Systems versus Goals: There’s an app for that

I had reviewed  “How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life” written by Dilbert creator Scott Adams a few months ago, and one of the key ideas in that book was working towards a system and not a goal.

Here’s a small snippet from my review to briefly explain the idea:

System versus Goals

One of his key ideas is that people shouldn’t have goals but instead rely on a system to achieve success. An example of a difference between a goal and a system is that a goal can be losing 25 kilos by the end of the year while a system can be getting into a routine of exercising 15 minutes every day.

For me a good example is the difference between having a target in terms of subscribers – say 15,000 OneMint subscribers by the end of the year or a system where I say I will set aside an hour for blogging every day.

The latter is a system whereby I am telling myself that I need to get in the habit of blocking an hour for blogging every day. If I’m not able to finish a post in that time, or I’m not able to answer all comments that is still fine because I was dedicated to the blog for that one hour and what you achieve within the hour will always vary.

This type of thinking is good for motivating me to write because often the idea of finishing a post is a lot more daunting than the idea of spending one hour on blogging.

I think this is a useful way to look at things, and I’m trying this idea out with blogging and a few other things.

I’ve been using the idea of a system since then, and I have about 6 things that I track on a daily basis which include exercising, blogging or more broadly OneMint related activities, reading, and building on a skill etc.

Now psychologically, I feel that the idea of the system is a lot more rewarding, and indeed disciplining because you have these things that you promised yourself you’d do every day, and invariably you end up doing them a lot more than you would have otherwise. Since I’ve been only doing this for a few months, it is hard for me to convincingly say whether it has practically paid off or not, but I feel that it has, and I definitely recommend you try it out as well.

Now, having a system is not enough, you need a way to track how well you’re sticking to your system. The way I track this is by having a spreadsheet on a Google drive where I have listed out these things, and every day I open up that spreadsheet and mark the activities I did that day in green, and the ones I didn’t in red. It requires some discipline and effort to maintain that spreadsheet but the effort easily pays off.

I was quite satisfied with my spreadsheet and was going on about my business till I discovered an app called “Full” last week.

It is built exactly for the thing I’m doing, but ironically it calls system related activities “Goals”. What you do is enter a few goals in the app, type in how many days in a month you want to do those activities, and then every time you perform one of those activities, just do a simple swipe and let the app know.

The app has a dashboard that shows you how you’re progressing in your goals.

I’ve been using this since last week, and it is much much better than updating the spreadsheet because it is so convenient, and it also shows me the dashboard that I didn’t have in my  spreadsheet.

This app is currently available in iOS only, but I’m sure they will come up with an Android version, and if you know of an Android equivalent, please leave a comment, and I’ll update the post.

I think this is 99 cents well spent, and you can give it a try.

Disclosure: The link to the book will take you to Flipkart and if you buy the book from that website I will get a commission. 

I have no affiliation with the app and I don’t stand to gain in any way if you buy the app. 

6 thoughts on “Systems versus Goals: There’s an app for that”

  1. Hi Manshu,

    Where do you watch the Instructional Videos on Chess ? Do you watch it on or . Is there any website where I see the videos of Chess ?

    Thank you,

  2. If I have understood you,you advocate,dont set goals but follow a system.
    I dont agree.Without a goal in view how can you set up a system?
    First you must have a goal.The next step is organise a system and monitor the system to ensure you achieve the set goal.
    eg.In a Football match,there are could be two options.
    To score a goal.
    See that your opponent does not score a goal.
    Depending on the option you have in mind try to create a system to achieve the objective and constantly monitor the same while the match is in progress.Any comments please?

    1. Yes sir, I agree that without a goal there can be no system, and the goal is the starting point, so to that extent goals are essential.

      Let me give a sport analogy since you bring up football. One of my goals is to be a better Chess player, and the system I follow to achieve that is to view 1 hour of instructional video per week, so my system is to watch an hour of instructional chess video every week, and I like this because this is not a finite activity and I can do it forever and ever, or unless until I reach my limit. Contrast this to a goal of say becoming a Chess player rated at 1800, which is what a traditional goal would be and which is what Scott Adams recommends against.

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