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Successful People Aren’t Luckier Than Everybody Else, They Just Know How to Make Good Decisions

Successful People Aren’t Luckier Than Everybody Else, They Just Know How to Make Good Decisions

What contributes to the difference between the decisions successful people make and all other decisions made around the world on a hourly, daily and even weekly basis. Why do some people consistently make right decisions over and over with little room for failure?

How do we, become better at making decisions in our own work and personal lives to emulate this level of success?

Successful people always identify the problem first

It starts with identifying the problem in front of you. Do you need the new sports car or do you need a new mode of transportation to get to work? Both are completely different problem sets.

The former has an assumptive solution built into it that you need a new car and that this car MUST be a sports car while the latter asks the question how you can get to and from work – which can include a variety of potential solutions – car, train, bus, bike, walk, skip, etc. With any decision it’s important to first frame the problem within the context of the actual problem itself and not within the frame of the solution we are trying to get to.

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When compared to successful innovators, this thinking enables them to go out of the box in their thinking without feeling pushed into a corner before they have started.

They narrow the focus and limit their options

I want to help kids learn versus I want to help kids learn how to be better programmers are two very different focus sets. Both are aimed at helping kids grow, but the latter statement puts the decision making firmly into the decision makers hands – “this is what I am going to focus on, this is where I will be successful” – whereas the former statement leans toward bringing in external consultation as to what the focus should be and takes the decision making process out of our own hands.

Many people become concerned when they narrow their focus for fear that they are minimizing their chances of success by limiting their options to what they could achieve. When in fact, when we narrow our focus, we are actually increasing our chances of success by ensuring that each available option in the decision is one within our proven niche where we have already been successful.

They look at the long-term play instead of the short-term success

Successful decision makers are always looking at the long-term play. Short-term success is fleeting, here today, gone tomorrow but long-term success is everlasting. When we evaluate our decisions for the long-term we look at criteria that are not available today but might be factors for tomorrow that would change the decision we make.

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Buying the sports car today, during the summer, when the weather is hot outside is a great decision for today and the next few months, but come winter it’s value will sharply decrease as other factors will come into play, relegating it to storage over the winter months when it is probably needed the most.

They digest the useful information and ignore the chatter

We live in an information rich society where we are constantly bombarded with information. Look at how best to build something as simple as a wooden box to store firewood and you’ll find hundreds of pictures, articles and possibly even some blogs that are dedicated to their existence, all espousing their incredible features and one upmanship.

How does one decide in the face of so much information?

Ignore it, put it aside, take what you need and move on. At the end of the day, the decision is yours to make and not the world’s. Successful decisions are based on ignoring the chatter and the backroom banter which are aimed at closing ours minds to the potential successful of new ideas. Many innovations that have come before us are based on people consuming what they needed to know, ignoring the chatter and making successful decisions for the simple reason that they ignored this chatter.

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They separate the good from the bad and needs from wants

We’ve alluded to this already but it is worth mentioning on it’s own to drive the point home. Successful decision makers are able to separate the good from the bad, the right from the wrong and the needs from the wants when evaluating their decisions.

A successful decision maker separates their personal ambitions and desires from the decision and looks at the criteria in front of them that will shape the decision and demonstrate what is needed for it to be successful.

In some cases, this involves a complete separation of the decision maker from the decision for a period of time by taking a break and coming back to it to look at the decision with fresh eyes and a different approach to ensure the decision is not being skewed.

When employed correctly, this removes the potential for rash, impulse decisions that can have potentially negative, long-term effects.

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They reflect and evaluate every decision they made

When was the last time you looked at a decision you made and reflected on it? Really reflected on it, not simply – “I should have done this” – but looked at the process for how you came to the decision, the information you gathered, where your focus was, who you listened to, etc, etc?

Very few of us actually do this to the point of critiquing our approach in how we arrived at our decision and what we should do better next time. Perhaps because we have such a strong emotional tie to the decision or because there is no one else to “blame” but ourselves or perhaps because we are still living the impact of that decision.

Whatever the reason, to make successful decisions on a continual basis requires the awareness and afterthought to evaluate what we did wrong, where we went wrong and what checks and balances we must put in place today to make sure that it does not happen tomorrow. Of all the aforementioned steps, evaluating where our decisions went wrong is the best way to ensuring we are successful in our next ones.

Are you making bad decisions today? Or perhaps ones that you wish could be more successful? If so, start with a sampling of what you did, what would you do differently if you had the chance to do it again – how would you better identify the problem or narrow the focus to ensure you are making the right decision against the problem. Are your decisions focused more on short-term gain fueled by chatter and likes or are you too close to it to make a rational decision?

Successful people make great decisions because they apply the criteria in front of them differently when identifying a their options which in turn increases the probability of their success. But there is no reason why we cannot apply that same criteria to making our own successful decisions.

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Greg Thomas

Software Architect

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Last Updated on September 11, 2019

Why To-Do Lists Don’t Work (And How to Change That)

Why To-Do Lists Don’t Work (And How to Change That)

How often do you feel overwhelmed and disorganized in life, whether at work or home? We all seem to struggle with time management in some area of our life; one of the most common phrases besides “I love you” is “I don’t have time”. Everyone suggests working from a to-do list to start getting your life more organized, but why do these lists also have a negative connotation to them?

Let’s say you have a strong desire to turn this situation around with all your good intentions—you may then take out a piece of paper and pen to start tackling this intangible mess with a to-do list. What usually happens, is that you either get so overwhelmed seeing everything on your list, which leaves you feeling worse than you did before, or you make the list but are completely stuck on how to execute it effectively.

To-do lists can work for you, but if you are not using them effectively, they can actually leave you feeling more disillusioned and stressed than you did before. Think of a filing system: the concept is good, but if you merely file papers away with no structure or system, the filing system will have an adverse effect. It’s the same with to-do lists—you can put one together, but if you don’t do it right, it is a fruitless exercise.

Why Some People Find That General To-Do Lists Don’t Work?

Most people find that general to-do lists don’t work because:

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  • They get so overwhelmed just by looking at all the things they need to do.
  • They don’t know how to prioritize the items on list.
  • They feel that they are continuously adding to their list but not reducing it.
  • There’s a sense of confusion seeing home tasks mixed with work tasks.

Benefits of Using a To-Do List

However, there are many advantages working from a to-do list:

  • You have clarity on what you need to get done.
  • You will feel less stressed because all your ‘to do’s are on paper and out of your mind.
  • It helps you to prioritize your actions.
  • You don’t overlook so many tasks and forget anything.
  • You feel more organized.
  • It helps you with planning.

4 Golden Rules to Make a To-Do List Work

Here are my golden rules for making a “to-do” list work:

1. Categorize

Studies have shown that your brain gets overwhelmed when it sees a list of 7 or 8 options; it wants to shut down.[1] For this reason, you need to work from different lists. Separate them into different categories and don’t have more than 7 or 8 tasks on each one.

It might work well for you to have a “project” list, a “follow-up” list, and a “don’t forget” list; you will know what will work best for you, as these titles will be different for everybody.

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2. Add Estimations

You don’t merely need to know what has to be done, but how long it will take as well in order to plan effectively.

Imagine on your list you have one task that will take 30 minutes, another that could take 1 hour, and another that could take 4 hours. You need to know the moment you look at the task, otherwise you undermine your planning, so add an extra column to your list and include your estimation of how long you think the task will take, and be realistic!

Tip: If you find it a challenge to estimate accurately, then start by building this skill on a daily basis. Estimate how long it will take to get ready, cook dinner, go for a walk, etc., and then compare this to the actual time it took you. You will start to get more accurate in your estimations.

3. Prioritize

To effectively select what you should work on, you need to take into consideration: priority, sequence and estimated time. Add another column to your list for priority. Divide your tasks into four categories:

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  • Important and urgent
  • Not urgent but important
  • Not important but urgent
  • Not important or urgent

You want to work on tasks that are urgent and important of course, but also, select some tasks that are important and not urgent. Why? Because these tasks are normally related to long-term goals, and when you only work on tasks that are urgent and important, you’ll feel like your day is spent putting out fires. You’ll end up neglecting other important areas which most often end up having negative consequences.

Most of your time should be spent on the first two categories.

4.  Review

To make this list work effectively for you, it needs to become a daily tool that you use to manage your time and you review it regularly. There is no point in only having the list to record everything that you need to do, but you don’t utilize it as part of your bigger time management plan.

For example: At the end of every week, review the list and use it to plan the week ahead. Select what you want to work on taking into consideration priority, time and sequence and then schedule these items into your calendar. Golden rule in planning: don’t schedule more than 75% of your time.

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Bottom Line

So grab a pen and paper and give yourself the gift of a calm and clear mind by unloading everything in there and onto a list as now, you have all the tools you need for it to work. Knowledge is useless unless it is applied—how badly do you want more time?

To your success!

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Featured photo credit: Emma Matthews via unsplash.com

Reference

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