The Ultimate Guide to Creating High-Impact Systems
92% of them never achieve any of them.
Most people quit their goals and ambitions due to certain blockers.
These blockers to productivity are everywhere in the entire process of completing a task. Most of you quit on your goals at one of these three phases in your journey:
High Activation Energy: Sometimes, it is daunting to start something because you are not prepared to put in the activation energy required to initiate the task.
There are many things you want to do, but you never start at all. You get scared by the resource-intensity required to complete the task.
For instance, building a profitable business is a long, exhausting journey; and the size of the task is big enough to scare you off. So you quit right before you even get started2.
Dysfunctional Process: Sometimes, it’s challenging to continue what you have already started because your process sucks or because you lose motivation. The latter can be an effect of the former.
In this case, you start, but you quit after a while, as you don’t get any substantially motivating results from your current process.
Undefined Milestones: On other occasions, you lose faith in what you are doing due to some external influence. Flipping NFTs is cooler than starting a SaaS business — “fuck you, Arvid Kahl, Bored Ape is the king.”
It can happen because your expectations and reality don’t overlap along the journey. You start doubting your decisions and think that what others are doing is more rewarding.
An important thing to keep in mind as we move forward is that it's okay to quit in some conditions. If you are responsible for feeding your family, it makes sense to quit your unprofitable startup and get a job to look after them.
So if you face a moral dilemma like this—trust your gut; ask yourself what’s the right thing to do and go on with it. I have no opinion on that front. In other more optimistic situations: keep this essay handy.
Today we will learn to create systems that make it easier to start and persist — a strategic thought-process that you can use to:
a) reduce the activation energy;
b) create better, more rewarding processes;
c) take decisions independently with full ownership.
1. How to Reduce Activation Energy ⏬
Before we decode how you can reduce the initial mental struggle of starting a resource-intensive task, let’s take a quick look at the mental model of activation energy.
In chemistry, every reaction requires a certain amount of energy to begin working. Most of us have a general idea of the heat necessary to start a fire.
We know that putting a single match to a large log will not be sufficient, and a flame thrower would be excessive.
We also know that damp or dense materials will require more heat than dry ones. The imprecise amount of energy we need to start a fire represents the activation energy.
In real life, when you are working on something, and you are asked to switch tasks, it takes some effort to do that — depending upon the magnitude of the shift in your tempo is required.
For instance, if you are planning to watch a web series and suddenly your friend asks you to play tennis with him, the shift in tempo required is high. You’ve already made your mind for a leisurely activity. So you’d take some time to make your mind and move around to pace up the tempo shift. But if you were working out in the gym and your friend has the same request, you are good to go instantly.
The reason why it is difficult to quit your job and start a business is that the tempo shift required is significantly high. In the case of humans, activation energy is just the amount of mental and physical tempo shift needed to get on a new task.
The most effective way to reduce activation energy is in James Clear’s book Atomic Habits: Divide a big goal or ambition into tiny actionable steps.
Before task division, your goal was to create a profitable business. After task division, the next thing you have to do is market research or customer validation or get your finances in place. Since the tempo shift required in the latter is low, the activation energy is also low; hence it becomes easy to get started.
Another fact about activation energy that is helpful is that it’s difficult to start, but it is relatively easy to continue doing that thing once you have started. So if you’re procrastinating over something, just do the most minor thing you need to do to get started.
For instance, if you want to exercise but are feeling lazy to do it, just warm-up, do a few jumping jacks, and it will get you in the mood of working out. Helps me every time. Great hack!
2. How to Create a High-output Process ⚒
“An hour of planning can save you 10 hours of doing.”
— Dale Carnegie
After working with some of the most skillful people for the last 4 years, I have observed that they all value processes a lot. Under their guidance, you will learn that an effective process has two main characteristics:
Let’s talk about both of them with some patience.
If it’s not a replicable process, every iteration of the same task will require you to rethink and plan your workflow entirely from scratch. Your process should look like a template that you can use infinite times with minor tweaks.
The act of creating a process might take more time, effort, and mental energy than implementing the entire process. That’s precisely why you need a process.
Imagine you are an indie hacker who creates a small no-code tool every month. But you suck at marketing because you don’t have time for it. The ideal thing for you to do is to create a repeatable process. Creating a process is a pain in the ass but using the same process, again and again, feels like a blessing.
Here’s what a replicable process for your product distribution might look like:
Actively respond to an influencers’ tweets in your niche
Cold DMing those influencers’ followers
Write Reddit posts in relevant communities
If you are a content creator, a product marketer, or an indie hacker, this is a plan to steal. It’s not the best, that’s for sure, but I’ve seen it work like magic. The biggest upside of this plan is that it is repeatable. Doesn’t matter what product you create; it works for all of them.
Now imagine that you are a Product Growth Manager in a startup, and you want your product to reach 100k people. You can use the same process we mentioned above to do that. Just add a pinch of delegation and a spoonful of automation. That’s scalability — whether your process can be used on a bigger scale or not.
It’s a solid process, but I think maybe you’d need to add a few more channels like Quora, FB groups, Slack, etc, and you are good to go.
Again, no process is perfect, and there is always a scope for improvement, which brings me to my next mental tool for creating an effective process — metacognition.
You need to actively evaluate your process. Double down the things that work well and limit your resources that don’t. At the same time, keep an open eye for new elements that you can add to your process.
3. How to Stay Persistent 🏔
Most people think that most people quit because things get hard. It's not true. They quit because things stay the same. Boredom makes your journey stagnant, which in turn leads to decay.
To keep things exciting, most importantly—unboring, on a long journey, you need to set realistic milestones to create a sense of achievement every now and then. Not only that, you need to stay genuinely devoted to these milestones. It’s easier to abandon your side of grass because the herd is moving the other way.
To follow up on all these things, we have an umbrella term. It's called self-authorship. There are a lot of academic definitions, but in simple terms, self-authorship is creating your own rules to play your own game.
Self-authorship is the belief that you can rely on your own internal values to make decisions. However, you need a lot of instinctive wisdom to build self-authorship. It might take years to get to a point where you can reliably use your own set of internal commitments to guide your decisions.
In the meantime, observe people you admire and pick their internal values. Working with competent individuals is helpful. Reading biographies is helpful. Following up on my 'Think Like a Genius’ series is helpful.
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Appreciate your patience in reading this long essay. I am glad that you made it to the end. Hope you learned how to create high-impact systems and processes.
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A Study of 800 Million Activities Predicts Most New Year's Resolutions Will Be Abandoned on January 19.
We will use the big ambition of creating a profitable business as a running example throughout this blog. Just a quick heads-up.