in Book Notes

Book Notes – Work The System: The Simple Mechanics of Making More and Working Less


  • Move away from business needing you in order to function
  • Is your self-talk focused on making it through the day?
  • Is your day a jumble of events, or is it orderly (personal management problem)
  • Systems must be in place before freedom and money come
  • To begin, you first need to see them everywhere you look
  • Things we do automatically (breakfast, driving, etc) are this way because at some point in time we paid attention
  • Elementary and fundamental shift in perspective
  • No turning back – once seen, cannot be unseen
  • Nothing new – just tweaking your perception
  • There will be some heavy lifting
  • Documentation is key – written goals and procedures
  • Separation, repair, dissection of systems
  • Ongoing maintenance of systems

Chapter 1 – The Mindset

  • Present moment appreciate is vital – but spend some time ensuring future will be in control as well
  • Happiness is found in our control over our personal systems
  • Make changes to things you CAN affect vs. things you cannot
  • Pay attention to the mechanical details of life

Chapter 2 – A System of Systems

  • Author uses Centratel telephone answering service, a company he owns, as illustration
  • Preventative systems keep normal systems running

Chapter 3 – The Attack of the Moles

  • Quality improvement – increased price by 300% in his business. Lost 1/3 of his customers, revenues doubled
  • Despite growth, profitability remained the same
  • Are you sabotaging your ability to create systems?
  • Are you doing well in systems in some areas of your life and not in others?

Chapter 4 – Gun to the Head Enlightenment

  • Centratel about to fail – finally found peace in the inevitable chaos
  • Abandoned past assumptions because there was nothing to lose
  • Sees everything in a system framework at this point
  • Centratel = Primary system composed of subsystems
  • Inefficient subsystems create failed primary system
  • The world is very efficient already (cars, phones, macro social networks, economy)
  • Human body is filled with different systems that work in parallel
  • Things that go wrong stem from something wrong in a subsystem
  • Our lives are made of countless linear systems
  • You need an objective in business in order to develop systems
  • Turn business into self-perpetuating organism that doesn’t have files
  • Create methodologies for each system that you can break down
  • Refine these systems. Create new ones, delete old ones
  • Document organic processes to order them into something repeatable
  • Systems apply to human routines as well. Room layout, morning routines, etc

Chapter 5 – Execution and Transformation

  • Action is a builder of confidence – inaction is the cause of fear
  • Strategic Objective – short document outlining philosophy of company/life
  • General Operating Principles – keep these in mind, guiding decision makers
  • Working Principles – documentation of each subsystem
  • Most flawed system first, then next most flawed
  • Critical systems made redundant
  • Health – use 3 items documents similar to business
  • Paying bills – online bill pay instead of hard copy checks

Chapter 6 – Systems Revealed and Managed

  • Discover, examine, optimize your systems
  • Your are a system of systems – social, health, business, etc
  • Peace and prosperity enter as you work through this process
  • Everything is a linear system that constantly executes
  • An errant procedure in a system causes it to unravel and get out of control
  • Repair inefficient mechanisms one by one
  • Minor system change versus redoing entire system
  • Address problem then take action to improve system
  • You must document your system improvements as they happen
  • Fix one system after another, do not kill fires
  • This must become the priority over day to day business actions
  • As you get better at tweaking, you will see them everywhere
  • Relationship management system – reason why people don’t call back, remember birthdays, break promises

Chapter 7 – Getting Fit

  • One by one, isolate and perfect systems
  • Make your systems visible
  • Bring 1 by 1 to foreground
  • Adjust them
  • Document them
  • Maintain them
    • Pull individual processes out of the mess and fix them
    • You are the watcher of your life, looking over systems
    • Most fail by not taking action, not by misapplying a system

Chapter 8 – Critical Documentation

  • Strategic Objective
  • General Operating Principles
  • Working Principles and Procedures
  • Refining these systems creates compounding returns
  • Strategic Objective – one page, life & business separate
  • GOP – 2-3 pages, general decision-making guidelines
    • Extract these from everyday experience, may take a month+ to create
  • Working Procedures
    • Nitty gritty outline of exactly how a system operates
    • Start with the most critical systems
  • Documents are tangible, in reality vs. in your brain
  • They remind you of systems focus and keep you from straying
  • Get outside the temporary mental setbacks
  • Self-rescues always increase self control
  • You can depend on mechanical realty to guide you
  • Work the System elevates you past the events of the day
  • Manufacturing systems are perfect examples of this

Chapter 9 – Project Engineers

  • You must internalize the systems mentality
  • Build a vivid systems improvement analogy and connect to it
  • Author uses position as a project engineer at electric company
  • Avoid getting caught up in the work – instead, monitor from outside
  • Author has systems for CRM, family, fitness, etc

Chapter 10 – Strategic Objective and GOP

  • One types page, first draft should take a few hours
  • GOP, over a month or so
  • Then, working procedures – majority of time spent here

Chapter 11 – Working Procedures

  • Make organic, human processes as reliable as mechanical processes
  • Apply system improvements to working procedures
  • Repeat over and over and over again
  • If they aren’t tangible, they don’t exist
  • Anyone can make a system improvement at any time
  • Cast procedure in concrete = WRITE IT DOWN
  • Create so someone off the street can do the job, more or less
  • If you see an area of improvement, fix it immediately
  • Working proc. Should evolve, but stabilize over time
  • Creating procedures is HIGHEST priority list over day to day work
  • Have people delegated and ask them how to improve procedures
  • Computer based organizer
  • Procedure to create procedures – scale it out
  • Must be created with employees
  • Automatically modify procedures – no bureaucracy!
  • components flawless = org. flawless
  • Way in front of 98% of competition by doing this
  • Every process needs a working procedure
  • Nonrecurring = DO NOT CREATE PROCEDURE
  • Presentation, style, tone, display of procedures are consistent

Chapter 12 – Good Enough

  • If you’re going to work, WORK. No multitasking
  • Better than “good enough” = waste of time/money
  • Shoot for 98% perfection – extra 2% worthless
  • Are you seeing useless detail about processes?
  • Reconciling checkbook to nearest cent. Who cares?

Chapter 13 – Errors of Omission

  • What are your top five mistakes in life? Do they stem from inaction?
  • Not taking action as an error of omission – recognize this
  • Figure out what you are NOT doing that is creating failures in life
  • Are you @ mercy of outside system that costs time/$?
    • Fix, replace, eliminate

Chapter 14 – Quiet Confidence

  • Lack of quit courage precedes a downfall, incites errors of omission
  • g. do things when absolutely don’t want to – build courage
  • g. live up to word when convenient not to = build courage
  • View laziness as an object, detach mechanically
  • Ask why you are lacking quiet courage in the moment to spur action

Chapter 15 – Point of Sale Thinking

  • Do not delay actions that could be done immediately
  • Handle as things come up – build confidence and avoid overwhelm
  • Do/Delegate/Discard
  • Automate/systemize
  • Multitasking is a fail strategy
  • How much of what you do really matters?
  • Stop consuming non-valuable information
  • Measure your body in order to cultivate POS thinking

Chapter 16 – Extraordinary Systems

  • Attract and keep people due to great working system
  • Give them opportunity and turn them loose
  • Smart, honest, clean living people that will attach to your vision
  • Leaders of successful businesses are system engineers
  • Hiring:
    • Did they show up on time?
    • Aptitude test
    • Did applicant look @ company, have questions
    • Did they listen to you or wait to speak
    • Use gut feelings to disqualify, not to qualify people
    • Be more efficient than your competitors

Chapter 17 – Consistency

  • Think in systems wherever you go
  • As an employee, your boss is your customer
  • Relies on personal habit of consistency
  • Clean and organize in your own life – consistently

Chapter 18 – Communication

  • Quality of communication = quality of life
  • Self-talk-excessive and can become a problem
  • Act more, self-ruminate less
  • Keep promises – you can become 100% reliable and watch your life change
  • Make communication tools available to your staff
  • Never bash others behind backs – people know what you’re up to
  • Are you acting as if showing up is a favor? Change this mindset

Chapter 19 – BPT and MPT

  • Biological prime time = where you are most active and alert in the day. Hard to change this, accept and work with it
  • Mechanical prime time = what you do during BPT
  • Typically a sine wave throughout the day for BPT, one period in morning and one at night – midday lower energy
  • MPT = work on 3 documents during this time
  • Ask yourself moment to moment – is this action creating a business or is it perpetuating a job?
  • Use MPT to remove yourself from business day to day activities
  • Maintain MPT: What should I be doing NOW to grow business?
  • How can I delegate/automate rote aspects of my job?
  • Most alert periods of the day are spent on MPT tasks
  • When not in BPT, other tasks + exercise, social, etc
  • Be careful: You still have bad habits. Don’t ‘get feel good about this message yet
  • Immerse yourself in what must be done right now – enlightenment.