Self Improvement Part 3: Decision Making

  • Decision Making
    • Limited Energy
      • “As the authors Roy Baumeister, Charles Duhigg and others have written, the more we have to think consciously about doing something, the more rapidly we deplete our severely limited reservoir of will and discipline.”  Short bursts of training is better than slow but long lasting training; same for mental and emotional activities as well as physical: http://dealbook.nytimes.com/2013/07/19/how-interval-training-can-make-you-incredibly-efficient-at-work/
        • Try to reduce the repetitive decisions in your life: Instead of having to choose what you will eat for breakfast every…single…day…try deciding what you will eat for breakfast everyday, and then just make exceptions when you want to.  The key is that you are reducing the number of decisions you face each day so that you preserve your mental energy for the important decisions.
        • Stay tuned for an application AttemptedLiving will release to help you make decisions and save your brain power from unnecessary work.
      • Waste
        • Procrastination depletes your focus and decision making energies because you waste energy to make the decision to procrastinate, so that by the time you start work, you’ve spent energy on the five, ten procrastination decisions prior.
        • Track and reduce wasted time.  Ask yourself: Are you making good use of your brain power? What are you thinking about most of the time? Is it useful, helpful, beneficial? Don’t waste your limited resources on thoughts that yield little value.
        • I spend too much time refreshing Facebook, gmail, reddit, etc., waiting for things to happen, and then procrastinating when emails or messages/activities/events come in.  This is a huge waste of time: focus on doing active things rather than passive things.  Have a purpose.  If I’m on gmail, the purpose is to read and answer emails to move on to do other things, not to passively wait there refreshing. Also, block your time: instead of checking email every few seconds, and therefore wasting time whenever there’s nothing new, check email or social media once every hour or two, so you can process all the activity for the last hour or two all at once.
    • Accept Imperfection and Optimize for Impact
      • Sometimes you should stop and fix a problem before moving on, and sometimes you can and should just move on and be fine.  Recognize how necessary it is and decide if it’s a worthwhile investment of time and energy.  For example, I might want to read a wikipedia page about Ponies, but then on the Pony page I see a link to Industrial Revolution.  If I don’t know what Industrial Revolution is, I might want to click it, but then I might find something on the Industrial Revolution page that I don’t know, which if I click would get me further away from my goal of reading about ponies.  If, on the other hand, my interest in reading about ponies is to find out its involvement in the Industrial Revolution, then I do need to learn about the Industrial Revolution before proceeding.
      • If you have five tasks and you only have time to do three, focus on the important problems that have the greatest impact. As your life gets more complicated, you must learn to let things go: choosing which tasks to consciously fail is a strange thing to learn, but an important skill to have–from it, you learn what is truly necessary and what isn’t.
      • You don’t have to be perfect, just good enough, and you can work it out as you go. If you have time to complete three tasks, or perfectly complete one, depending on whether you can fail the other two, you should sacrifice the perfection of one to get the other two done.
        • One time, I was looking for parking, and I found a good parking spot close to the destination but on dirt, so I decided to pass on it and look for something better.  Once I passed it, someone else instantly took the parking spot I determined was not good enough. After another fifteen minutes of searching, I then had to settle for a parking spot slightly further, and still on dirt. So it is with opportunities in life.
          • The lesson here is that time is the limiting factor for perfection–instead of saying I will say yes to when I have the best option, set a deadline based on available resources, and say yes to the best option at the time of the deadline.
    • Decisiveness and Timidness
      • Timidness often results in disappointment, unproductiveness, inactivity, and depression.  Timidness is when you want something, or you have something to say, or there’s something you want to do, but you don’t get it because you’re too timid to do anything.  Given how almost nothing good comes from timidness, it will be wise to want to not be timid!
        • Timid is not the same as polite or respectful: I am not saying that you conquer timidness by simply reversing your behavior.  You still need to know when to speak up and when to stay quiet–however, when you do think it’s time to speak up and you do want to, do so: it is that case that I am referring to here, and in that case, conquer timidness.
      • Ambiguity introduces problems because you have nothing concrete to make decisions on.  Should I bring my swimsuit to the party?  If we are swimming, yes, if we are not, no.  If we are not sure….then I have to weigh regret and chance to make a gamble on what the best decision is.
        • Being decisive gives yourself and others concrete details with which to make decisions by.
        • Leadership: When it comes to a group, there needs to be a clear leader or leaders. All followers won’t work because no-one would make a decisive decision.  All leaders won’t work because no decisive decision can be made if there are disagreements, so little progress is made.  Both cause ambiguity which causes chaos and headaches from miscommunication and bad coordination.
      • Sources
        • Lack of confidence, which results in a lack of suggestions or actions.  Let’s look at the cases:
          • Case 1, you know the right thing to do.  Then it is to everyone else’s benefit that you tell them, so you are justified and being a good person by speaking up and deciding. If others disagree, then that’s fine, at least you tried.  If anything happens, talk it out.
          • Case 2, you don’t know the right thing to do.  Then all proposals are equally good, since if someone else knew the right thing, case 1 would happen.  Since having a decisive answer is better than ambiguity, put everyone out of their ambiguous misery and make a decision.  Worst case, talk it out.
        • Overly considerate: it’s good to serve and be accommodating, but not to the extreme where you don’t contribute any input or opinion, making it difficult for everyone else.  Examples:
          • If someone wants to know how much pizza to buy, and you ambiguously answer, then they don’t know how many slices to get–you are making it difficult on others, so just answer the question.
          • People put a few options up to a vote, and you are the tie breaker somehow.  Everyone knows that the process is democracy, and they have accepted whatever result occurs–they will not hold it against you for choosing something they don’t like because it’s not your one vote that caused it, it was everyone’s votes together.  Therefore, just make the choice.
          • If everyone is being overly considerate, then everyone is suffering from timidness and ambiguity: be the one to put them out of their misery.
        • Lack of self worth.
          • I usually presume I am the least desirable and least wanted person in the room. If I’m talking and someone else interrupts, I instantly give up the ground. I prioritize myself last, and see myself as a servant of the people–I see myself as a lower class citizen.
            • Recognize the context: is this true? If not, don’t act like it is.
            • If you feel this way when it’s not true, it is probably a habit built up by childhood. Overcome it (See Life Education Curriculum)!
    • Commensurate
      • Spend the appropriate amount of time based on how important or major the decision is.
        • I have a tendency to spend a lot of time on easy decisions to make myself feel better about life because it makes me feel empowered when I can take control of so many details, and very little time in difficult decisions so that I minimize the time spent feeling powerless and not in control.  This is a bad habit that results in sub-optimal spending of decision making energy, and results in sub-optimal decisions.
        • It is a waste when you overspend time, and irresponsible when you underspend. Practice to gain the experience to find the right balance
    • Spending
      • Unlike money, you cannot change the speed at which you spend time. Stinginess and the desire to save money are philosophies that also don’t apply to time: you cannot avoid spending it one minute at a time.  Too many people focus on learning how to save, but that mindset will not help you with time.  You can’t succeed in life by only knowing how to save: you must learn how to invest and spend wisely, at the fixed rate of 1440 minutes per day!
      • Understanding the Saving Mindset
        • Lack of spending can come from a lack of a sense of security–if you believe you’ll never get another something again, you will keep it and hold onto it, not letting go.  It is important to know the difference, however, between something irreplaceable and something replaceable.  Don’t overspend on preserving replaceable things, and don’t underspend preserving irreplaceable things.
        • Another possible reason is that you feel like the world owes you something, and so you mistake this individual transaction between you and another person as a relationship between you and the world–that you are justified in taking this item from this person.  This is inaccurate, and acting this way causes burnt bridges and lost friendships.
        • Financial goals: define a budget and a goal, don’t let it be a principle of saving as much as possible, because it causes you to be overly stingy all the time.  Having a budget and a financial goal takes away the stress and fear around money, and gives you a concrete detail with which to make decisions by, so there’s no ambiguity (and pain from it, see above).
          • Furthermore, few people like stingy people, and people usually remember the stingy person, and you don’t want to be known as that person.  It’s a waste of time, uncaring, mean, and builds a negative reputation.
      • I used to think sacrificing personal time was a noble thing to do, that it made me more important, because it implied I was doing work that was of such high priority that I must give my life to it.  Now I know it just means bad time management: it is foolish to damage your own health as a way to give yourself and your work more meaning.  Only do so if you actually need to.  Dedication is not measured in sacrifice.
      • Bankroll
    • Taking Chances
      • You never know for sure if it’s going to work or not, until you try.  Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you know when it’s going to work: a lot of things are outside your control which can influence the outcome.  So get used to rejection and failure, or face the problems outlined above in timidness and ambiguity.
        • Let the other person say no: relationships, work, life, etc.  Don’t reject yourself before you are rejected: at least try.
      • Take smart risks–plan for and prepare to handle the downside.  See Handling Emotions and Problems next

Self Improvement: Part 1: Mindset and LogicPart 2: Planning, Part 4: Motivation

External Resources

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