The High Cost of Delaying Decisions

Have you ever had a tough time making a decision? If so, were you tempted to delay making that choice? If so, did it make the situation better or worse?

Most of the time we think that delaying making a decision will give us more useful time to deliberate which should ultimately lead to a better decision. However, is that true?

In an article by Hollie Richardson called, Decision-Making: Research Shows What Happens When We Wait for “Something Better”, it becomes clear that there is a cost to delaying decisions. As she points out:

Christiane Baumann, a doctoral candidate in the Department of Psychology, explained the way people think as being like: “The price that I am prepared to pay increases every day by the same amount. That is, the further along I am in the process, the higher the price I will accept.”

This principle can be applied not only to purchases, but also situations such as choice of an employer or a romantic partner: “At the beginning perhaps my standards are high. But over time they may lower so that in the end I may settle for someone I would have rejected in the beginning.”

Basically, the longer we leave it to make a decision, the more we’re prepared to gamble, and our standards can drop.

With this in mind, what decision are you putting off making? What if you made that decision right now?

Read the rest of the article to learn more.

What are your Core Values?

Everything we do is driven by are core values. The type of job we take, the person we choose to be in relationship with, and the friends we make are products of our inner values. However, many people have never taken the time to contemplate exactly what their values are, much less write them down.

Recently I discovered a simple exercise to bringing core values to light. It comes from the website of Scott Jeffrey, “the founder of CEOsage, a transformational leadership agency and resource for self-actualizing individuals.” Why is Jeffrey so interested in helping people identify their values? On his web site he offers the following explanation:

As a business coach, I appreciate the power of values.

I’ve noticed that individuals experience greater fulfillment when they live by their values.

And when we don’t honor our values, our mental, emotional, and physical state suffers. I’ve seen this to be true in my life too.

Scott Jeffrey

Jeffrey presents a seven-step method to articulate any person’s values. An early part of the process is to list possible values. However, this is not done so that one can pick or choose favorites. As Jeffrey explains:

Values aren’t selected; we discover and reveal them. If you start with a list, your conscious mind will test which values appear “better” than others.

That said, if you’re not familiar with working with values, you can scan a list of values to get a sense of your range of options.

Learn the entire process by visiting Scott Jeffrey’s web site.

Get It Out of Your Head

Even though I have taught productivity practices for over ten years, I still find myself being human and slipping back into old ways. Recently I forgot where I placed something important. It happened weeks ago and I have no clear memory in my head about where it could be. It is very frustrating!

Has that ever happened to you?

This incident reminded me of a central tenet of GTD that should be written on my brain. It is the simple practice of getting stuff out your head and into a trusted system.

David Allen, creator of GTD, has often said that our mind is a crappy office space. It is designed for having ideas, not holding them. Despite our remarkable ability to remember lots of things, the mundane details of life can easily escape our memory at any point. This doesn’t take long to happen. For example, have you ever misplaced the keys that were in your hand five minutes ago? How about the promise you made to your boss about meeting a deadline that sailed out of your head the moment you left her office? And how do we ever forget those big events that one should always remember, like a family birthday or anniversary?

Thankfully, the solution to all this is very simple. Keep lists of important items in a trusted place. For me I use the reminder app and calendar on the iPhone for personal items and my Outlook calendar and its reminder functions for work items. The trick is to overcome the inherent human laziness to put off work to another day. The best practice is to put these reminders into your system immediately to ensure they are captured.

When a system like this is set up, it becomes automatic to complete anything. One example from my life is an end of day list that pops up at 8 pm. This includes items such as ensuring the cars are locked up for the night, that the dog gets her pill, and that my daughter has her school laptop on the charger. It is all simple stuff, but easy to forget when tired brain takes over at the end of a busy day.

Therefore, I invite you to recommit to the practice of getting stuff out of your head and into a trusted system. It is the best way to go to bed with a clear head.

The Theory of Constraints

Tiago Forte recently opened up the members only posts on his web site to all readers. Now his hidden gems can be explored by productivity enthusiasts across the world. In honor of this event, I want to highlight an early set of postings that really drew me into his work. It is an eleven-part series breaking down the key points in The Theory of Constraints. Each part in the series is a short read for quick understanding.

What is the Theory of Constraints? I’ll let Tiago describe it:

The Theory of Constraints is deceptively simple. It starts out proposing a series of “obvious” statements. Common sense really. And then before you know it, you find yourself questioning the fundamental tenets of modern business and society.

Eliyahu Goldratt laid out the theory in his 1984 best-selling book The Goal. It was an unusual book for its time — a “business novel” — telling the story of a factory manager in the post-industrial Midwest struggling with his plant. The problems this manager faces are universal, of course, and not only for manufacturing. For 30 years now, readers have recognized their own situation in this fictional story. This flash of recognition is the hook drawing you deeper into the TOC world.

In the first posting Tiago introduces the central concepts of the Theory that are truly paradigm changing.

The first statement that TOC makes is that every system has one bottleneck tighter than all the others, in the same way a chain has only one weakest link.

This is followed by another key statement.

The second statement is that the performance of the system as a whole is limited by the output of the tightest bottleneck or most limiting constraint.

Read the first posting to learn more about this celebrated system improvement process. The entire series is posted here.

Recording of Tiago Forte Interview

Last week I had the honor of interviewing Tiago Forte about his new book, Building a Second Brain. In a sixty-minute Zoom interview with audience Q&A, we touched on a wide range of aspects around digital note taking and how it compliments a GTD practice. A link to the recording can be found on the Palm Beach County Library System web site.

Below is a selection of the questions I asked Tiago:

  • Briefly share how you became interested in the power of digital notes?
  • Explain the concept of CODE and how it applies to digital note taking.
  • What are the four principles of PARA and do they contribute to designing a Second Brain?
  • What are the best practices around processing digital notes for discoverability?
  • The book highlights how notes can be applied over many different projects. To that end, please explain what is meant by an intermediate packet.
  • What are the biggest mistakes people make when taking digital notes and how can they be avoided?
  • What prompted you to share your publishing journey through your blog?
  • Share a book recommendation (fiction or non-fiction) other than your own.

Stay tuned to the end of the interview where I subject Tiago to a fun game based on the podcast, Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me.

Getting Real with Reality

The pursuit of productivity is never just a goal in and of itself.

It is possible to whip off lots of items from your “to do” list and not actually accomplish anything of true merit. In fact, there are two things necessary to ensure that your productivity skills are being used for meaningful work. The first is to be clear on strategy, mission and objectives. The second is more subtle, but probably more impactful. It is to understand the current reality. If the truth of the situation is misunderstood, strategy is moot.

In a blog post earlier this year, David Allen of GTD fame mapped out the case for current reality. He notes that many problems stem from a lack of understanding the exact nature of what is really going on.

Companies, departments, and individuals may have big goals, even well expressed, and yet there can be a lack of energy, or a lack of real actions being defined and in motion. Groups bicker about the smallest things and can’t seem to get in gear. And the biggest problem about this is that they don’t know what the problem is. They are probably trying to build a house on sand. There’s no stake in the ground. There’s no traction.

To overcome this problem, David believes it necessary to unearth the relevant facts about the situation, even if they are hard to face. Only then can a person or group move forward.

The great challenge is to face current reality head on without letting it “get to you” and cause you to program the next one as no better. Bean counters are a critical component to the team. You need to know how many beans you have. But if all you’re doing is just protecting your current beans, soon you may not have any more beans to count. You cannot drive by just looking at the rearview mirror.

Read the entire blog post at the Getting Things Done web site.

A Neuroscientist’s Advice on Productivity

There are many factors that affect our productivity. However, they all come back to the fact that knowledge works happens in our brains. Therefore, a healthy brain should enable us to get more things done. To that end, what does the field of neuroscience say about productivity?

In a recent article in Science Focus, neuroscientist Dean Burnett discusses the connection between the brain and knowledge work. Specifically, he lists five tips to be more productive. The first one highlights the beneficial effect of background music.

When we’re trying to focus on a task, our conscious attention is occupied, but can still be diverted by the unconscious system. And if we’re in complete silence, any creaks or sighs or murmurs or other random sounds stand out more, meaning our unconscious attention is more likely to be distracted, which hinders our productivity.

But, if we play music in the background, it masks obtrusive noises and occupies our unconscious attention, like giving a bored child a toy to play with while you’re trying to work. Obviously, the type of music will make a difference. Things with lyrics aren’t as good because our brains are more stimulated by linguistic information, and music that has a negative impact on mood can sap motivation.

Discover the other four tips by reading the full, and fairly short, article.

Building a Second Brain Now Released

After many years of anticipation, Tiago Forte has released his book, Building a Second Brain. It is the distillation of the ideas and exercises originating from his signature course of the same name. Here is how Tiago introduces the book on his web site:

What if you made use of the ideas, wisdom, and resources available to you online instead of stockpiling and hoarding information with no end in sight? 

What if you knew with total confidence that you could find the information you need when you need it instead of wasting time looking for notes you swore you’d saved? 

What if you could leverage technology to think better, clear your mind, and get more done instead of letting it disrupt you with constant notifications and demands? 

All this and more is possible with a Second Brain – a trusted place outside your head where you can collect and organize your most important ideas and insights and use them to do your best work.

As part of his promotional tour, the Palm Beach County Library System is honored to host Tiago for a virtual meet the author session on July 14, 2 pm EST. Preregister to receive the Zoom link.

Congratulations Tiago on this great achievement!

12 Steps to Build a Second Brain

I have frequently written about Tiago Forte and his Building a Second Brain program. It is the definitive approach to unleashing the power of digital notetaking. In fact, his first major book is being published in June.

Recently Tiago wrote a concise summary of the practice by listing the 12 Steps to Build a Second Brain. This is a very fast crash course in how to create and utilize digital notes. For those wanting to get started, here are the first two steps:

1. Decide what you want to capture

Think about your Second Brain as an intimate commonplace book or journal. What do you most want to capture, learn, explore, or share? Identify two to three kinds of content you already value to get started with.

For an extended intro to capturing and taking digital notes, check out this workshop covering how to capture and save the best information you consume each week.

2. Choose your notes app

If you don’t use a digital notes app, get started with one now. But I know that choosing your notes app can feel overwhelming and paralyzing. 

My recommendation is to choose an app based on your notetaking style since notetaking is a highly personal process based on intuition and feeling.

In this video, I introduce you to 4 notetaking styles and the best apps for each.

Read the other ten steps on the Forte Labs web site.