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Create Your Year of Stunning Success (Part 1): Systems

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This time of year everyone is putting their Big Ideas into motion; from lofty 6-figure business goals, to simple commitments like eating better or hitting the gym. January sparkles with possibility and determination, but as the months and year wane on… it’s easy to get derailed.

Factors like bad time management, lack of motivation, and a general sense of overwhelm start to creep in and knock you off your calculated plan. Then suddenly, it’s February 28th, and you’re right back where you started, wondering where all your resolve flew off to.

But you know what? That doesn’t have to be your fate this year – or ever again. This is your year, the year everything changes in a big way, for real, and for good.

I want to see you soar this year, so I’ve created a 3-part series, Your Year of Stunning Success, to help you stay the course and see your goals through to the finish line. (Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it?)

Before we get started, take a moment to jump up and down with a little exuberance. After all “Stunning Success” isn’t meant to be taken lightly. This is your year, baby! Woo-hoooooo!!!!

From January to Stunning Success

With your heart pumping from all of that jumping, you may not care how I’m going to get you from January to Your Year of Stunning Success. But once the adrenaline wears off, you may start to wonder how we’ll make it happen. So I may as well tell you now.

We are going to start by setting you up with some systems. Before I tell you what they are (in case you’re not totally clear – it can be a confusing subject) or before you groan (if you think you know what they are and dread the thought), hang tight and allow me tell you why they are essential to Your Year of Stunning Success.

Effective systems simplify your life and business. They take the guesswork out of tasks. They ensure things are done consistently, reliably, completely, and drama-free.

When you establish effective systems, your mind isn’t doing the did-I-remember-to game when you’re trying to sleep or is-that-important-thing-on-the-list freak-out when you’re wanting to harness your creative superpowers.

Systems free your mind from day-to-day chaos and let you focus on The Now so you can Do Your Thing. And when you’re in The Now and you Do Your Thing, Your Year of Stunning Success is bound to happen. Tweet that!

Okay, So What Are Systems?

Let’s look at it this way. Do you have any regular habits that work really well for you? For example, maybe you’ve developed a great practice of getting up first thing in the morning and walking your dog. Maybe you always use a grocery list when you go shopping or put the coffee grounds in the coffee maker the night before.

These routines are actually foolproof systems – a series of steps you repeat the same way over and over in a manner that works for you. They are consistent and reliable and you don’t need to think twice about whether it did or will happen. You trust them.

When systems work well, tasks are completed the same way every time without stress, drama, worry, or inconsistency. You don’t fret about finding time to walk the dog because you know it happens first thing every day. You don’t get antsy that your partner will make the coffee his way instead of yours because you put the grounds and water in the coffee maker before you headed to bed. This worry-free mentality is what I want for as many aspects of your business as possible.

If you’re sold on the value of systems, I’m now going to tell you exactly how to set them up. Because the less stress you have in your business, the more time you have to Do Your Thing and make Your Year of Stunning Success a reality.

5 Steps to Crafting Your Own Systems

I am going to walk you through how to set up effective systems in your business. You can use the same steps to create them for your day-to-day life as well.

Step 1: Start with a list

Start by listing everything you do that’s related to your business – from accepting new clients to blogging, doing taxes, writing your newsletter, responding to emails, etc.

Step 2: Pick a one system to create or improve

From the list above, which area causes you the most stress or frustration? Which area would feel most liberating to streamline first?

Pick one.

Step 3: List out the steps

Let’s say that you want to improve your newsletter-sending system.

Think about all of the steps required to make that happen, from writing content to giving the material to your assistant to upload to reviewing the draft and sending it out. You may have to mentally walk through the steps several times before you write every single detail down. Be sure to capture every aspect of this system. (Yes, you must do this.)

Step 4: Map it out, find the gaps, fill them in

Now that you have written down all of the steps involved in your system, put them in order. What happens first, second, third, etc.?

As you map it out, notice if there are any gaps or places where hiccups happen. Or sometimes you’ll realize that a certain step is done a different way every time.

The reason you want to note inconsistencies is because the next step is to fix them! You must have a consistent system in order for it to be effective, repeatable, and time-saving. For each step in your process, you must set it up to be done the same way every time.

After you’ve mapped out the steps and found the gaps, determine how you will fill those gaps.

Do you need a template to fill out for your weekly newsletter to be sure you send your assistant everything she needs? Do you need to create canned emails for the things you find yourself saying over and over again?

List out everything you need to create to complete your system, then go create those things!

Step 5: Implement and test your system

Once you have a full system mapped out with all of the gaps filled, it’s time to put it to work. Set up a trial period where you test your new system.

There is a good chance that when you implement it, you’ll find a few new gaps or hiccups. When you do, don’t think that you did it wrong (because you didn’t–it’s part of the process). Instead, rework your system, fill in the new gaps, and resume using your newly-improved system. With just a few tweaks, it will be humming along and you’ll be loving it.

Why Systems Are Worth the Effort

I realize setting up a system isn’t a trivial amount of work, but you will love the time, money, and stress savings that you will be rewarded with. Also, you will reap the rewards almost instantly upon implementation, so be encouraged that your hard work will pay off quickly!

Systems will save you an astounding number of hours and dollars. Not putting systems in place, on the other hand, can have the opposite effect.

I’ve had clients lose clients (and by association, cash) because they misplaced emails, forgot important dates, or just didn’t move efficiently enough for the people who wanted to hire them. I’ve had other clients work nearly double the hours they needed to because they were spinning their wheels with the simple, daily tasks or delegating ineffectively and inefficiently to their assistant.

There is not a single right way to create a system. What you create will depend on your needs and priorities. For this reason, I’m a huge believer in personalized systems, which is why I prefer to teach you how to set your on up, instead of saying do-it-exactly-like-this.

However, it can be tricky to get started if you’ve never created systems, so here are some ways to get moving if you need some support.

Getting Started with Systems

If you’re struggling with where to start, check out these examples of systems that you may be able to implement in your business.

One is a standardized new client intake process, and the other is a simple process for getting killer testimonials. Both outline a system that I put in place in my business and helped others implement in theirs. It will give you a feel for how an effective system is set up and how to create them in your business.

If you want a little more detail on creating systems for your business, you can download a FREE copy of the System Flight Kit: Everything You Need to Create Effective Systems for Your Business, right here.

Or, you can sign up for one of my limited private coaching spots, and I’ll personally help you create systems for your business

Where Will You Start?

Now that you understand how systems will help you make this Your Year of Stunning Success, tell me….

1. Where in your business (or life) could you benefit from systems?

2. What step are you going to take TODAY to put these ideas into action?

I can’t wait to hear what you’ve got in the comments below.

Stay tuned for next week’s post, on the secret, mighty power of keeping a schedule, the second step to creating Your Year of Stunning Success.

And then the third step, the key to superhuman productivity: focus.

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{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Eva Rawposa

Since speaking with you, I’ve now got a cohort who is the Director of Operations for us and her JOB is mostly to create systems. Yet she can’t do it alone. Funny… just today (TODAY!) I received an email update from her on what she’s missing from me because she is the one busy mapping these details out.

She’s missing a few different spots on the website where there is a super-secret location for programs we’ve created.

And that’s it… For most things we’ve got it all connected: 1/ info page 2/ sign-up 3/ sign-up form takes payment + gives info for access 4/ usually a password-protected page with info 5/ reminder emails as needed or support info.

(LOVED your reminder email re: the 1000 subscribers BTW! Awesome!)

:-) xxo Eva


2 Jenny Shih

First off, Eva, I’m THRILLED for you that you have a Director of Operations. She, you, and your whole Uncooking 101 world will benefit from that. Kudos on taking such a big step!!

And yes, the business owner can’t totally divorce herself from the systems, even with a right-handwoman :-)

Cheering you and your business on!!


3 Zivana

Hi Jenny – I found my first 6 months of blogging a bit of a blur of “what should be done / to be done etc.” despite my planner. I’ve put that down to learning curve experience and in preparation for my year ahead – have done an annual calendar so I can see how blogging will fit inbetween my studies and full time job.
This has helped me be more realistic about what can be outsourced and how many projects I can complete this year.


4 Jenny Shih

Great one, Zivanna! I think “learning curve” is definitely right for that one. This whole online business world takes time, experience, practice, and testing to know what really works. But I love that you took all of that and synthesized it – so you can be more realistic about what’s possible. Woo-hoo!!


5 Shae (Miss Sassy)

I love your grounded, practical advice and while this may be slightly off topic, one of my aims in 2013 is to follow only those people who provide solid advice like you do. 2013 is a big year for me – I will be made redundant on 1 March and starting my business. Systems and productivity measures is definitely one thing I want to whip into shape and quick. Thanks for these solid advice and I will be implementing nearly everything you do and say.


6 Jenny Shih

Well thank you for the compliments, Shae! Sorry to hear about your redundancy – but I’m excited for you and your business. Best of luck!!


7 Kristy

Love the post Jenny! Very easy + super helpful to put into action.


8 Jenny Shih

Thanks, Kristy!


9 Alison Elissa Horner

Systems are truly lovely. Thanks for the reminder to pay attention to them. I have some in place, but it wouldn’t hurt to sit down and concoct some more. :)


10 Jenny Shih

Love that about you, Ali – always looking for ways to improve!


11 Jenna Dalton

What a timely post, Jenny! My theme for this year so far seems to be “systematize”. I’ve started to create my lists, and just go through the steps and I already feel less stressed.

Thank you for the tips!


12 Jenny Shih

Woo-hoo, Jenna! Yay for systems, lists and double-yay for less stress!


13 Jen Vertanen

As an IT geek…systems are kind of my thing but there’s always room for opportunity :). I have my intake, testimonial, scheduling, etc down but I’m spending some time in the new year automating whatever I can via Zapier (in some cases IFTT) and getting more serious about my invoicing (Freshbooks). One huge thing I did last weekend was get my business onto Google Apps. That was pretty huge and I’m already reaping the benefits :).


14 MamaRed

Oh yes, systems, systems, systems. Excellent post Jenny and as someone who used to help business clients systematize, find the low hanging fruit, automate where it made sense and then write tons and tons of step-by-step procedures, your approach is so right on! And so hard to do for ourselves. My plan for 2013 is to rebuild and rebrand my business, focusing on the behind-the-scenes stuff that let’s others shine. As always, a fantabulous article.

Many blessings


15 MamaRed

Oh, don’t know if you’ve heard of a tool called Screensteps ( for documenting those steps. I know screencasts are nice AND some folks like to print them out or read them. Nicely done tool (and sure wish it had been around when I was writing documentation full time!)


16 Jenny Shih

Thanks for sharing that tool, MamaRed. I’ll go check it out!


17 MamaRed

You’re most welcome…there is a sister tool called clarify-it (, which is similar and has some slightly different features! I used screensteps to create a gravatar manual…a bit long (since I’m rather anal about things like repeating log in instructions) and it sure was easy to get screen shots and text together.


18 Aradia

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again…I LOVE your approach the peace of mind and efficiency I’ve been able to gain re-working systems. When I started out I had systems, but didn’t know it. I knew they didn’t work well because I just tried to keep it all in my head instead of writing it down but woa was I surprised at how much I was “leaving on the table” when I wrote it out and caught myself being inconsistent or forgetting things here and there.

Now I’m on a systems roll, I get really honestly excited about systems and re-working them! I’ve re-vamped my social media schedule, supply records, product listing, custom (and regular) order, and shipping & handling systems and I just feel so much better now! What’s next on my list is to take a look at my blogging system which I’ve gotten behind the eightball on with the holidays about.

Then after all is said and done…I get to apply systems to my other business… 😀


19 Jenny Shih

I love how you’ve embraced the systems approach, Aradia and keep working them in your biz. Way to go!


20 Aradia

I am such an organization nut! I know some people feel constricted by schedules because they feel they are restrictive but for me I see the freedom in not having to constantly remember details. It allows me to focus my time on creative pursuits and with family & friends during “off time” instead of thinking… “did I do this…”


21 MamaRed

Great point Aradia and thanks for reminding me of that because my “be free” side loves systems for some reason and not schedules. Your rewording helps me shift that! Yes.


22 Aradia

Sometimes that’s all it takes! I’m happy my words inspired/reminded! Nothing like a little shift in perception!


23 MamaRed

So true Aradia, so true and it has already helped! Thanks oodles.


24 Parijat

Aradia I’m the same way! The idea of having reliable systems and schedules sounds so freeing to me!


25 Nathalie


I love that saying: focus is the key to superhuman activity!! I’ve never put it quite that way!

I looked at where I was wasting a lot of time. The first was blogging/newsletter. The second was internet presence. I’ve now got systems for both. More importantly I have time dedicated for both. On the Internet im doing the same activities every week at the same time. Now that I keep track of a proper list it’s actually possible.

Since I’ll be working in 2015 … It’s really key to have systems. Who knew that planning could set me free!

I’ve got so much time now that I can actually go play! After years of not playing it’s kind of scary.
cant wait to hear what you have say about scheduling.


26 Jenny Shih

Planning, systems, structures, and schedules are the KEYS to freedom! They sound like they’d create the opposite, but that’s just a misconception.

The more you can provide structure for the non-creative things in your business, the more FREEDOM your brain has to be creative and do the juicy stuff it loves. I’m so glad you’ve set yourself up to play and really go for it in the new year!

You can check out the scheduling post here:


27 Shalon

Dearest Jenny,

You rock. Thank you for the crazy generous value you share. Yours are on my very short list of emails I *always* open.



28 Jenny Shih

That is just about the nicest thing anyone has ever said. Thank you so very much, Shalon!!! xo


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