Decision-Making Methods for Productivity
earlier this afternoon. We talked about setting goals, try and decide what we want. Getting past some of those early blocks. We're just going to continue talking about what are some things that we can do to make it easier on ourselves to get the results that were looking for. And one of those things is making a decision right which we use the word a lot but really don't have a good idea of what that means. So let's define it very quickly. Ah, decision is committing to a specific plan of action and very crucially, eliminating other options. Right? That's actually where the word decision comes from. Right Latin root is to cut off your you're choosing not to do something else in order to focus on this thing, that is, that is more important. And so what I noticed with a lot of people, particularly entrepreneurs, freelancers, creative folks, there is a tremendous amount of prioritizing by urgency, right? What is screaming at me the most at this particular point in time and paying attention ...
to that thing to try to make that thing go away when really, if you would decide, some particular things are important and some particular things aren't so important and making making sure to prioritize those things that are important. Just the act of making a decision clarifies so much. Now, when you're having trouble making a decision, there's a really great thing. And actually, you mentioned this technique earlier, right? So flipping a coin and engaging your emotional reaction to see to can't trick your subconscious and you know what you want. Like what's important, right? There's also another really kind of cool trigger here, Ristic in that territory that really helps, which is, if you're going back and forth. Let's say you have two options and you can't really decide what to do. That's a signal your brain is telling you that it's your brain is not able to anticipate one result being really any better than the other one, right? There's nothing really to distinguish between the two as far as your brain can anticipate. So really, you could choose one at random, and that would be way better than continuing to be stuck, right. If your brain doesn't know what to do, flip a coin. If you have an emotional reaction to flipping the coin, that's a good signal. If not pick the one that looks most interesting, right? What would be fun? What's the experience that you want tohave and use that as the basis of making a decision? So the worst thing is getting stuck in this period of not being able to choose something when really, if you just sit down and say, OK, I'm going to make a decision and I'm gonna run with it either way, that's a really good way to stop being stuck and start moving forward, right? No. Two techniques related techniques on figuring out what you're really trying to do and then connecting that with what should How should you be acting right now in order to get the result the girl came for? The two techniques are the first of those two techniques is the fivefold y. And we talked about this a little bit earlier when making that big list of all of the things that you would like to do and asking yourself, Why do you want that? That's the first step in this. What right? The technique is Why do you want that? Why do you want that? Why do you want that? Usually you can go 345 levels deep before you get to the well, because I want to. And when you get to that point, that's a really clear indication that that there's there's a root cause there. There's something fundamental about that that really is important. You want it because you want it. Okay, But a lot of times what we want, we never get to the point of really understanding why we want to do something. And for all the reasons we talked about earlier, when you understand why, there may be more direct, faster ways of getting what it is that you actually want that you haven't considered yet, right? So the fivefold, Why is this technique of what you want to do? Ask yourself why Ask yourself, why ask yourself why? Until you get to the root cause of whatever it is that you're trying to do, This technique actually comes from engineering root cause analysis, usually in the context of errors. Right. Something bad happened. Why did it happen and why did that happen and why did that happen? And the fix for the solution may be completely different from the isolated problem that you experienced But if you fix the root cause, you can prevent a lot of issues from ever happening in the first place, right? Same theory. Get to the root of whatever it is that you want, right? Once you get to that route, you need to have a way of connecting that back to something that you could do right now in order to get that intended result. So the sister technique to this call the fire full. How so? Once you get to the root cause of whatever it is that you want to do, you just ask yourself a question. How do I do that? And how do I do that? And how do I do that? And you build up this chain of things that you can do right now in the present that will get you to that end result that you're looking for. And so remember when we were talking about motivation and motivation is is linking together the different systems in your brain. Teoh, connect what you want to do with actually doing it. This is the process that you can use to make sure everything is working right? Go. All that use why to go all the way back to the root cause when you have the root cause, you just ask yourself how over and over again and sometimes the how is something that you don't know how to do yet right, which goes back to all of the skill acquisition stuff that we were talking about, right? You don't know how to do it. Okay, Now you have a learning project. Now you have a skill acquisition project that you can exert some effort and learn how to do something you've never been able to do before. Does that make sense? Super simple techniques, Really. They just take time. But if you invest the time, you'll be way, way better at connecting what it is you want to be able to do with what it is that will actually get you that result. Okay, now Mex action is a term that comes from David Allen's Book of invention that once already, I'll mention it again, getting things done. Ah, really great book. And one of the fundamental ideas there is what he calls the next action, which is what is the very next specific concrete, usually physical thing that you can do to move forward, right? So if you have a project, usually some of the bigger things that we have on our lists, they're not just one thing right there, usually a bundle of tasks that you have to come to do in a sequence to get the end result. Right? If you try to work on the project directly, you're trying to do lots of things all at the same time. So what David Allen says is, don't do that. Just figure out the next physical thing that you have to do right now in order to start that process. So you do the first thing you ask yourself, What's the next action you do? The next thing you ask yourself, what's the next action? And you follow the chain all the way through to getting that particular result, right? So change the oil in my car might start with pickup telephone or search Internet to find a mechanic to change oil, right? You start with the very first very simple thing that you can do and do that you do the next thing right. Very simple concept, but we try to very often do too much at the same time next physical action only. This also makes your to do lists way easier to manage, because you can take a complex thing like change, oil and car. Or the worst thing for me as an author is having an item on my to do list that says, Right book. I cannot write book right too big. It needs to be broken down into what is the next section of the book that I'm defining, that I'm going to work on that I can sit down in half on hour to an hour and get words on a page. That's the level where it becomes productive. You can see that things are getting done. So instead of you just putting right book, it feels like you're doing a lot of little things. But you don't actually seen seeing it take place and take form silk. I'd like when I get toe, break it down like that like that. I like to cross it out like a I get to move on now. Yeah, it feels really good. Totally. There's there's actually so getting things done is a complete productivity system really, really good? There's actually a simpler system that I personally used it. It was created by a general gentleman named Marc Forster. Hey, calls it auto focus. And so if you search for auto focus productivity system, you'll find it. And really, it's It's based on keeping a to do list in a really smart way. And so you use a lot of things that the David Allen talks about in terms of focusing on next actions like, what is it actually like action verb? You know what? What is it that you're actually going to do? But there's what What keeps auto focus from becoming? You know, the monolithic 500 item to do list that nobody can do anything with is a process that's designed to automatically delete things off of your list. If you don't make progress on them in a certain period of time, right, so you keep the to do list, and when you make progress on something, you work on it, you write it down, and if there's something else to do, you just write it at the bottom right. If something has been on your to do list for a couple of days, here's what you do. You take highlighter. You highlight that thing that's been sitting on your list and you have 24 hours to make some sort of progress on that particular item or gets deleted from the list without mercy and no mercy, right? It's highlighted. You didn't do it done. And what's interesting is that technique does a couple things. It uses loss aversion, right. If it's really important and you're saying you're highlighting to yourself, I have not made progress on this, and it's going to be gone unless I do something right. So uses loss aversion to your benefit. It's also a really good signal often that what you have on the list is not a next action project. It's too big. It's not something you can work on directly. So you can just ask yourself the question. Is this something like, What's the next action on this thing? And if you find a next action than you save it and you just write the next action down across the other thing off your list super super effective system. I've been using it for years now, and it's really simple. It's just keeping it to do list and managing it in a smart way. Okay, no externalization is the idea that getting something out of your head is way more valuable keeping something locked up in your brain. So as we were talking about earlier, uh, we are really good human beings at taking in sensory information from the outside world, right? That's that's what our senses are designed to do. Our brain and our body responds to external stimuli very effectively. What we're not really optimized to do is manage the hundreds of thoughts bouncing around in our frontal lobes every moment of every day. That capability is really new, and we're doing way too much with it on a on a daily basis, right? So managing all of the thoughts up in our head, trying to keep everything in your head is really exhausting and very stressful. So one of the best things that you can do is when you have a thought, get it out of your head and get it into the world as quickly as you can, because when it's out there in the world, all of the systems that you can use to notice what's in your environment and change your behavior accordingly, you could use all that stuff now, but the plumbing to take a thought and translate that directly into action doesn't really exist in her brain. So two primary forms of externalization, the 1st is writing it down, right? That's what to do lists or for that's what journaling is for. That's what writing reports and and doing all of the things Teoh put our thoughts into words that we can read and distribute. That's a form of externalization, right? Very valuable. For that reason, the second is speaking, talking to people. Have you ever had a really big problem that you have no idea what to do? You're really stuck and you talk to ah, friend or a family member or or spouse or partner. You say having this problem and you explain the problem and then you go, Oh, that's what I should dio Thanks. And the other person didn't say anything right? Happens all the time. It's because speaking is a form of externalization itself. When we speak, we have to make our thoughts clear enough that the other person can understand. It's also we're hearing ourselves as we're in the process of speaking, right. So the sensory part of hearing something in the environment and doing something different. Based upon that, we can use that when we speak. Right. So the process of just talking through something with a colleague with a friend with a mentor, with a coach with an advisor talking is a very valuable form of solving problems because we're putting what's what's bouncing around in our heads into the world in a way that our brains confuse better. Okay, most forms of productivity methods use one or both of these approaches. Get it out of your head to get it into the world in a way that your mind can actually use longer stays locked up in your head the harder time you're gonna have. No one of the ways that you can use this to your advantage is a technique called self felicitations. Self solicitation is a fancy psychological word for asking yourself questions. So you ask yourself a question and then you answer that question. And a lot of the things that we've been talking about this afternoon are various forms of self solicitation. What is the very most important thing that I could be doing right now is a self felicitations question. What is are there different ways of accomplishing this particular result? Why do I want that? Uh, what am I not doing that I should be doing? All of those types of questions are really valuable because you ask yourself the question and then you answer it, and just the process of thinking that you go through when answering that question will give you an enormous amount of insight about what's going on or things that you could do differently. Daily journaling practices, writing to do lists, answering checklists, all of those things. So going back to the skilled e construction work sheet that we talked about earlier thes are self solicitation questions. They work for a reason because if you ask yourself the question, you can give yourself an answer, right? So most forms of therapy, most forms of coaching most forms of advising is really helping somebody go through a self solicitation process in a way that at that encourages them to ask the right questions and actually answer those questions right? That's the core. So actually, there's a if you're interested in a really pretty comprehensive list of good questions to ask yourself if you have a print copy of the personal MBA. I have a list of 49 questions that you can use to walk through your entire business. Um, really, really valuable. Really, really handy. Um, asking yourself questions or learning to ask a new question about yourself or your business is one of the most effective things that you can take away from a book or a course. What is the question you're going to ask yourself based on this material that will help you change your behaviour, right? Look for the questions. Make sense. Okay, now this is one of my favorite seriously favorite favorite favorite concepts, techniques, practices ever. This is called counterfactual simulation. Okay, remember, we're talking about mental simulation, our brain's ability to imagine a possible world where they imagine the consequences of a particular particular thing. Very powerful capability. It's around because it helps us make better decisions that get us better results. We do it automatically. Counterfactual simulation is how you hack this particular capability of your brain to make it do what you wanted to do whenever you want to do it right. So ah, counterfactual is just a fancy word for what if? Right, So it's what if types of questions. What if we did X? What would it look like if we did? Why, right? Any type of what if question helps, basically supplies an artificial in state to your mind, you're you're forming a scenario, and then you're asking your brain to simulate for you based on everything that knows about the world. Well, what would it look like if fill in the blank? The nice part about the fill in the blank is you could fill in the blank with anything that you want, right? What would it look like? Or what would happen if we all wake up tomorrow and we're living on Mars? What would be different? And the crazy thing about this is you can you can supply anything you want, right? This is the basic the basis of all science fiction novels, right? What would it look like if something crazy happened? And then what's What's amazing about an author's mind is they can construct like 1000 page story about what happens if something weird happens, right? We're using the same basic capability, but we can use it for planning purposes. We can use it to figure out the best way to achieve a particular result. So my personal story and learning how to use this particular idea is Ah, I always wanted to I have my own business. But I thought that it was just gonna be something that I did a couple of years from now. Right? We'll do that in 45 years. Work my job. Everything's good for five years from now. Start my business years ago by 45 years, I'm gonna start my business. Right? And so I learned about this idea. It's like, Ok, uh, here's an interesting thought. What would it look like if I was? I was working in my big company job point, and I just asked myself I was on a on a flight, actually, from San Francisco to New York City. Eso I love this city for many reasons. Um, I just asked myself the question. Okay. It's September. My birthday's in November. So why not? What would it look like if I quit my job? And I'm working by myself by my birthday, which is a couple months away, wild and crazy. All right. Didn't believe I could do it. Thought it was like okay, We'll just figure out what this is. And so I'm sitting in my seat on the plane and I start just kind of jotting down, Okay? Part of the idea of running a counterfactual is you assumed that the end result is definitely gonna happen. It's not a question. This is not a possibility. This is gonna happen. So what would have to be true in order for this end state to also be true, Right? So I've already quit my job. What had to happen in order to make that possible for me to do it. And so I started to work backwards. If I quit my job and this number of clients need to make this amount of money, So I need to charge this much and I need to be able to do this, and they need to be able to do that. And I started working backwards, and what I found is it was way more possible and had been possible for quite a while. I had just never done the math. I just never really thought about this as a serious possibility. It wasn't until I asked myself that What if question that I sat down to go through the train of thought to figure out how to do it. And when I figured it out, it was ways I thought it was going to be. And that's awesome, right? So I land in New York City, where I was living at the time. This this would have been on a Saturday. I turned in my resignation on Monday, and my last day of corporate work was a week before my birthday. I never would have done it if it didn't ask the question, right. So the coolest thing about this is you can supply any particular end state that you want, right? So let's, let's say the just for the heck of it. You want to be a billionaire, you can ask yourself the question. What would it look like to be a billionaire? And how do I get there? All right. And if you want to know the answer to that question, do a search on personal India dot com for the billionaire formula where I did that counterfactual, and I'll give you a formula of everything that you need to do to become a billionaire like you could do it with anything. So this is the kind of thing where our brains have this enormous capacity to simulate anything that we want to simulate. And the only limitation on using that ability is just asking yourself the question off. What would it look like if I got this crazy awesome results and your brain will fill in the steps to get you there? Does that make sense? Okay, so this is the kind of thing the shame is. Most people don't do this nearly often enough because this is something that is extremely important. It's something that you can get a lot of use out of. It is also probably the least urgent thing on your to do list, right? So in the face of urgency, everything else tends to pile on, and we never take the time to do this. One of the best things that you can do for yourself is to schedule 10 or 15 minutes every day in a quiet moment. Maybe do it at lunch, maybe do it at the end of the day, schedule some time to ask yourself questions about what you want your life to look like and then do the simulation and work backwards to see what would need to be necessary. 10 or 15 minutes a day spent doing this will change your life in awesome, awesome ways. But it doesn't happen automatically. You have to make the effort to do it makes sense, Okay? One of the most powerful capabilities of our our human mind. And most people don't use it. So do it. Okay, No Parkinson's law. Parkinson's laws. The idea that work expands to fill the time available for its completion bring true for anybody. If you have all day to do something, maybe only have one project, you got all day to do it, by golly, that project going to take all day to do same project and you only have an hour. It's gonna be done in an hour. So Parkinson's law is something. It's it's It's very the best use of Parkinson's. Law is actually, as a counterfactual question, right? I have this project to do. What would it look like if it only took me an hour to complete this project? I would have to be true. You can learn a lot about what is absolutely necessary and what is not by just asking yourself the question. What if I had to do it in a crazy compressed time period? How would I go about doing that right? Just asking yourself The question sets you down a train of thought that helps you figure out how to really compress the amount of time it took to do something right. That's where the 1st 20 hours came from, right? What would it look like if I could learn to do something really cool in a very short period? Time? What would have to be true? Counterfactual question. So in general, if you can ask yourself the question of how to compress the time, you will find ways to prioritize the important stuff in de prioritize the non important stuff with a limit. There are certain things, certain processes that happen in the world that you cannot compress or at least cannot compress in a way that generates a particular result, right? So you cannot say, What would it look like to have a baby in a one month period of time? Right. You can't do it right. Some things take time. So the abuse of Parkinson's law is going to your team and saying how can we get this crazy, complex process done our project done tomorrow? Go Because that may be too much compression, right? So it's a counterfactual to planning tool. It's something you can use to make your process more efficient, But certain things take time. Okay, that makes sense. Related question. What if this kind of like manifests in a way where you don't get started on a task until a few hours? It's do yes. That's actually a very common form of procrastination, right? So you can start to ask yourself the question of what would it look like? So this is a good counterfactual. What would it look like if all of my most important tasks were done by 10 a.m. And I had the rest of the day free to do whatever right? It's a way of kicking yourself into doing the analysis of what it what do I really need to do? And how can I start doing that right now to get a particular result right? But that Parkinson's laws, if you have all day, you're going to take all day to get the guess. I don't Okay. Thank you. Right. Sure. Interesting question at What point do you start to seriously question your assumptions? Is that just the reality? Check after you've done the counterfactual exercise or, you know how? Yeah, so? So the nice part about a counterfactual is you start getting all sorts of additional data and information that you've never considered before, and some of those things are assumptions. And so there's. There's a really great set of self solicitation questions you can ask yourself in the 1st 1 Is that true? Right? Here's an assumption. Is that true? Well, maybe I am. I sure that it's true. Well, maybe not. Maybe I should collect some information about that particular thing because maybe I'm way off. Right? So the counterfactual exposes a lot of the assumptions that you may have never questioned and then gives you an opportunity to question it. I think we're gonna go. All right. So doomsday scenario, sometimes in our counterfactual, is we come up with scary, scary things, right? Well, what would happen if I quit my job within the next couple months? Well, then I would have no income, and then I will be living in a van down by the river kind of thing. right, and those types of things tends to provoke that threat. Locked down response. Right? Bad thing happened. Shut down. Don't go that direction right? But sometimes that's premature. Sometimes there are risks. Sometimes some things will go wrong. And so one of the things that you can do to get yourself out of that threat locked down scenario is really look at consciously the bad things that could happen, right? So the first way of coming out of threat lock down is shining the flashlight around the dark room to see There's really nothing scary in the first place. Or there's something scary here, but it's gone right. Constructing a doomsday scenarios. How you do that, right? So scary thing. Okay, what's the worst that could happen? Going back to my windsurfing experiment? The worst thing that could happen in that scary process of getting started was I could die. That's worth paying attention to right, So what you can do is OK. There's a real risk. What can I do to minimize the probability that I will die in the attempt of doing this? And there's a whole bunch of things that you could do right? Wearing a wetsuit, wearing a PFD, wearing a helmet, having people close by wearing a whistle on your life like there's there's things you can do. And so doing the doomsday scenario helped me say, Okay, there is a real risk here. Here are things that make it less scary. So okay, I'm comfortable enough to do this. Sometimes you do the doomsday scenario. There's nothing to worry about, right? The example earlier of walking into your boss's office and asking a raise. Well, the doomsday scenario is getting fired, and the probability of that is so low that it might as well be in if intestinal. So you should probably just go in and ask for the raise to begin with, right? Thinking about the worst case is a very valuable form off planning. It can help you see that some of the things that you are thinking of as scary just really aren't a scary is as they feel right. Paying attention to it consciously is how you defuse that Make sense. Anybody have examples of this or doing this in a way that actually helped you overcome something. When I first started it creativelive I was doing stuff behind the scenes chat, moderate. And then I was working content. So working with instructors to figure out what they're teaching and then one of the producers actually was funny because we only had female hosts at the time were active, and so they were like, Hey, you seem like you have a personality that you could do this. Would you be interested in trying? And so, you know, I was very comfortable happy doing what I was doing, but it was like, Well, what happens if I try that? What happens if I fail? And the options are a I look like an idiot in front of all you people out there, you know? Right. But that's okay. Yeah, I was like, Okay, I'm kind of OK with that. If that's the worst that could happen, you know, I Maybe they fire me because I'm really terrible on air, But no, because I still have the other stuff that I did. So, yeah, I really did just kind of sit down and say like, Okay, what's the worst? Well, I look like an idiot, and that's okay. I'm used to that. I do that all the time on here. You are right eso something that felt like a really big risk of the beginning. You just look at it and it's not as big and scary as it seems. That's the value of this thing.