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The Truth About Building Systems You Enjoy Using Forever

And the secret that makes systems sticky

Hey friend,

We want to believe it to be true.

It’s easy, just download this Second Brain template or install a Getting-Things-Done system. It will 10x your productivity, grow your audience, business or income.

Unfortunately, I’m here to break it to you.

Being effective with your time and using a system that you actually enjoy and stick to for the long run takes a little bit more work than that.

I know this because I’ve lived it.

Don’t get me wrong, these templates are fantastic starting points. It’s where I started too. I’m a productivity and digital tool junkie. I love devouring information on productivity, system design and life design.

But despite all that knowledge, the systems and workflows I use today (that has helped me juggle a 9-5, a side business and a life outside of work) has come from designing a system that adapts the best practices, systems and processes touted by experts.

Picking up what works for me, and leaving behind what doesn’t.

Don’t be disheartened. If you’re struggling with disorganisation or productivity, I’ve got a few simple and actionable suggestions that you can start doing today.

💡 Today at a glance

  • What Does a Successful System Look Like?

  • 3 Mistakes People Make When Designing a System (That Can Be Easily Avoided)

  • My Simple Practical Exercise for Designing a System.

  • Why Templates Are a Good Start, but Won’t Lead to Success Without This Secret Ingredient

A quick story.

Last week, I was on a clarity call with someone struggling to put in place a content creation system that worked for her while she juggled a busy day job and a part time coaching business. She often found herself hustling close to midnight to hit publish on her newsletter or inconsistently sharing posts on social.

She felt these were the consequence of this haphazard approach to content creation:

  • The late nights was impact her sleep.

  • The quality of her newsletter and social media content could be so much better.

  • The limited time she did have for her coaching business wasn’t used as productively.

Ultimately, she felt more structure and systems for content creations and running her coaching business would make time spent on it more productive, efficient and joyful.

She proceeded to ask me this great question: “What does a successful system look like to you?”

Here’s what I shared with her.

What Does a Successful System Look Like?

A system is only one half of being productive. The second half is having workflows that supports your system, and vice versa.

System

It’s a container for an activity or action.

Here are a few examples of systems: Content creation, task management, travel planning, client management etc.

Workflow

Workflows are the processes you put in place to work in and with the systems you’ve created.

I like to ask myself these questions when I’m thinking about workflows:

  • What are my inputs and outputs?

  • How do I want to interact with the system?

  • How do I want to or like to work in the system?

  • How do I want to or like to work with the system?

Lets use the system of Content Creation as an example to make it really tangible.

Here are a few of the workflows I created for my content creation system in Notion.

  • A workflow for capturing new ideas any time one pops into my head.

  • A workflow for when and how I review my ideas in my idea repository.

  • A workflow for when I block time in my calendar so I can draft and then finalise my weekly newsletter so I can hit send each week.

Systems and workflows work hand in hand.

In my approach to designing productive and simple systems, you can’t really have one without the other.

A system without a workflow you enjoy following through with means you won’t stick to it in the long run. It won’t become a productive habit.

Workflows without a system can feel like it lacks boundaries or clarity in what you’re exactly trying to do with you time. It can lead to distractions, unfocused work, friction or resistance to doing the work.

A successful system to me is having systems and workflows in my work and life that I enjoy using.

Maybe it’s a bit boring.

But I believe simple systems and workflows reduces the friction and resistance you feel towards using your time and energy productively.

3 Mistakes People Make When Designing a System (That Can Be Easily Avoided)

1. Trying to come up with their “perfect system” from the start.

Not only is “perfect” impossible, but if you’re DIY’ing it, it will evolve as you get more familiar with the tool. So just get started.

2. Not thinking about how the tool will help you and why exactly you need the tool.

What exactly is the tool going to help you accomplish? Doing this upfront helps you avoid Shiny Tool Syndrome and stops you from wasting time tool hopping.

3. New tools can be overwhelming to learn and use effectively if you don’t invest learning time at the start.

Think of it as short term pain, for long term gain, if you invest time, effort or seek help at the beginning. Instead of wasting time tinkering and feeling unproductive with your time and effort.

My Simple Practical Exercise for Designing a System (I Still Do This Today)

Start with the end goal in mind.

For example, are you trying to write and publish content regularly to show case your expertise and thought leadership in a field?

If so, your goal might be to publish once a day on social media and publish a weekly newsletter.

Now, pick just one system you want to create to help you work toward this goal. Then think through a couple of workflows that you might need to turn into habits in your life.

In our example:

  1. Create a Content Creation system in your tool of choice.

  2. Create a workflow for capturing new content ideas into your tool, a workflow for resurfacing these ideas during your content creation session and a workflow for analysing the performance of your published content so you know what resonates or should be repurposed.

By picking just one system to create, it’s way less overwhelming and you really get to learn how to use the tool, before expanding your use to other use cases.

The more you commit and use a system, the more effortless it becomes.

In other words, the return on investment on your time increase the better you get at using the tool.

Why Templates Are a Good Start, but Won’t Lead to Success Without This Secret Ingredient

Almost all productivity apps and tool have templates that users can quickly install.

It’s a low friction way of getting new users to start using the tool. Templates can be a easy and good start to having a system (e.g. a Notion template to track your content creation process).

But downloading and installing the template is the easy part.

The real challenge is how do you really adopt it into your life, and use the system productively, enjoyably and exactly the way you like to work.

The secret ingredient is customisation.

You need to customise the template and come up with your own workflows and process that feel friction-free to you.

I like to emphasise the enjoyment part of designing your systems and workflows.

Because lets face it, if you enjoy something you’re more likely to actually use it and follow through.

The truth is customisation does take a bit of time investment to learning the tool (or finding a guide to help you reduce the time needed) to get you to your end goal of an enjoyable and productive system that you’ll love using forever, to help you achieve your goals in work and life.

So start small, and just create one system and a couple of enjoyable workflows that you can turn into a habit.

This consistency is what compounds over time, you become more efficient and productive with the time you put into it.

📩 Here's my invitation to you

After working with a few clients and hopping on dozens of clarity calls, I’m finally ready to work on create a simple website and offer.

My goal is to build in public (along with some buddies online) and hit publish on a “minimum viable website” by 31st May. Turning this haphazard page of links into… something better.

I’ll be sharing snippets here and on X (Twitter) along the way.

Here’s my website launch invitation to you.

I would love to hear your feedback regarding my website a few times during this build period (2 minute surveys).

And as a big thank you, I’m giving away 2 free Notion Workspace Audit and Strategy sessions (valued at $199).

The session will be super valuable to people who are already dabbling or using Notion for their work, business or life. I’ll be reviewing your workspace in detail, strategising with you so you know exactly how to get the most out of your Notion system, including a strategy plan at the end of the session.

Interested? Let me know here.

Trying to figure out how to turn Notion into a simple and productive tool you actually enjoy using? Reply to this email and I’ll help you sort it out.

See you next week,

Janice CK

Whenever you're ready, here are 3 ways I can help you:

  1. Ultimate Guide: How to create your digital writing system in Notion under 1 hour (Free!): Ready to learn how to use Notion to create your own writing system so you can write consistently?

    Join 110+ people who have downloaded this guide to build their own Writer’s Hub OS in Notion with built-in slow productivity principles.

  2. Mini-Course: Writer’s Hub OS in Notion: Learn the best practices for building in Notion, Workflow Design design and implementing a writing system that helps you get organised so you can focus on turning ideas into published content. It includes a ready-to-go Writer’s Hub OS template in Notion.

    Perfect for new digital writers and solopreneurs looking for a system in Notion.

  3. Travel Hub Notion Template (Free!): All-in-one Travel Planner that helps you ideate, plan, research and organise your trip stress free using Notion.

    Join 780+ people who have already downloaded this system and upped their travel planning game.

Interested in supporting me (for free)? 💚 

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