I want to talk about the one trait all successful people share. It is not self-discipline. It is not their ability to hustle and power through. It is their decision making skills.
The Secret Trick I Use
Remember the time you were invited to a birthday party or a corporate event and were surrounded by people you don’t really know? Remember how you were deciding who to talk to? This is the trick I personally use.
I observe who quickly people make decisions on what to order. I don’t care what they order, I observe how quickly and effortlessly they make the decision.
I stay away from people who take forever to make their mind. Even worse, the ones who get everyone else involved in their decision making. They say What should I order? What are you ordering? Have you tried anything here? I don’t know. So many options, I don’t know how to choose! You know the type.
When I choose to spend more of my time with people who were quick at deciding what to do order, they turn around to be incredible individuals who I want to be friends with.
They do great things in life. They are quick thinkers. They are dynamic. It is a breath of fresh air to be friends with them.
Try this for yourself next time. It works.
What Makes Someone Strong?
Have you ever thought about what makes someone “a strong person” in people’s eyes?
I realized that the ability to make decisions and execute on them is what makes someone strong.
When you make a decision you automatically accept the responsibility that comes from the results of your decision.
When a person makes a decision, she eliminates the suffering and unnecessary drama. She is calm. She is confident.
The decision has been made, there is nothing to obsess about. All that is left is to do the work. And doing the work is easy when you don’t have the constant chatter in your brain that comes from the indecision.
Effective Decision Making is What Matters
Do you know what differentiates people who launch a podcast, a YouTube channel, a side business from those who don’t? It’s not talent. It is the ability to make decisions.
People who produce at the highest level are great at deciding. That’s it. They are good at deciding
- when their work is good enough;
- when to finish their research;
- how long to spend on writing;
- how long to spend on editing;
- when the work is good enough to be shipped to their audience.
I also see people spending so much time thinking about how to name their business. In my career I’ve gone through multiple cases of rebranding. Some people forgot to check the trademarks. Some businesses pivoted after they launched their first product.
And it wasn’t a big deal. It was just another todo item and another business expense.
Because they decided on the very first name (the imperfect one) and moved on to the next action step, they were able to build a successful business and afford this rebranding expense.
If they chose to spend months on deciding how to name their business, I doubt they would’ve been able to build a successful one.
5 Tips for Improving Decision Making Skills
Tip #1: The most important decision is the decision AFTER the decision
I’ve learned this idea from my mentor Tonya Leigh. She teaches that “The most important decision is the decision after the decision”. Do you know what kills decisiveness more than anything else? It is that chatter in your mind after you make a decision.
“What if I made the wrong decision?”, “Have I made the right decision?”, “Maybe I should’ve spent more time researching this topic”, “I was not qualified to make this decision!”
If you keep thinking these thoughts, it will take longer and longer to make decisions in the future. It will leave your paralyzed. What you need to do instead is to follow the advice Tonya’s advice – “The most important decision is the decision after the decision”. It is about having your own back.
I was recently deciding on electrical and structural changes for the house we are building. When I was done deciding, I sent an email to the design centre and made the most important decision – that the choices I’ve made were correct. I stand by my choice and I am confident that I’ve made the right decision. It is so liberating.
If I didn’t know this secret, I would’ve continued thinking about these electrical changes for months! “What if I didn’t choose enough pot lights in the kitchen? Or is it too much light? What if I’m wrong?”
The moment I sent that final email with all the changes, I decided that I had made the right choice. I didn’t have to spend more time researching this topic. I’ve made the right decision. Period. Move on.
It doesn’t matter whether I’ve made the right decision or not. What allows me to move on is the decision after the decision.
Next time you need to make a decision, remember that the most important decisions is what you decide to think about your decision.
Tip #2: Embrace Deadlines
Tell yourself that you will make a decision on your living room furniture by next Friday. You can think however long you want but you have to make a decision by next Friday.
This is what we do with my Monthly Method clients. Every week, when we have our call, they tell me their final decisions on whatever they’ve been researching during last week. I never give them more than a week to do the research. Because research doesn’t bring you closer to producing the result. Deciding and acting on your decision does.
This is what beats perfectionism. If you know that you should have the decision ready by Friday, you can’t spend hours doing research. You can’t afford to be perfect. You can’t afford to be safe.
Tip #3: Refuse to be Confused
Remove the I don’t know. Confusion is a self inflicted prison. The moment you escape from it, you feel free.
It’s better that you’ve tried and failed spectacularly than spent all this time deciding. At least you have a much better story to tell.
Don’t say the words “I don’t know”, “I’m confused”, “It’s hard”. These words don’t bring you any closer to the solution.
Tip #4: Plan for a Result, not an Activity
Pay attention to how you put things on your calendar.
Why were we so good at writing college essays on time but we can’t start our blog? We had a strict deadline and a clearly defined result we were working towards when we were in college. Most likely, we had an essay to write on a specific topic. That essay had to have a certain number of words in it and a certain number of references.
The most important concept I’ve learned from SCRUM that I have adopted in my personal and professional life is the definition of done. In SCRUM, the team should have a clearly described definition of done before committing to spend any time on the task. How do we know that it’s done?
Since SCRUM is mostly used in tech industry, it often involves particular features that a final product should have. If it checks all the boxes, it is done no matter what other stakeholders think.
If we are to transfer this concept to personal productivity, you should plan for the result, not the activity.
Don’t put “work on my business” in your calendar. Write down the results that you will produce by the end of the hour.
For example, right now I have a block in my schedule called “Schedule a blogpost for Episode #2”. It is a block that lasts 60 minutes. In the notes I wrote “Definiton of done (in short DOD) – blogpost is scheduled to go live on Jan 14th”.
Definition of done is created to avoid any subjectivity. It is something that you and I can agree upon. Something that is a fact.
If I give you an access to my blog, we will both agree that I’ve accomplished the task. You will be able to go to my scheduled posts and see this blogpost scheduled. This is the result I have planned. I didn’t put “work on the blogpost” in my calendar. I have planned for the result, not the activity.
Tip #5: Pre-decide
Limit the number of decisions you need to make per day. Embrace the power of pre-deciding.
This is how I use it in my life.
- I pre-decide my meals for the week. On Sundays I spend about 90 minutes pre-deciding my meals and ordering groceries. Throughout the week I choose a recipe from the ones I selected and I cook it. I already have all the ingredients needed for this recipe in my fridge. I don’t need to decide on anything. Everything has already been selected for me by me.
- I pre-decide on my monthly and weekly goals. It is one of the core principles of the Monthly Method. I decide on the list of goals for the month. I lock them in. I don’t add to the list. I work on the pre-decided goals throughout the month.
Decision making uses a lot of cognitive energy. It is a finite resource. Use it wisely.
Start Practicing Your Decision Making Skills
If you want to become more decisive, start small. Start from simple daily actions such as eating out. Or shopping. Practice making fast decisions in these low-stake environments.
Next time you go out to eat, decide on what you will order in less than 3 minutes.
If you are online shopping, give yourself a timeline. For example, “I will place an order for a winter jacket by 8 pm tonight.”
And remember, the most important decision is the decision after the decision. Decide that you have chosen the best winter coat and move on!
The speed of your success depends on the speed of your decision making.