Decision Making
Four Ways to Act in the Face of Conflict

Four Ways to Act in the Face of Conflict

Whenever we experience a conflict, it can be difficult to figure out how to move forward. On the one hand, it is never right to mindlessly suppress what you think is “emotion” and go by “reason.” On the other hand, it is never right to mindlessly go by “emotion” and...

How to Be Decisive to Avoid Churn

How to Be Decisive to Avoid Churn

One of the problems of having many projects at once is that there's a tendency to churn — to work a little on one, then a little on another, without making good progress on any. The general solution is to prioritize: to choose one project (or one chunk of a project)...

How to Take Advantage of Low-Quality Time

How to Take Advantage of Low-Quality Time

To concentrate on a mentally demanding task, you typically need at least one full hour of free time when you can ignore everything and everyone else. At that time, you focus all of your energy on that one task. I teach many tactics for concentrating effectively during...

The Criteria For Choosing One Thing to Do

The Criteria For Choosing One Thing to Do

In the past, I've talked about the need to identify a unitary goal in order to be more productive. A unitary goal is: ONE thing you are trying to do. You cannot be nimble if you are trying to achieve a twofer (accomplish two things at once) or if you are vague on your...

What’s So Hard About Planning Projects?

What’s So Hard About Planning Projects?

When you make a marketing plan, or a 5-year strategic plan, or even just a plan to complete a complex project, you sometimes don't know much. You know what you wish would happen. You know some things you need to do so you can make that happen. Everything else is...

How do you know what matters most?

How do you know what matters most?

In order to do what matters most right now, you need to first know what matters most. That is not always obvious. I use a simple test to see if I've got it. I ask, are "should" and "want" and "can" aligned for this action? If they are, this is clearly a valuable step...

Find Yourself Digressing? Take a Quick Timeout

Find Yourself Digressing? Take a Quick Timeout

It happens to the best of us. You sit down to work on your top project, but soon you find yourself thinking about how to respond to a contentious email. Or after a solid hour's work, you step out for a quick break and get waylaid by a co-worker who "just needs five...

How a Decision Log Can Help You Move from Scattered to Focused

How a Decision Log Can Help You Move from Scattered to Focused

Don't be embarrassed if you occasionally feel scattered. It's a normal transition state. For example, after you've finished a major project, you may feel somewhat scattered until you've figured out the next big thing to focus on. But don't let yourself remain feeling...

Three Signs You Need to Check Your Premises

Three Signs You Need to Check Your Premises

Ayn Rand coined the catch phrase: "Check your premises." A premise is a past conclusion that supports your present thinking. Her point was that if you arrive at a contradiction in the present, there is an error somewhere in your past conclusions. You need to find that...

Best Practices make Best Decisions Possible

Best Practices make Best Decisions Possible

Often people judge a decision by its results. When they don't like the way the decision turned out, they conclude they must have made a bad decision. But that doesn't follow. When you make a decision, you make it in a very specific context. You choose between...

Don’t mistake your questions for your choices

Don’t mistake your questions for your choices

Perhaps the biggest mistake you can make in decision-making is to confuse your questions about the future with your choices. For example, I was asked, suppose you love music, and like medicine, but you are concerned about pursuing a career in music because it is so...

Eyes-Wide-Open Decision Making:  An Overview

Eyes-Wide-Open Decision Making: An Overview

I’ve been asked to explain the difference between my Eyes-Wide-Open Decision Making Process1 and a typical decision process. The short answer is — my method offers a way to validate difficult decisions, when you can’t reach certainty. Many decision methods can speed...

Don’t Motivate Yourself, Lead Yourself

Don’t Motivate Yourself, Lead Yourself

There was a theme in the questions that members of the Thinking Lab asked me this week. They all involved some form of, "how do I motivate myself?" I've had an epiphany. This is a mistaken way to conceptualize the problem. Motivation is an effect, not a cause. When...

What’s the value of planning?

What’s the value of planning?

You have probably heard the saying, "no plan survives contact with reality." There's a lot of truth in this — so what's the value of planning? Planning pays off before you take action, while you are taking action, and after you have taken action. The most obvious...

The Alternative to a “No Choice” Rule

The Alternative to a “No Choice” Rule

I am halfway through The Beck Diet Solution: Train Your Brain to Think Like a Thin Person. Judith Beck's exercises, combined with MyFitnessPal, are helping me adhere to a lose-a-pound-a-week diet. I don't agree with everything in the book, but I give it a qualified...

Magic Words to Counter Social Pressure

Magic Words to Counter Social Pressure

I have just finished reading a short book on sales explaining the "magic words" to use to persuade people to do what you want. I have had a conniption fit several times while reading it. The purpose of the book is to teach the reader to become a "professional...

How Do You Know You’ve Chosen a Good Next Step?

How Do You Know You’ve Chosen a Good Next Step?

It's a truism that you should break a complex or difficult project into small steps. The difficulty in applying that truism is in figuring out which of many possible steps to take next. You need to choose a good next step, quickly and effectively, without falling into...

Take the Laugh Test

Take the Laugh Test

In another article, I mentioned that whenever you give a reason for your conclusion, you should pause to make sure it passes the Laugh Test. Yes, the "Laugh Test." Sometimes your reason will turn out to be a patent rationalization, and you won't be able to repeat it...

Add a 15-Second Check to Your Decision

Add a 15-Second Check to Your Decision

As a general rule, it is proper to trust your mind. Your conscious conclusions are based on all of your past choices, your past experiences, and the cumulative expertise you've built up over the years. However, when you make a decision based on limited information,...

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