The point of effortless systems is not to eliminate error, although that does happen from time to time. The point is to effortlessly make one as successful as possible. When error does happen, acknowledge the facts and forgive yourself. That’s the only way to move on with joy to bigger and better things.
Last week I wrote about the importance of designing and using effortless systems in order to successfully navigate life’s transitions. We can, of course, push our way through with grit and determination. But that takes so much energy! Effortless systems are designed to produce the same results with minimum energy, leaving us free to appreciate the change process and to accommodate the new environment.
As an example of an effortless system, I described how we relied on the postal service to trigger and pace our account forwarding information before our recent move to Virginia. On a daily basis, we processed the notifications for those bills and publications which came in that day’s mail. By starting early enough, about 40 days prior to our move, we easily captured all of the important vendors, customers, and publishers. The system worked like a charm.
Several readers commented on how impressed they were by this system. They correctly observed that it enabled us to focus on other things besides the nitty-gritty details and that it made our first week in Virginia much more enjoyable. What they failed to observe, however, is that even with a well-designed and effortless system there were still pieces which fell through the cracks. No system, no matter how effortless, is foolproof. There’s always some degree of error in the system.
First, there are the things that we do wrongly. One of the conveniences of modern life is being able to pay bills electronically. No more check writing, stamps, or duplicate accounting entries! Create the vendor, enter the account number, and from there on out you pay effortlessly with a mouse click. Recently, in the process of setting up a new vendor, I transposed two of the account numbers • thereby transmitting funds to a nonexistent account. That little mistake took 30 minutes on the phone and several faxes to correct.
Second, there are the things that we do rightly and others do wrongly. When the phone bills arrived, I called the telephone company to arrange for the forwarding address and telephone numbers. Upon our arrival in Virginia, I called our old numbers only to discover that the recorded greetings were not in place. Once again, that took 30 minutes on the phone to correct • and they still didn’t get it right. There goes another 30 minutes on the phone.
Third, there are the things that we forget to do. As we finished up the packing of files in preparation for the move, I created a note of several vendors who we had not heard from in the mail and who needed to be notified of our new address. This was on a Sunday, so I had to wait until Monday to make the calls. Guess what? By Monday, the note was misplaced and the calls were never made. Now, as we unpack the files, I find myself going through the same process all over again.
These are, of course, petty examples of doing those things which we ought not to do and of not doing those things which we ought to do. In times of transition, even with effortless systems, we can expect these “sins of commission and omission” to increase in both frequency and severity. That’s what makes transitions so challenging. Stuff comes at us with such speed, force, and direction that things inevitably slip. We simply cannot account for every eventuality.
Accepting that fact makes all the difference, when it comes to successfully navigating life’s transitions. As long as we think that life ought to go perfectly, with no slip ups and no confusion, we end up kicking ourselves and railing against others. That phone company which can’t seem to get anything right? How dare they waste my time! Those numbers I transposed or that note I misplaced? What’s the matter with me!
Too many people spend way too much time and energy second-guessing themselves and condemning others for the errors that creep in along the way. But there’s a simple antidote to the problem: forgive yourself. Accept that you and the people you work with will come up short, even with the best of systems. The point of effortless systems is not to eliminate error, both human and mechanical. It’s to minimize error in order to give people the greatest chance for success.
Many great spiritual traditions view the notion of forgiveness as holding the secret of life. This is as true in the workplace as it is in the home. Keeping a record of wrongs, whether they be your own or others, will only serve to wear you down and out. Wiping the slate clean, with a gracious and understanding spirit, will enable you to design even better systems the next time in order to support you at being the best you can possibly be.
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LifeTrek Readers’ Forum (selected feedback from the past week)
Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Readers’ Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent in each week by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. They do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. To submit your comment, use our Feedback Formor Email Bob.
Congratulations on such a good move. It feels better to imagine you two together more.
Thanks for Wellness Pathway on appreciating beauty. It is nice to feel, right now, right at home with people who care about living life to the fullest. After reading and sharing about an appreciation for beauty, it is nice to enjoy knowing also that beauty is not only in the eye of the beholder but also in the heart and spirit. Thanks for a good moment.
May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.
Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC
President, LifeTrek Coaching International, www.LifeTrekCoaching.com
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School Transformation, www.SchoolTransformation.com
Immediate Past President, International Association of Coaching, www.CertifiedCoach.org
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a Time, Online Retailers
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