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Why Asking for Advice Doesn’t Help You Make Better Decisions (and What to Do Instead)

Why Asking for Advice Doesn’t Help You Make Better Decisions (and What to Do Instead)

I used to consider myself a great advice giver and I thought that that is what makes me a great friend, sister, daughter, and partner. People used to say that I am a great listener and that I always helped them to make the best decision. The same goes other way around. Whenever I was facing a problem, or a dilemma of any sort, I would ask my closest ones for advice. In the end, they are the ones who know me best and want what is best for me, right? As I am getting older, and a bit wiser, I am beginning to realize that I was wrong the whole time. Let me tell you why.

Seeking Advice May Make You Feel Reassured But It Brings About These 5 Problems

It has been a common practice for people to ask for second opinion of a friend or a loved one when facing a big decision in their lives. It makes us feel less alone when facing harsh circumstances, or more assured in the rightness of our decision when our closest ones share the same opinion. Yet, if we take a closer look at the process of advice seeking we would soon realize that asking for advice doesn’t in fact help us make better decisions.

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  • We often tend to ask for validation rather than an advice. When you, for example, say “My job is giving me a lot of stress, I should quit it, right?” you are not exactly asking for advice, but you are just seeking for someone to validate your opinion and a decision you have already made.
  • The people you usually turn to for advice are not always the most competent or knowledgeable ones about a problem at hand. Most of the times, you will turn to your closest ones for advice, yet asking your best friend who is a professional hairdresser to give you advice on job in accounting, would be ineffective in most cases.
  • If you decide to ask a close friend or a family member to give you some advice regarding the situation they have had faced earlier, doesn’t always result in the most appropriate solution. This is because we are rarely objective. Therefore, asking a parent to help you decide on a major at university, could lead to them deciding on a subject that they consider best for you rather than you choosing a subject you are most passionate about.
  • We usually seek advice from a couple of our closest ones, and then make a decision. Yet, in most cases a small group of people usually isn’t enough of a sample to help us reach the most optimal choice. For example, if you are planning a vacation and you ask a couple of your friends about a place they have visited, you might not be able to get the most objective picture of a place. A larger group of people on a tourist forum is much more reliable source of information.
  • Sometimes when we are not really sure about the decision we are about to make, we tend to let other people’s opinions guide us in one direction, just so we wouldn’t feel the responsibility if things turned out to be wrong. Most of the time, we do this unconsciously, yet it is a mechanism that helps us be free from responsibility, but it also leads to a great number of bad decisions.

When Seeking Advice Is Not an Option, You Can Do These 4 Things to Make Better Decisions

Question your beliefs

Our beliefs are what leads us to trust the person giving us advice, since most often we share the same beliefs. Even if we don’t, the advice that resonates with our beliefs the most is the advice we would most likely take. In order to not fall into the trap of belief bias, make sure to question our beliefs about a specific topic, and then analyze the facts.

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Ask for information but not advice

Consider the idea by Ryan Holiday, an author who suggests to look for information, rather than advice.[1] He explains the method as analyzing your problem or dilemma, and deciding on the most influential points which you can find more about by asking for information by people who are knowledgeable about it.

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Look at the whole picture before forming your opinions

In order to avoid another the confirmation bias that leads us to only consider the proof for our ideas and beliefs, while completely ignoring the opposite, we should take enough time to analyze the facts that contradict our initial opinion. By doing this we are being mindful of the possible negative results, and as a result, our point can even become stronger.

Check the numbers to have a more objective judgement of the situation

When making decision we tend to get blindsided by somebody’s success story regarding the issue we are dealing with. Of course you are going to expect the same outcome for yourself, yet you need to get a bigger picture and actually check the statistics before deciding on a whim.

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Reference

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Ana Erkic

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Last Updated on August 16, 2018

16 Productivity Secrets of Highly Successful People Revealed

16 Productivity Secrets of Highly Successful People Revealed

The same old motivational secrets don’t really motivate you after you’ve read them for the tenth time, do they?

How about a unique spin on things?

These 16 productivity secrets of successful people will make you reevaluate your approach to your home, work, and creative lives. Learn from these highly successful people, turn these little things they do into your daily habits and you’ll get closer to success.

1. Empty your mind.

It sounds counterproductive, doesn’t it?

Emptying your mind when you have so much to remember seems like you’re just begging to forget something. Instead, this gives you a clean slate so you’re not still thinking about last week’s tasks.

Clear your mind and then start thinking only about what you need to do immediately, and then today. Tasks that need to be accomplished later in the week can wait.

Here’s a guide to help you empty your mind and think sharper:

How to Declutter Your Mind to Sharpen Your Brain and Fall Asleep Faster

2. Keep certain days clear.

Some companies are scheduling “No Meeting Wednesdays,” which means, funnily enough, that no one can hold a meeting on a Wednesday. This gives workers a full day to work on their own tasks, without getting sidetracked by other duties or pointless meetings.

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This can work in your personal life too, for example if you need to restrict Facebook access or limit phone calls.

3. Prioritize your work.

Don’t think every task is created equal! Some tasks aren’t as important as others, or might take less time.

Try to sort your tasks every day and see what can be done quickly and efficiently. Get these out of the way so you have more free time and brain power to focus on what is more important.

Lifehack’s CEO has a unique way to prioritize works, take a look at it here:

How to Prioritize Right in 10 Minutes and Work 10X Faster

4. Chop up your time.

Many successful business leaders chop their time up into fifteen-minute intervals. This means they work on tasks for a quarter of an hour at a time, or schedule meetings for only fifteen minutes. It makes each hour seem four times as long, which leads to more productivity!

5. Have a thinking position.

Truman Capote claimed he couldn’t think unless he was laying down. Proust did this as well, while Stravinsky would stand on his head!

What works for others may not work for you. Try to find a spot and position that is perfect for you to brainstorm or come up with ideas.

6. Pick three to five things you must do that day.

To Do lists can get overwhelming very quickly. Instead of making a never-ending list of everything you can think of that needs to be done, make daily lists that include just three to five things.

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Make sure they’re things that need to be done that day, so you don’t keep putting them off.

7. Don’t try to do too much.

OK, so I just told you to work every day, and now I’m telling you to not do too much? It might sound like conflicting advice, but not doing too much means not biting off more than you can chew. Don’t say yes to every work project or social engagement and find yourself in way over your head.

8. Have a daily action plan.

Don’t limit yourself to a to-do list! Take ten minutes every morning to map out a daily action plan. It’s a place to not only write what needs to be done that day, but also to prioritize what will bring the biggest reward, what will take the longest, and what goals will be accomplished.

Leave room for a “brain dump,” where you can scribble down anything else that’s on your mind.

9. Do your most dreaded project first.

Getting your most dreaded task over with first means you’ll have the rest of the day free for anything and everything else. This also means that you won’t be constantly putting off the worst of your projects, making it even harder to start on it later.

10. Follow the “Two-Minute Rule.”

The “Two-Minute Rule” was made famous by David Allen. It’s simple – if a new task comes in and it can be done in two minutes or less, do it right then. Putting it off just adds to your to-do list and will make the task seem more monumental later.

11. Have a place devoted to work.

If you work in an office, it’s no problem to say that your cubicle desk is where you work every day.

But if you work from home, make sure you have a certain area specifically for work. You don’t want files spread out all over the dinner table, and you don’t want to feel like you’re not working just because you’re relaxing on the couch.

Agatha Christie never wrote at her desk, she wrote wherever she could sit down. Ernest Hemingway wrote standing up. Thomas Wolfe, at 6’6″ tall, used the top of his refrigerator as a desk. Richard Wright wrote on a park bench, rain or shine.

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Have a space where, when you go there, you know you’re going to work. Maybe it’s a cafe downstairs, the library, or a meeting room. Whenever and wherever works for you, do your works there.

12. Find your golden hour.

You don’t have to stick to a “typical” 9–5 schedule!

Novelist Anne Rice slept during the day and wrote at night to avoid distractions. Writer Jerzy Kosinski slept eight hours a day, but never all at once. He’d wake in the morning, work, sleep four hours in the afternoon, then work more that evening.

Your golden hour is the time when you’re at your peak. You’re alert, ready to be productive, and intent on crossing things off your to-do list.

Once you find your best time, protect it with all your might. Make sure you’re always free to do your best uninterrupted work at this time.

13. Pretend you’re on an airplane.

It might not be possible to lock everyone out of your office to get some peace and quiet, but you can eliminate some distractions.

By pretending you’re on an airplane, you can act like your internet access is limited, you’re not able to get something from your bookcase, and you can’t make countless phone calls.

Eliminating these distractions will help you focus on your most important tasks and get them done without interruption.

14. Never stop.

Writers Anthony Trollope and Henry James started writing their next books as soon as they finished their current work in progress.

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Stephen King writes every day of the year, and holds himself accountable for 2,000 words a day! Mark Twain wrote every day, and then read his day’s work aloud to his family to get their feedback.

There’s something to be said about working nonstop, and putting out continuous work instead of taking a break. It’s just a momentum that will push you go further./

15. Be in tune with your body.

Your mind and body will get tired of a task after ninety minutes to two hours focused on it. Keep this in mind as you assign projects to yourself throughout the day, and take breaks to ensure that you won’t get burned out.

16. Try different methods.

Vladimir Nabokov wrote the first drafts of his novels on index cards. This made it easy to rearrange sentences, paragraphs, and chapters by shuffling the cards around.

It does sound easier, and more fun, than copying and pasting in Word! Once Nabokov liked the arrangement, his wife typed them into a single manuscript.

Same for you, don’t give up and think that it’s impossible for you to be productive when one method fails. Try different methods until you find what works perfectly for you.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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