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If You Follow These 2 Rules to Make Decisions, You’re More Likely to Succeed in Life

If You Follow These 2 Rules to Make Decisions, You’re More Likely to Succeed in Life

It’s estimated that we make about 35,000 decisions every day.[1]

These decisions include: what to wear, what to eat, and what to say. In the latter case, you’re likely to have to decide thousands of times a day on what you are going to say to others. This could range from ordering your morning latte at your local café – to putting your point across persuasively in a team meeting.

Decisions… Decisions… Decisions…

They are constantly needed for us to actively partake in life. However, were you taught how to make decisions at school? Probably not. It’s likely that you were also not taught that effective decision making is an essential component of success.

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To help you out, I’m going to give you a brief tour of what skillful decision making looks like, and how you can learn to do it.

You Don’t Need to Be a Know-It-All to Make Right Decisions…

There are two little-known methods of making great decisions. These two methods have been tried and tested over the years by the vast majority of the world’s most successful people.

Can you guess what these methods are? (Please compare your answers to what you’ll read below.)

Winners in Life Make Decisions Quickly

  • Indecision leads to mental fatigue. By making quick decisions, we can maintain our mental vitality, which gives us the best chance of making the correct decisions going forward. As an example… You need to decide on how to reply to a customer complaint letter but keep putting it off. This ongoing issue is likely to negatively impact any other duties or decisions that you need to make at that time. Instead, decide how to reply to the customer – and then write the letter.
  • Quick decisions put you ahead of your competitors. Imagine for a moment that you run your own company that sells computer software. Your industry is super-competitive, and you constantly need to offer new deals and new products to stay in the game. You hear about an exciting new piece of software that is trending across social media. However, you’re not sure whether the software will be a good fit for your business. You could choose to ‘wait and see’ how the software sells for other companies, or you could decide to take the plunge and become a reseller immediately. Luckily, you picked the latter, as the software proves to be one of the most popular releases for years. You won big, because you acted quickly.
  • Perfect decisions are a myth. I know what you’re thinking… Surely, if I spend time weighing up the pros and cons of a decision, I can come to the perfect conclusion? Unfortunately not. In fact, it’s a common misconception that a perfect decision is just waiting to be found. Think of it this way, if you seek the perfect decision, you are probably going to end up making no decision – and thus taking zero action. Successful people look for the best decisions, but they also understand that perfect decisions are few and far between. For example, if you’re looking for a new job, firstly decide what area of work you would like to do. Then narrow this down to specific roles. You may end up with just one role, but usually it’s better to keep your options open by having several alternatives.

Winners in Life Stick to the Decisions They Make

  • It takes time to see whether a decision was wrong or right. Let’s say that you want to move home to a city that you’ve always enjoyed visiting. You sell your current apartment, and then immediately purchase a property situated in the heart of the new city. After your initial enthusiasm has worn off, you begin to see the negatives: the city is noisy, it’s polluted, and you don’t know anyone. At this point, you could conclude that you made a bad decision. However, if you were to give the new apartment and city more time, you may change your mind. For example, you may discover quiet, green parks for relaxing in nature. You may also start to make friends with people you meet when you’re out and about. Eventually, you may come to love your new home.
  • It’s easier to make further decisions based on your initial decision. Career decisions are at the top of most peoples ‘difficult choices’ list. You may have one idea, but your partner or family may have other ideas for you. The secret is to reach a decision promptly – and then stick to it. This has a number of benefits. Firstly, once you have made a decision, you can get on with the required steps to achieve your career goals. Secondly, when you come across any challenges to reaching your goals, you’ll be able to take the necessary decisions within the context of your initial decision. This will help you to make the right choices – and with the least amount of mental effort.

5 Surefire Ways to Help You Stick to the 2 Rules When Making Decisions

While it may take some time to break your current habits, becoming a great decision maker is easier than you may believe.

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Implement the below methods, and watch both your decision making and success begin to reach new heights.

Set your decision criteria

The most important thing when it comes to decision making is knowing exactly what you want to achieve. If you’re not absolutely clear on your objectives, then it will be tough to come to any decisions.

Imagine that you were considering taking up a new hobby but had no idea where to begin. If you leave this to chance, you’ll probably end up doing nothing. A better approach is to analyze what you are already good at and enjoy. For instance, if you love listening to music, then learning an instrument might be a great hobby for you.

Stop endless information gathering

In today’s ‘information age’, we’re led to believe that researching all the facts and figures before making a decision is a necessity. This is okay, until you find yourself becoming addicted to unearthing more and more information about something. When this happens, you become a full-time researcher, and a no-time actioner!

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Break free from this ‘analysis paralysis’ by knowing when you’ve gathered enough information to make a good decision. You can see this demonstrated in detailed reports that always include an Executive Summary. For busy CEOs, the Executive Summary gives just enough information for them to understand an issue – and to make a decision on it.

Assess the risk/reward ratio

Every time you make a decision, there is a risk that something could go wrong – but also a reward if something goes right. Let’s say that you need to decide on a whether to accept a promotion at work. The new position offers more money, but also comes with more responsibility.

To make a decision on this offer, you would need to assess whether the extra money was worth the added responsibility. To give you another example, professional investors live by their chosen risk/reward ratio. Before each investment, they decide what the potential gains are, compared to how much they could lose. Only once they are happy with this ratio do they decide to invest their money.

Decide on a backup plan

However good your decision making, there will times when things go wrong (sometimes badly!). For this reason, it’s vital to always have in place a backup plan when making major decisions. Professional athletes are an excellent example of this. At any time, their career could be prematurely ended through injury. Because of this looming threat, most professional athletes have a backup plan ready to be actioned. This could be a university degree that will allow them to quickly move into a new career, or if they want to stay within athletics, then they may have taken the necessary training to become coaches or psychotherapists (for example).

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Create decision making habits

First-rate decision makers didn’t become that way overnight. Instead, they honed their decision making over months and years. You must do the same. Start by getting into the habit of making decisions promptly, and then sticking to them. If you struggle at first, then begin with small decisions, and then move onto the bigger decisions when you have more confidence to tackle them.

Outstanding achievers have learned how to be great decision makers. Fortunately for you, the secrets to their success have now been revealed to you.

Take this knowledge – and begin immediately applying it in your life. Decide to be successful. And then let all your future decisions lead the way to the top of Achievement Mountain.

Reference

More by this author

Craig J Todd

Freelance Writer helping businesses and people to thrive.

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Last Updated on February 21, 2019

How to Use More of Your Brain to Become More Productive and Happy

How to Use More of Your Brain to Become More Productive and Happy

To answer the question how to use more of your brain, I want to share my story about overloading my brain….

I’m not a morning person. I always hoped that when I grew up, I’d become that person who was magically “on” (happy and productive) the second my eyes opened. You know, like the old guy in Jerry McGuire who wakes up, claps his hands and says “Today is going to be a great day!”

Adults are supposed to be morning people, right? We’re supposed to be able to use our brains and be productive members of society right out of the gate, waking with smiles on our faces with hearts full of gratitude.

That’s the pressure I’ve always put on myself anyway–that I should feel excited and grateful in the morning. But if I’m being honest, I’ve never felt that way. And generally, my mornings kind of suck…

I wake up everyday with a three year old pulling on my arm (or if I’m not so lucky she’s pulling up the lid of my eye) telling me it’s time to get out of bed because I’m officially on duty as her personal chef, stylist, and chauffeur. (I mean, I’m basically her glorified celebrity handler). Most days, it’s a battle of wills, struggling to get her to put on pants and get in the car and usually I resort to sugar-laced bribes just to keep my sanity.

Suffice to say, by the time I get home from taking her to school, I feel spent and quite honestly, stupid. As a mom of a preschooler, I feel like my brain is operating in “react” mode so much of the morning that I forget it’s possible for me to be an intentional, productive person in the AM hours.

I thought working from home would be easier in this way, but it turns out it’s actually a lot easier to not be productive without the positive peer pressure of other hyper-focused adults visibly working hard at their computers around me.

So what winds up happening is I get home and find it hard not to get on my computer and let my inbox send me on whatever trip my brain decides it wants to go on in that moment.

No plan, no focus, I’m just…doing stuff…I think? At least I’m fighting the urge to go back to bed, I tell myself. I’m being a grown up.

Most mornings I’ve felt like a failure as an adult because of this chronic morning brain fog. So recently I’ve been trying to figure out why I still feel like a 17-year old recovering from mono who can’t get out of bed for first period.

I’m not depressed. My life is good. I love my work.

So why is it so hard for me to follow through on doing things I want to do at a reasonable, productive “adult” hour? I couldn’t help but wonder…what is wrong with me?

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1. Focus on WHEN: The Forgotten Four-Letter Word

It turns out, I may have been asking the wrong questions. Instead of asking WHAT is wrong with me and WHY can’t I, the question I forgot to ask, and the question we all need to be asking is WHEN.

It all became a little more clear when my husband brought home a book called WHEN: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing by Daniel Pink.

According to chronobiology experts, it’s very possible that a lot of our brain power, productivity and even happiness doesn’t necessary stem from what we are doing, but WHEN we are doing it.

Imagine you’re on a relaxing vacation for a week. No meetings. No kids or obligations. It’s just you, a cozy bed, and your whims. What time do you go to bed, knowing you can sleep in as late as you want and nap as much as you want the following day? Got it? Great.

Next, what time would you wake up, by choice?

Now take the time you’d ideally go to bed and the time you’d ideally wake up and find the time exactly halfway between the two. That time will tell you if you’re an “early bird” (or Lark), a Night Owl, OR, neither. Turns out 65% of us are what chronobiologists have come to call “Third Birds”—somewhere in the middle.

Once you determine your “type,” you can start planning your day’s activities based on the right time for your brain—or WHEN you’re best cognitively equipped for that type of task, based on science.

According to Pink and the research, knowing WHEN you are going to perform your best on certain tasks can be an absolute game-changer. For example, say you have an important exam that’s full of analytical questions: Larks and Third Birds are going to perform better on those sorts of tasks in the morning, but Owls are going to perform far better on analytical tasks in the late afternoon or evening.

Knowing when you’re in the ideal state to be your most productive self can make the tasks you do easier and relieve unnecessary stress.

Bottom-line is when it comes to using more of your brain and being happier overall, it may be more of a question of knowing your nature, asking WHEN, and leaning into your natural rhythm rather than constantly fighting it.

2. Manage the Impact of Technology on Your Brain

I’d be remiss, in today’s digital age, if I didn’t bring up the impact technology is having on our brains, productivity, and our general sense of well-being. I mean, the one thing I didn’t mention in my description of my morning is that I’m constantly fighting the urge to check my email or do work while I’m feeding, dressing and wrangling my three year old off to school.

It feels like a compulsive thing, like I can’t help myself from looking at my phone even though I know there’s nothing that can’t wait. If I have a “free” second, I feel the need to do SOMETHING (more accurately, HOLD something).

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It would be easy to posit that technology is a dirty, addictive brain-cell killer and I’m sure I’d find plenty of evidence to support that assertion, but the undeniable truth is that technology has enabled us to get so much more done in such a shorter period of time.

We no longer have to drive 30 minutes each way to a brick-and-mortar retailer to buy miscellaneous items, we can order them it in less than a minute with one tap. So when it comes to productivity, I feel like all of the good technology has done is not trumped by the bad.

That being said, there’s a flip side to the world literally being at our fingertips–especially when it comes to our cognitive abilities. The question on my mind is:

Now that our brains are able to get more information, or input, instantaneously because of how readily available it is, are we actually able to process all of this information without overload?

According to the experts, there’s a false belief among consumers that technology is helping us be better multitaskers, but it’s just not true. The fact is we’re not capable of successfully giving our focus to more than one thing at a time.[1]

Multitasking, at least for humans, is a myth.

So what is actually happening is this:

We think we can be more productive by using our phones to multitask but this leads us to spend more and more time on our phones where we usually get distracted by the overwhelming human need for connection.

One of the expert panelists, Larry Rosen, a research psychologist, explained how technology can actually make us feel chronically anxious because:

“we are feeling a lot of pressure that we have to connect, that we feel a responsibility to connect, and that’s the anxiety-provoking part.”

It’s really this innate desire for connection, for feeling a part of the “tribe” if you will, that leads us to what sometimes looks and feels like technology addiction. But according to Rosen “addiction should give us some sort of a good feeling, a pleasurable feeling.”

But since most of us don’t feel a “high” from being glued to our screens, he believes technology is more like an obsession or compulsion, since we feel a constant need to “check in.”

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The experts also agree that all of this “multitasking” and information overload has had consequences on how we learn and retain information because it’s just simply not possible for our brains to focus on so many different things at once.

So we have this desire to be productive, and an even deeper desire for connection, but a lot of the time our devices distract us from doing either very well.

3. Give Your Brain a Rest

I don’t know about you but my brain hurts from all of that tech talk. Luckily, I have the perfect remedy and if you love coffee and sleep as much as I do, you’re about to have a deep desire to hug me through your computer screen (but thank Dan Pink, I’m just passing this gem on).

If you’re feeling like your brain is fried and your productivity is waning, I’d like to introduce you to your new best friend: The Nappuccino:[2]

    According to the latest research, naps are incredibly beneficial for our brains and overall productivity, but only if done “right.”

    The Nappuccino is the recipe for the perfect nap: Since caffeine takes about 25 minutes to kick in, if you drink a cup of your favorite java, then lay down it takes approximately 5 minutes to fall asleep–giving you the optimal 20 minute snooze sesh (long enough to feel refreshed, but not too long to make you drowsy).

    When to do this, you may be wondering? The Mayo Clinic suggests that the best time for a nap is between 2pm-3pm, when we all typically hit our mid-day slump.

    The best part? You wake up with your caffeine kick in full effect, ready to get back to work.

    You’re welcome!

    If you’re not remotely jazzed about the fact that I just gave you permission to drink coffee and take a nap in the afternoon, you may be one of those people who hate naps.

    Maybe napping makes you feel like a lazy, good for nothing bum and you feel like it’s weak? You may even pride yourself in never taking a lunch break and eating at your desk. If this sounds familiar, you may need to hear this more than anyone:

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    According to Pink and all of the studies, taking lunch (more specifically a social lunch where we connect with someone face-to-face) as well as an afternoon nap, helps us work better, faster and more efficiently. It also helps prevent us from making mistakes.

    As Pink puts it “Breaks are not a sign of sloth, but a sign of strength.”

    And if you still need more proof, a student at Stanford noted in her report on trying the Nappuccino:[3]

    “This process has extended my capacity from measly journal entries to full-on drafts of essays. Thus, I have been proven utterly wrong in my castigation of naps as emblems of counterproductivity.”

    In other words, don’t knock it ‘til you try it!

    The Big Takeaways

    If you’re like most hyper-productive adults and you just scrolled to the bottom to get the gist of this article, I get it, no judgement. As I’ve stated above, our brains can only take in so much. So here’s the bottom line:

    If you want to be more happy, productive, and use your brain more efficiently:

    1. Lean into your unique internal clock and work your WHEN. If you’re a morning person, do the hardest stuff in the AM. If you’re a night person, give yourself permission to not think so hard first thing (and be nice to yourself, okay?)
    2. Focus on one task at a time (our brains can’t multitask, even if our phones can)
    3. Get your fix for connection by talking to other humans in real life (and take a lunch break)
    4. Give your brain a break by unplugging from the screen and treating yourself to an afternoon Nappuccino

    The truth is we don’t need to use more of our brains, we simply need to stop distracting our brains and start understanding them. Most importantly, we need to give our brains a rest so our incredible, life-sustaining, built-in supercomputers can function at their highest potential.

    These days, I’m not so hard on my more “Owly” nature. Somehow cutting myself and my brain some slack and giving it permission to not be “on” in the morning…online that is…has made “adulting” in the AM feel much brighter.

    It may take an hour or two, but eventually, after a couple of cups of coffee, I’m able to clap my hands and say “today is going to be a great day.” And mean it.

    More Resources About Boosting Brain Power

    Featured photo credit: Lucrezia Carnelos via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] Computer History Museum: Our Mind’s on Tech: How Technology Affects the Human Brain.
    [2] Daniel Pink: When: Napaccino
    [3] The Standard Daily: The nappuccino

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