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How To Make Good Decisions All The Time

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How To Make Good Decisions All The Time

Decisions can be really tough.

They can change the course of a career, of a life, forever. The thing is, when you’re faced with making a decision, you often only have a limited amount of information and a limited field of experience to draw upon. But the consequences of your decision are huge. They could potentially be really good…or really, really bad!

There’s no reference book where you can just look up the correct decision you need to make and discover what the best course of action is. There are hundreds of variables. Each variable must be weighed differently, and each one comes with a tangle of emotions and worries attached to it.

Making good decisions is one of the hardest but most important things we do as human beings. In fact, anything that happens down the line can be seen as a direct consequence of earlier decisions. Learning to make good ones and having an effective methodology is vital.

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The reason that decisions can be so tricky is because we get caught up in trying to make an evaluation by thinking about it, but all the while each thought is a tangled mess of emotion as well.

You know what I’m talking about, right?

How to Make Better Decisions: Take Out The Trash

Remember the old wire scourer your mother used to use to scrub the pans after cooking a roast? Perhaps you recall how tangled the wire of that scourer would become after a few uses. Then you probably remember how difficult it was to wash it out as well. No matter how much you rinsed it you could still find pieces of debris and grease trapped in amongst the layers of wire. This is exactly how it is with your thoughts and feelings when you are trying to make a decision. Your thoughts are like the wire, and the emotions are like the discarded food that gets caught up in the wires. As you start eliminating the mind trash and dropping the thoughts around the issue, everything gets untangled.

Imagine the wires are akin to your thoughts. Taking out just one wire at a time reduces the messy knot of wires. Bit by bit it becomes easier and easier to take out individual wires, and the corresponding emotions or sensations that go along with them.

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Once you’ve reduced the mass of wire and debris, your thinking becomes much clearer. You start to see the forest and the trees.

You gain a balanced perspective and we find that instead of running the same thought patterns and worries again and again, the anxieties give way to more creative ideas about how you can tackle the problem and give yourself better alternatives than the options you originally thought you had. All this is a result of pulling out the individual thoughts, and allowing your mind to get really quiet. It means dropping the thinking and letting go of trying to hold every consideration in mind.
“The key to good decision making is being able to drop the thoughts that are keeping your brain so busy.” ReTweet This

How To Drop The Mind Trash

In the beginning this is easier said than done. In fact, if you’re reading this and thinking, “How on earth do I just drop thoughts, I can’t help what I’m thinking!”, then that’s OK. There is a process that can help you…

  1. Let’s imagine you have a decision to make. It could be important, it could be charged with emotion, or it could be really simple and you’ve pretty much already decided which way you’re going to go. Pick something to use as an example as you read this.
  2. Now, as you think of that decision, you probably have lots of thoughts around each possible course of action. Let’s assume for simplicity that there are two possible things you could do. You may want to jot these two options down on a piece of paper.
  3. For each option there are going to be advantages and disadvantages. So beneath those two options, start two columns labeled positive and negative.
  4. Now empty out every thought you have around each of those points – paying attention to, and allocating to a column, every single thought that comes up. If you have a thought that doesn’t easily fit into one of the four columns, then you can jot this down elsewhere on the piece of paper.
  5. Now go through each column, completely emptying out every thought you can possibly come up with. Once you’ve got them out of your head and on to paper, you are then free to make a decision without trying to hold everything in mind.

Advanced:

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If this is resonating with you, you can take this one step further. For each thought you put onto the page, see if you can pay attention to any sensation you get in your body and then observe it until it leaves. You’ll be surprised at how suddenly you can’t even remember what that original thought was!

Don’t worry: you won’t forget anything that it is important to remember. Your brain will allow you to let go of the thoughts, live in the moment and still function effectively without having to hold everything in your mind the whole time.

Once you get to this stage, you’ll be completely free of the mind trash and the emotional charge around your decision. You’ll be able to make a decision from a place of balance and complete freedom.

How To Test Drive Your New Skills

You’ve got the method. Now to test it out and make it second nature before you need to use it on something that puts you into a tailspin.

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It’s like learning to drive. If you know how to pull out of a skid during a test drive, then when the time comes that you need to do it for real, you don’t have to remember the mechanics of it, you just do it.

It’s the same thing with this letting-go technique. If you practice it and get used to it, you will find it all the more powerful when you have a real situation where it will be helpful.

So over to you now: pick a decision, even if it’s not that big a deal right now, even if you think you’ve got it under control for the time being, and test the method out. Remember: write down each option, draw up your positive and negative columns, start filling them out and then feel the sensation associated with each thought until it leaves.

Leave me a comment and share what decision you’re going to test it out on!

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And as always – I’m here to help if you need clarification, or if you get stuck…

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Last Updated on October 21, 2021

How to Create Your Own Ritual to Conquer Time Wasters and Laziness

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How to Create Your Own Ritual to Conquer Time Wasters and Laziness

Life is wasted in the in-between times. The time between when your alarm first rings and when you finally decide to get out of bed. The time between when you sit at your desk and when productive work begins. The time between making a decision and doing something about it.

Slowly, your day is whittled away from all the unused in-between moments. Eventually, time wasters, laziness, and procrastination get the better of you.

The solution to reclaim these lost middle moments is by creating rituals. Every culture on earth uses rituals to transfer information and encode behaviors that are deemed important. Personal rituals can help you build a better pattern for handling everything from how you wake up to how you work.

Unfortunately, when most people see rituals, they see pointless superstitions. Indeed, many rituals are based on a primitive understanding of the world. But by building personal rituals, you get to encode the behaviors you feel are important and cut out the wasted middle moments.

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Program Your Own Algorithms

Another way of viewing rituals is by seeing them as computer algorithms. An algorithm is a set of instructions that is repeated to get a result.

Some algorithms are highly efficient, sorting or searching millions of pieces of data in a few seconds. Other algorithms are bulky and awkward, taking hours to do the same task.

By forming rituals, you are building algorithms for your behavior. Take the delayed and painful pattern of waking up, debating whether to sleep in for another two minutes, hitting the snooze button, repeat until almost late for work. This could be reprogrammed to get out of bed immediately, without debating your decision.

How to Form a Ritual

I’ve set up personal rituals for myself for handling e-mail, waking up each morning, writing articles, and reading books. Far from making me inflexible, these rituals give me a useful default pattern that works best 99% of the time. Whenever my current ritual won’t work, I’m always free to stop using it.

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Forming a ritual isn’t too difficult, and the same principles for changing habits apply:

  1. Write out your sequence of behavior. I suggest starting with a simple ritual of only 3-4 steps maximum. Wait until you’ve established a ritual before you try to add new steps.
  2. Commit to following your ritual for thirty days. This step will take the idea and condition it into your nervous system as a habit.
  3. Define a clear trigger. When does your ritual start? A ritual to wake up is easy—the sound of your alarm clock will work. As for what triggers you to go to the gym, read a book or answer e-mail—you’ll have to decide.
  4. Tweak the Pattern. Your algorithm probably won’t be perfectly efficient the first time. Making a few tweaks after the first 30-day trial can make your ritual more useful.

Ways to Use a Ritual

Based on the above ideas, here are some ways you could implement your own rituals:

1. Waking Up

Set up a morning ritual for when you wake up and the next few things you do immediately afterward. To combat the grogginess after immediately waking up, my solution is to do a few pushups right after getting out of bed. After that, I sneak in ninety minutes of reading before getting ready for morning classes.

2. Web Usage

How often do you answer e-mail, look at Google Reader, or check Facebook each day? I found by taking all my daily internet needs and compressing them into one, highly-efficient ritual, I was able to cut off 75% of my web time without losing any communication.

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3. Reading

How much time do you get to read books? If your library isn’t as large as you’d like, you might want to consider the rituals you use for reading. Programming a few steps to trigger yourself to read instead of watching television or during a break in your day can chew through dozens of books each year.

4. Friendliness

Rituals can also help with communication. Set up a ritual of starting a conversation when you have opportunities to meet people.

5. Working

One of the hardest barriers when overcoming procrastination is building up a concentrated flow. Building those steps into a ritual can allow you to quickly start working or continue working after an interruption.

6. Going to the gym

If exercising is a struggle, encoding a ritual can remove a lot of the difficulty. Set up a quick ritual for going to exercise right after work or when you wake up.

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7. Exercise

Even within your workouts, you can have rituals. Spacing the time between runs or reps with a certain number of breaths can remove the guesswork. Forming a ritual of doing certain exercises in a particular order can save time.

8. Sleeping

Form a calming ritual in the last 30-60 minutes of your day before you go to bed. This will help slow yourself down and make falling asleep much easier. Especially if you plan to get up full of energy in the morning, it will help if you remove insomnia.

8. Weekly Reviews

The weekly review is a big part of the GTD system. By making a simple ritual checklist for my weekly review, I can get the most out of this exercise in less time. Originally, I did holistic reviews where I wrote my thoughts on the week and progress as a whole. Now, I narrow my focus toward specific plans, ideas, and measurements.

Final Thoughts

We all want to be productive. But time wasters, procrastination, and laziness sometimes get the better of us. If you’re facing such difficulties, don’t be afraid to make use of these rituals to help you conquer them.

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More Tips to Conquer Time Wasters and Procrastination

 

Featured photo credit: RODOLFO BARRETO via unsplash.com

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