Put Systems in Place: Are You Living to Serve Your Business, or Are You Working to Serve Your Life?

A Short Reminder to Put Work Into Perspective

Photo by G. Crescoli on Unsplash

By working faithfully eight hours a day, you may eventually get to be a boss and work twelve hours a day.
– Robert Frost

There is not enough time to do all the nothing we want to do. 
– Bill Watterson

Over the last years, I’ve studied from home to get a degree in psychology. Now I’m nearly done. Studying from home boundaries disappear – much like working from home, I assume. It can be tough to truly disconnect from work and live your life. All the books and notes remind you that there’s work undone.

I’m already making up a number of projects for the time I’ve previously spent on the psychology degree, like doubling down on writing.

A lot of people are running in circles – working for work’s sake, working to keep working. Losing themselves in their work, and running into burnout.

I’ve had the 60h weeks, and I don’t want them back.

Work is great. But I also don’t want to end like the workaholic and forget what’s really important.

That’s why I wanted to write this short piece as a reminder to myself, and for all those who find themselves in that same place.

It comes down to putting systems in place, that allow consistency, and allow you freedom.


“Work on your business, not in your business”, writes Michael E. Gerber, author of The E-Myth Revisited, to remind us – and most of all business owners, that otherwise, we might end up in a trap of our own making.

Gerber argues that, too often, it’s not Entrepreneurs that start new businesses, but technicians – masters of their craft. And because they are masters of their craft they think they’ll be able to run their own gig, neglecting the fact, that there need’s to be someone creating order – a manager if you will – and the entrepreneur, giving direction. Only a balance of these three roles allows a business to succeed.

That’s why Gerber reminds us to take a step back from the technical work, and even a step further:

“It is critical that you understand the point I’m about to make. For if you do, neither your business nor your life will ever be the same.

The point is: your business is not your life.

Your business and your life are two separate things.

At its best, your business is something apart from you, rather than a part of you, with its own rules and its own purposes. An organism, you might say, that will live or die according to how well it performs its sole function: to find and keep customers.

Once you recognize that the purpose of your life is not to serve your business, but that the primary purpose of your business is to serve your life, you can then go to work on your business, rather than in it, with a full understanding of why it is necessary for you to do so.”

The solution for Gerber is to think of your business as a franchise – not that you should franchise it. But the idea is as follows.


Think of McDonald’s. It was once a small restaurant in San Bernardino, California run by the brothers Richard and Maurice McDonald. One day in 1954 Ray Kroc entered the restaurant and was astonished by the concept created by the McDonald brothers. The systems in place were so efficient, that Kroc suggested opening more restaurants of the same kind.

I’m rather the Burger King type. If I want a burger I’ll seek out a Burger King to get a Whopper. And each and every time I got a Whopper, and I was happy. Every single time. They deliver the same results again, and again. Didn’t matter what restaurant I visited.

And I’ve never seen any of the founders or current CEO.

The idea is to put systems in place, just like McDonald’s or Burger King, to create the same results time and time again, while allowing as much freedom and flexibility as possible – so you are something apart from your business.


Most business owners – at least that I know of – have trouble even leaving their business for a vacation.

I’ve seen the boss at work two days past giving birth, or the boss at work an hour before surgery.

At times this even expands to the employees, because there would be nobody to take over.

But not allowing vacation, is not a solution – just like more hours are not a solution, merely a quick fix.

Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson, authors of “ReWork: Change the Way Your Work Forever”, add nicely to this:

“The dream employee for a lot of companies is a twenty-something with as little of a life as possible outside of work – someone who’ll be fine working fourteen-hour days and sleeping under his desk.

But packing a room full of these burn-the-midnight-oil types isn’t as great as it seems. It lets you get away with lousy execution. It perpetuates myths like “This is the only way we can compete against the big guys.” You don’t need more hours; you need better hours.

When people have something to do at home, they get down to business. They get their work done at the office because they have somewhere else to be. They find ways to be more efficient because they have to. They need to pick up the kids or get to choir practice. So they use their time wisely.

As the saying goes, “If you want something done, ask the busiest person you know.” You want busy people. People who have a life outside of work. People who care about more than one thing. You shouldn’t expect the job to be someone’s entire life – at least not if you want to keep them around for a long time.”

For me the directive here is to spend better hours, that is, spend time on putting systems in place that allow making a better job tomorrow. Put systems in place that add to consistency.

Spend time wisely. Work on your work. Work on gaining headspace instead of losing your head in your work.

Provided you have a life to live, this is a pure necessity?

Complement this with ReWork: Change The Way You Work Forever by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson or The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Fail and What to Do About It by Michael E. Gerber.

Leave a comment below. I would love to hear what you think.

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