Understanding the pieces of the systems equation to help them be productive and personalized for the best results. Knowing the pieces of the systems equation means you can also evaluate where a system isn’t truly working for you and how you might be able to get it back on track. 

This is a transcript of Episode 6 of the Simple Systems with Sam Podcast. If you’d prefer to listen to the episode, there is an episode player below the links section.

Episode Links

There are no links mentioned for this episode. If you would like to receive even more simple tips through the Simple Systems Newsletter, sign up here!

Listen Here

Systems Equation Episode Transcript

A little bit ago, I was giving a presentation for the College to Classroom Summit, and it was titled “The five different systems to build a solid foundation as a first year teacher”… Or something like that, it was a lot more words than I really needed. And I was really struggling as I was creating it. Because I had 30 minutes to deliver five systems that I thought were going to be so helpful for everybody that was listening from graduated student teachers, all the way through veterans, and from pre K all the way to college. Now, my struggle was not that I didn’t know what systems I wanted to do. I for sure knew what systems. I was just struggling how to explain how to set up these systems in a way that was so effective for everybody on such a wide scale.

What I ended up doing came at no surprise once I realized it, but I use math. Because I’m a nerd. And I totally own up to that. 

So I came up with this systems equation is what I’m calling it. And it’s the pieces that have to be present for a system to really work for you. A system that needs no help is functioning so fine that you don’t even know you’re doing it, the equation goes something like this:

You have you have a goal in mind, you have mindset, you have a routine, and then you have you the little thing that is going to make this system shift and mold to what you need it to be. Those four things are going to give you a system that you can stand by. 

And what’s great about systems, we’ve already talked about this a little bit. But once one of those things starts falling out of line a little bit, you just shift to align it back. And there are systems that we’re already using right now where one of those things isn’t really working. 

So let’s talk through the four pieces, and how we can recognize if something’s not working and where we need to kind of modify in our life. 

Pieces of the Systems Equation


So you have a goal. The goal is really what is the problem and what needs to be fixed about it. If it’s something like my laundry predicament, then I need to figure out what my main problem is. And we’ll go through an episode a little bit later about how we can decide what the root cause or the really purest pain point is of each of these problems. But for me, it happens to be that I let it pile up, and I do a lot of laundry at once. So my goal is to have to do less laundry at a time, then I also need to have the mindset I need to have a reason for why I care. 


Why do I care so much about having less laundry to do at a time? Well, because it makes me a happier person, when I don’t have a mountain of laundry just in the back of my mind, knowing that it needs to be put away. So my mindset or my why of my systems equation behind having the school of doing less laundry at a time is to just be happier overall. It doesn’t have to be something super profound. I don’t know if you feel like that was profound, it doesn’t feel like it was that profound to me, I feel like we all just want to be a little bit happier. And laundry does not make me happy. So I want to do less laundry so that I can be happier. 


Then we have a routine in our systems equation. The routine is the bread and butter. These are the steps that you actually execute in the system. And you can have a routine without having a full blown system. But you cannot take the routine out of the system and still have something that works. Not all routines are systems because not all routines have a purpose behind them. Not all routines are something that you can mold and shift to what you need to do. 

You have a routine of paying your bills when you get them. You can’t really personalize it that much unless you want to leave like a cute little memo for whatever computer is processing your virtual payments. But that’s still routine, it gets done when it needs to get done. The system of paying your bills might be figuring out how you can rearrange your paychecks if need be, or how you might be getting ahead on some debt one way or another by paying a bill a certain way.

Or maybe the mindset behind it is you want to pay less on your bills. So your system to pay less on your bills is actually all about how you are modifying your home to use less energy. So we have a routine and it does a thing but a system makes it a whole production in the best way, of course. 

“You”-and what works

Then last but not least, for certainly not least we have the little bit of you that makes this system personalized. It has to work for you. It has to be something that fits into what you’re already doing what’s already working for you. We’re not like turning your life upside down just so we can save a little bit of time and energy in one place or another. Instead we need something that’s going to fit your life and that is going to have like your little stamp on it that makes you proud.

And that sounds, I gotta realize, okay, I’m really passionate about this. I know that sounds silly when I say like, this system is going to make you proud. But I really think it can. And we already have systems in our lives, but maybe we’re not proud of them. Maybe that’s the piece that we’re missing is either the mindset, the why we’re even doing it, why do we even care are the thing that makes it work for us? 

Evaluating the Systems Equation

I’ll tell you one of the simplest little things that I shifted, believe it or not made a huge difference and like a little ripple effect, was the shift in my system of making my morning coffee. And so I didn’t start drinking coffee till I had my first desk job, and then I also when I managed Target, I was in charge of Starbucks. So I was a little bit of a coffee problem person for a while, I could not function without my coffee in the morning. 

And I might not have been the nicest on the days when I would walk to my Keurig and I had to refill the water reservoir. Because you know what, there were so many dang steps to refill that water. Why was it the problem? Well, because I set up this cute little coffee station that I saw on Pinterest and was like, oh, everything over here is just coffee. This is my little setup. It’s adorable. It’s pretty, I love it. But it wasn’t working for me. So my goal was to get my cup of coffee in the morning quickly and without confrontation. 

And why did I care about that? Well, I was kind of rude to my husband a few times before I had my coffee. And I would get literally angry when I had to refill stupid water reservoir. So my routine was that I would see that there was no water, I would huff and puff about it. Because I’m not a morning person, I would have to reach the cabinet above the fridge where I noticed that I hated how disorganized everything was.

And there’s so much stuff up there that I really didn’t take care of, I can barely reach it. Anyway, I’ll grab the pitcher down, I would walk all the way across the kitchen (which I know is a bit dramatic sounding but it felt like a lot of steps) fill up the water. Go back have to pull my Keurig out from under the cabinets because it didn’t open up all the way under our lower cabinets. And then I had to pour the water in, take the pitcher back over by the sink, turn it over on the dry mat, let it sit out for a day because there was no way you’re going to get me to go ahead and dry it right then and there.

Then I could go make my coffee. Two days later, somebody would put the picture back, probably my loving husband. Then the next day, I would need to refill the water again. And I would get frustrated all over again. 

It sounds so ridiculous, I know. But it was a lot of steps to something that was just not making me happy. All I wanted to do was be happy and drink coffee. That’s it. So instead, I decided I had been doing this system that looked really great on the internet, I had my coffee station up like the internet wanted me to do like other people were happy with. I needed to change it to fit my goal, which was to get coffee as quick as possible. And my mindset, which was I didn’t want to be mad at people in the morning anymore. I didn’t want it to go through this whole routine, which just reminded me of all these other things that needed to get done in my kitchen. 

So what I did, I just shifted my routine. By shifting my routine, I really mean I shifted the entire coffee center over to where it made more sense for me in my life, which happened to be right next to the sink, which yes was also right next to the dirty dishes. But all I had to do to refill the water was pull the nozzle out of the faucet and stick it over in the water reservoir turn the water on and I was good to go. So this little shift saved me from all this kind of like dread and anger in the morning, over the cabinet over the picture over all the steps over taking extra time before I could get my coffee.

 And yes, it moved it right next to where the dirty dishes were. But what also happened is without anger, I would do some of those dishes in the morning while I waited for my coffee to brew. So I ended up having this big ripple effect. And I’m sure my husband actually appreciated a ton because I wasn’t angry at him anymore. I was doing dishes at the exact same time when when all around. So I had to tweak a couple things. But really all I had to tweak was making something that worked for me and not for everybody else. 

The Challenge

At Home

I want you to look around your house this week, your challenge is to find something that works for everybody else, but honestly is probably not the best for you. Maybe it’s where you put your cups in your kitchen. It’s like well, everybody knows that this is the cup cabinet. That’s great. But does everybody live there? 24/7 and need a cup all the time? No, maybe you just want it somewhere else because it makes more sense for either where you get drinks, or where you put things away. Maybe you just need to shift that and it’ll be your little tweak onto that system. 

At School

Maybe at school. It’s something about how you do handing back papers. Maybe your paper organization is driving you a little nuts, but it’s something that you saw on the internet and it looked really cute. So you try to do it that way. No, I want you to take it and I want you to do something that actually fits what you want and what you need. Get a little selfish with it. Nobody’s literally going to notice except for you.

Personal Life

Maybe you are not a like date night type of person. You know what my husband and I do so much better when we have date days. I don’t want to try to pretend like I can stay up late anymore. I like an 830 bed time girl. And you know what, once you make these little shifts in these little things that feel selfish to you, you are also going to feel a lot happier.

And I didn’t mean for this to go entirely on that end of the equation when I started the episode, but I think that’s the where we’re going to start today. I’m challenging you to take one thing that just isn’t working for you. I want you to shift it so that it feels like you take that fourth part of our systems equation, you got the goal, you got the mindset, you’ve got the routine. Now make it you will go through those other pieces in another episode, but for now, let’s take a simple step in a direction that you enjoy. I’ll see you next time.