Creating Systems To Support Weaknesses

Creating Systems To Support Weaknesses

Creating Systems To Support Your Weaknesses

None of us are good at everything. Many people say to “focus on your strengths.” But weakness in some areas of our life have more consequences than others, and ignoring them might not be an option. If you are in a situation where avoidance won’t work, you need to be creating systems to support your weaknesses. This article will help you determine weaknesses that need support, and give some examples of how to create a system.

The Cobbler’s Children Have No Shoes

Back when I first started in IT consulting, we had paper time sheets. This was, in case you are wondering, a case of “the cobbler’s children have no shoes.” My company didn’t want to take a billable consultant away from a contract to write a timekeeping system. And apparently didn’t want to go through the effort of buying one, either.

So every Friday we faxed our paper timesheets to the admins. Inevitably I would get a call on Monday morning because my timesheet had some sort of error on it. (I recognize this now as a symptom of my dyscalculia). I recognized that for whatever reason I couldn’t manage to get the numbers in the correct squares and add them up across and down.

I talked to the administrator about my options. She didn’t care if I used the provided paper timecard because she was going to have to do data entry from it. So I started using Excel, and from my computer faxed the spreadsheet to her every week. (Yes, this is when you could fax from your computer because the phone line was hooked up to it). I built a system to support my weakness, and the admin was pleased to have one less phone call to make on Monday…although she later admitted she missed catching up with me every week during our phone call.

The Steps to Building A System

It’s fairly easy to build systems to support our weaknesses. The secret is not to choose a solution too quickly – it is important to brainstorm to find the best match.

  • Identify the weakness. Most of us know what our weaknesses are. These are the routine trouble spots that cause you discomfort – or things that others routinely complain about.
  • Brainstorm solutions. It is important to come up with multiple ways to approach the problem. It isn’t necessary to spend money or decide on something complicated. Usually the best solutions are the ones that fit into your current life.
  • Fit the best solution to the weakness. When you have several solutions, look at each one and think about how you would implement it. Think about the pros and cons. Is it easy? Is it complicated? Will it require resources you don’t have? Go for Occam’s Razor. Take advantage of the support options available.
  • Implement your chosen solution. Do it deliberately, and go from there.

Examples of Systems

I thought some examples of this would be good explanation.

Plants Are Dying From Lack of Water

I am not a good gardener. My houseplants are more of a tough-to-kill than easier-to-keep-alive variety. Most of my problems stem from not watering enough. Sometimes I didn’t remember to water the plant until I noticed that it was completely drooping. The same happened when I was growing things outside, except that I would often leave the sprinkler on so long that they parched plants then drowned.

As an external system, I needed something to remind me to water the plants before they reached the crispy phase. I also needed something to remind me to turn off the water outside.

For this support, I chose to use a time-based support. For the inside plants there is a task on my repeating alarms app (PushOnTime, which sadly doesn’t seem to be in the app store anymore) that rings at 6 pm every Monday. For the outside plants I had an alarm that rings every day at 7:30 am. I coupled this with a timer attached to the hose that would shut the water off after 20 minutes.

Missing Birthdays

It can be hard to remember birthdays for extended family and friends. Most of my husband’s family was born in March, so I tried buying all the cards at once. But I still missed sending the cards out on time and was usually scrambling for a gift.

For an external system, I needed something that I could set and forget. So I researched a service that would print and mail a real card, with a gift card inside.

For this support I chose to use a batch-based support. Cardly allows me to set up batches of cards ahead of time and mail real paper cards with gift cards.

Forgetting to Floss

The dentist is always telling me I need to floss more. I don’t particularly mind doing it, but I never remember.

For this external system, I needed to trigger the habit. So I chose a habit stacking support. For three weeks I put the floss on top of my glasses case. Right before changing out of contacts and into glasses, I flossed my teeth.

Vacuuming Never Gets Done

I never seem to get the vacuuming done. I either think about it too late or too early, or on my way out the door, as I notice the rolling tumbleweeds of fur. The fact that I detest vacuuming more than just about anything else I have encountered in life may play into this. Maybe.

For this external system, I wanted something that would involve me not doing the vacuuming. So I chose outsourcing as the way to go. We have a robotic vacuum that handles the upstairs, and I have outsourced the downstairs and furniture to my husband.

Missing Meds/Vitamins

I am terrible about remembering to take my vitamins. Well, actually, I am good at remembering, but it is usually when I am not at home.

I needed something that would shove the vitamins in my face, essentially.

I realized I never forget my coffee.

For this external system, I used proximity to remind me to take my vitamins – by putting them in front of the coffee pot.

What Did I Do This Week?

As part of my job duties, I have to submit a timesheet with summaries of what I did for each time block for each billable client. This not only allows my company to bill the client accurately, but provides a summary of the work completed. I realized early on that waiting until Friday would mean that I wouldn’t do a good job – because I don’t remember on Friday what I did on Monday.

When I was using a written journal, this became an exercise in going back through my notes and transcribing it all into the billing system. The flaw was that I didn’t write down my hours spent on each task, and I was guessing.

When I moved to my OneNote calendar, I set it up in such a way that I could copy my daily log into a spreadsheet, have it classify the time and produce not only a summary of the hours, but a log that could be filtered, copied and pasted into our system.

It’s come full circle. From the days when I used Excel to stop the math errors, I have now expanded it to not only calculate the time, but to help me write up my status reports.

Given my successes over the years with this approach, I generally tackle long-running issues with a session of brainstorming to find a way to address the weakness with a system.