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The Decision Muscle

decisionmuscleHere we are, in a brand new year, full of enthusiasm and resolve.

So many things to do, see, experience. Regardless of whether you are in the majority who make resolutions, or minority who resolve to not make any resolutions, there’s always a little vibe about the beginning of the year that’s a little different.

Today I wanted to write about how to keep that tiny vibe of can-do optimism, that sense of shiny new-ness by infusing it with lots of teensy tiny quick wins.

You see, the moment you see some kind of success, not matter how small, it galvanizes you forward, right into one more step, one more next action.  And it is in the decisiveness of the next action that lies the secret to ultimate stress-free productivity.

Allow my enthused mind to explain calmly, if I may, the importance of a well-tone decision muscle.

When you add an item to a project or task list, the majority of us tend to write down an ‘item’.  For example, ‘telephone bill’, ‘spinach soup’, or ‘book cover’.

We write ourselves a word or two as reminders of the general task or topic.  However, a reminder is not enough. Unless we make a decision about the outcome that we want out of ‘telephone bill’, or ‘book cover’, it is nearly impossible to determine (and therefore do) what the next action should be.

What about the telephone bill? Is the desired outcome to get the bill, pay it, dispute it, get is discounted …? Obviously, the next step on the way to get ‘telephone bill’  crossed the reminder list would be vastly different depending on the outcome that you are after.

Which brings me to the question: did you actually decide what outcome you want? Did you use your decision muscle?  Or did you simply park the item on yet another list because you can’t face making a decision about it yet?

Just like when attempting to de-clutter, moving bits from one box to another is just another way to putting off the inevitable decision: toss or treasure?  Once you make the decision, then the next step is blindingly clear.

Exercising your decision muscle frequently and consistently has enormous benefits.  For starters, you save a ton of time as you stop dithering over every little thing.  It doesn’t mean you must make rash and knee-jerk reaction decisions.

Deciding to get more information or postponing the decision-making process to a precise moment in time (Monday 23rd at 4 pm, for example), is a decision.  Thinking ‘Oh, I don’t know …’, and drifting off into something else is not.  That’s an open loop.

Open loops hanging around in your psyche are the worst contributors to stress.  You’ve pushed them out of your conscious mind, but they are there, nagging and eating away at your subconscious, giving you that vague sense of dread that you can’t seem to put your finger on.

So we hurtle through January (you know, I’m sure the earth is moving faster because time just flies by …), get a grip on your (non)-resolutions, and add the decision muscle to your workout routine.

Just like in the gym, start small and light, focusing on lots of tiny decisions so you can experience lots of quick wins.  As your decision muscle strengthens, watch what happens to the quality and clarity of your to-do list.

And feel that stress melt away, replaced by that wonderful sense of being in control.

Happy New Year!


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