Recently, I’ve been on a trip and someone awesome asked me a few questions onsight-seeing, going to restaurants and doing other stuff near Hong Kong.
To nearly every question, I would answer with “sounds good, let’s do it”. After I answered this a few times, it must have been somewhat odd. I got asked: “Do you always decide that quickly?”.
It was a great question, especially as I didn’t even realize how this must have sounded. The fact is, I didn’t decide at all. I just happen to default to “sure, that sounds good” for those questions.
Making decisions is one of the most important things in our lives I believe. And we are making lots of them every day, probably dozens if not hundreds of tiny decisions.
At the same time, you only have so much brain capacity to make decisions every day. So, a while back, I decided to be extremely cautious of those cases that I had to make decisions for. And it’s been one of the best decisions I ever made.
Unclutter your life, so you can focus on the decisions that count
There is a great number of events, where I stopped deciding for anything. Instead, I created defaults to go with.
If someone suggests a place to get dinner, I say yes. If someone asks to do something on the weekend, I say yes. I don’t own any clothes apart from white t-shirts (and 1 black Buffer t-shirt), so I can’t decide for what to wear. I listen to the same music I’ve always listened to, if someone suggests some new music, I say yes and listen to it.
There is plenty of other occasions, where I either default to “yes” and some where I default to “no”.
Dan Martell once said something very similar in a post he wrote:
“On the surface some might think I’m lazy or I like to waste money – but that’s because they don’t understand how and why I do this. […]Value in my life as an entrepreneur means wealth and relationships. Anything else is a distraction and huge waste of my time.”
The reason for me is somewhat similar for making decisions: I need to make time for evaluating those decisions that will eventually change my life. Nearly all of them are associated with what I work on for my startup at Buffer.
Now that I don’t take certain decisions anymore, my mind is much clearer. I don’t let any decisions build up that I am convinced won’t make a difference to my long term success and happiness.
It makes your viewpoint much more focused, and improves the outcome of those other decisions worth taking.
The golf ball effect of decision making
If you are playing golf, you will already know this. Tony Robbins, one of the most successful motivational speakers, learnt this the same hard way as most of us do. He realized that:
“If you change the angle, that you are attacking the ball by only 1 millimeter, it changes from being in the green to being in the water.”
He goes on to explain, that this is the exact same thing happening for our decisions. If we are making a decision today, even a tiny little one affecting our lives, it won’t make a big difference tomorrow.
But it will have probably a bigger impact in a week, an even bigger impact in a month and most likely will have completely altered our lives within a few months.
Try to figure out, which of your daily decisions have this golfball effect and which don’t. Then only focus on making those that do.
I think Robbins’ example is one of the best ones, why the way we go about making decisions is such an important part to focus on.
Start to become a better decision maker
By stopping to take some decisions and only taking those that matter the most and that you are passionate about, I believe another crucial factor comes into play:
You will be able to make those decisions you take, much better ones than you used to.
A great example, that I recently read was Jason Fried’s post on dealing with ideas. We all have such occupied minds through our day to day work, that new ideas or potential decisions for us, get put off and pushed back.
If we consciously focus on only taking a few decisions every day and think briefly, but very hard, the outcome will be incredibly more fruitful. Purely because we spend more time on it.
So I guess, the question that lies at hand is not “How do you make decisions?” but rather: “Which things do you decide to decide on?”.