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Weeklies & Support Systems Thinking

Wednesday November 18, 2020

Systems thinking is something a lot of INTJs really like to chew on. We think in systems, so it’s simple, and our ego is all tied up in it, so we feel there’s never enough of it in the world.

Does a problem exist in our life? If so, “might as well do more systems thinking,” comes the call from within.

(And I mean, systems thinking feels really smart and powerful to us because we have a psychological stake in it, but sometimes I have to think it’s a pretty stubborn, grumpy, way-too-adult-like process, too…)

Sometimes we get caught with our system-thinker pants down though. We can end up so zoomed-out that we have one big, vague, “meta-meta-meta-system”, while what we really need is more like a “sub-system.” Something that’s simple, well-defined, and easy to work with.

A Helpful System of My Own

There are lots of different kinds of systems. This is, I think, an under-appreciated aspect of systems thinking. When you think of everything as a system, or as part of a system, it’s easy to start to blur the lines, but delineation can be really helpful in preventing us from losing leverage over the details.

One type of system I like designing is a personal daily support system. One of my favorite daily support sub-systems lately is something I call “Weeklies.” It’s a set of tips, practices, or principles that I change up or reevaluate about once a week, and make little changes to every couple of days.

The name probably sounds way too obvious, and you know I’m not here to be the guy who pats you on the head and lets you go on happily thinking you know everything already. So here are some specific principles of its design:

  • I don’t add work-related tasks to this list. This is bigger-picture than work and much more subjective. Work is more of a subject-object game that benefits from a different set of systems.
  • I don’t keep specific tasks on this list for longer than 1 week without changing what I’ve written about them. More, or different, details will offer a change in leverage points.
  • This list is designed to be temporarily forgettable. It’s not like a calendar. I can forget about it for a couple days, and that’ll suck, but no emergencies will probably occur.
  • I need to be able to insert this list anywhere inside my text editor (and hit Undo to make it go away), so I don’t have to go hunting for it.

I typically refer to the Weeklies list a few times a day. This keeps me in touch with the big picture. In my journaling text editor, I type “wk” and press TAB and this injects my list of Weeklies from a text file.

Here are some items on this week’s list:

  • Lean very heavily on Task BATL circle items from my interests list. These circle items, representing fun, self care, and personal interests, make up more than 2/3 of my Task BATL to-do list, and they add lots of color and relief to my life in the face of heavy responsibilities. That’s right—I may spend a HUGE portion of my daily schedule watching music videos on Youtube, or visiting online museums, or playing some ION Fury or some other fun thing. It’s really important that I have this emotional-values support working actively, or I know I’ll start to feel depressed.
  • Rebase and Debrief in a mini-notebook frequently, or use Mousepad (a different text editor, for a from-scratch writing experience). Rebasing and Debriefing are two techniques from Task BATL. They help me to break free of the details, remove myself from a deep context temporarily, and sort out the big picture. Otherwise it’s too easy to get derailed and focus on things that aren’t contributing to a satisfying daily/weekly/monthly/life-ly outcome.
  • Deepen some interests. As an introvert, it helps me to know that stuff is going deeper. If stuff is not going deeper, I’ll start to feel more scatterbrained, and less like a focused person. Since I keep a lot of logs I can usually look at a specific log to see where I’m at and what I can do next.

質問 for you

  • Do you have a personal daily support system? What’s it look like? How can it be improved?
  • If you don’t have one yet, what are some important design principles? What should it do for you, if it’s going to be a success?
  • Think about the people around you as part of a system. Do you know how the people around you like to support you? What do they like to offer you?
    • Do you know when you need that kind of support—can you sometime identify those moments in advance (a big relationship improver)?
  • What are some tools you’d like to explore, or develop, for implementing or improving your support system?

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