from time to time. So when you’re thinking about your work or your business, there are lots of different ways that you could look at it. 

When you think about systems, I mentioned a few earlier, things like hiring and onboarding . . . You could have systems for those communications, finances, and sales processes. Think about where you feel like you’re struggling at work, and then let’s dive into why. And then let’s look at the other side of the coin. 

Let’s take a little peek at the systems you have in place at your home. Are they working the way that you really want them to work or are there some areas that could use a little bit of improvement? What are the things that need to happen at home for you to truly feel successful and more in control of how you’re spending your time? 

8 of 10 

© The Intentional Advantage podcast

Okay, momentum builder Number Two: Share what you uncover in your assessment with my Facebook group. If you’re not a member, head on over tanyadalton.com/group to sign up because it’s absolutely free and I would love to have you join us in there and keep this conversation about systems going. 

Here’s what I want you to post: I want you to post about your struggles that you’re finding, because some of the best, most creative ideas and strategies you could use help on, they can come from those around us. 

We’re able to lend a different perspective to the issue. And I think that’s the benefit: You get other people’s ideas of how they do things, and they can see what you’re dealing with from an outside point of view. And that is incredibly powerful. 

So do a post in the Facebook group, get some help: that is what the group is there for. It is there to support and encourage you. Okay? So tanyadalton.com/group. Just head on over there and do a post because let’s say that you’re struggling with communication at work . . . maybe it’s with your team or with your customer service emails . . . Maybe you’re struggling with creating automations for things like your email, for example. 

Let’s take the thinking out of it and let’s crowdsource this. Let’s figure out a way together of how you can make it work even better for you. Whatever it is that you’re struggling with, you can gain some great insights, right? And find some amazing ways to pivot and streamline. 

When you bounce ideas around with other people . . . You’ve heard me talk about networking and accountability a thousand times before. Truly this is a great time to share a struggle so that people can rally around you to support you and help you come up with solutions. Okay? 

So head on over and join the group. I would love to see you there. 

All right, so that is two momentum builders for you to start off your week. And I want to encourage you to continue looking for strategies for success, to continue diving into why, asking the questions about what is it that needs work in my life, and then really tweaking it and making the systems really work for you. 

And next week, we’re going to continue with another strategy for success. I’ll give you a hint about what we’re going to talk about. It’s the Pareto principle, but instead of diving into it as we’ve done a few times on the show before, we’re going to flip it completely on its head and approach it from an entirely different perspective. 

9 of 10 

© The Intentional Advantage podcast

And I’m excited for us to dive into that together. But before we close out the show, I want to remind you, keep asking the questions of why keep diving into what can I do to make life easier, because I promise you life doesn’t have to be so hard. 

Life doesn’t have to be difficult. It doesn’t have to feel like it’s a constant uphill climb when we have systems in place when we customize them. So they truly do work for you and success on your own terms . . . and that is truly when we find the intentional advantage.


** This transcript was made with AI so please excuse any typos, mistakes or misspellings.

Tanya Dalton is a female keynote speaker and productivity expert. She is a woman on a mission to help you with time management, habits, goals and more.