I thought it was just me, but it really seems that no one likes to make decisions. I’ve just listened to the Ted Radio Hour podcast episode called “Decisions, decisions, decisions” from March 10th. In this episode, they discuss a lot how making decisions is hard, and not only big decisions – but also small decisions like what to eat for breakfast (or what spaghetti sauce to buy!). But more importantly, they discuss how most people simply do not make a decision unless they are “forced to”. The example they cite is how organ donation varies among several countries in Europe. It turns that the “decision” to be an organ donor has little to do with consciousness – but with the fact that in some countries the DMV has an option “check this box if you want to be an organ donor” versus “check this box if you DO NOT want to be an organ donor” when you apply for your driver’s license.
This past week I also started listening to the Advanced Selling Podcast. Of course, they cover a lot of specific selling tips and advices, but they spend a lot of episodes discussing productivity. Knowing where and when you should spend your time and energy. Learning how to differentiate something that will turn into a sale from others that will just waste your time. After taking a critical look at my current prospects, I realized how I was spending a lot of time (and energy) in opportunities that definitely were not going to turn into real business any time soon. Although this was put through the specific goal of selling your product, I believe this can be transferred to other careers, and even to other aspects of your life!
At first, these two topics may seem unrelated. You might ask, what decisions have to do with productivity? That brings me to a third interesting thing that I’ve started doing this week. I was invited by TheNewishPI and Veronika Cheplygina to join an Habitica group. I am still a newbie in the “game” and trying to figure things out, but basically this is an online task management application. You add your habits, daily goals, and to dos – and receive bonus and rewards for completing them. It may seem silly, but it seems to be working for me! There’s the reward component of gaining (virtual) gold medals and going to a new level. But also, and more importantly in my opinion, because it prevents you from making decisions!
I’ll explain. We all have habits we want to keep. Eat healthy. Exercise. Read more. Several, many more. Or others! But whenever it comes to the point where you are going to perform those habits, there are always two or more options. Should I eat salad for dinner or just pick up some junk food on my way back home? Should I stop by the gym or head to the bar for a beer? Sometimes you make the *right* decision and avoid the fries and the beer – or you go to the bar AFTER you’ve exercised 😉 But my point is, if you have previously decided what habits or tasks you want to achieve, it is just like the European DMV form – the default option is your desired one, and you don’t have to think about it! Does this make any sense?
One example I can bring from my life has to do with running and exercising. I’re recently run a half-marathon and believe me, I am no professional runner. Overweight and in my 40s, it took careful planning. I researched online, I talked to many other runners – and I finally came up with an excel sheet with a training plan for about 2 months or so, with activity, mileage, and intensity. Of course there were some hiccups, but in general I was able to follow it pretty closely. Even if I was tired or not feeling like it, it was in my schedule, and I didn’t really think about it, I’d just go and do it. Now that I’m not training for any competition I spend way too much time deciding if I’m going for a walk, a run, or to the gym. Meh, I’m too tired and have too much to do, so I’ll just skip it for today.
So here is my take home message: set up your personal habits and goals in a way that prevents you from having to take a decision on a daily basis. Set up your desired goal as your default option, and you’ll have to think and actually check that little box, deciding NOT TO do it. Realizing this has been working for me so far, and I hope it does for you too!
“Set it up so it prevents you from having a choice” [my paraphrasing]
This is what I do with exercise, packing the work clothes in a bag the night before so what I wake up there’s only my exercise clothes to wear and then off to the gym I go…. or, the days I’m working out after work, I change at work before heading to the gym since if I’m already in sneakers and sports bra I won’t go home without having done my exercise 😉
There are similar things I do for work tasks, setting them up as routines so there is no decision involved. It takes a little time to identify certain key elements but for me it’s been worth it.
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