Action Intention

How to Make Difficult Decisions, Using Priorities

Last Friday I had an exciting guest post over at Freedom is Groovy, check it out if you haven’t. I talked about choices and how to make them easier. Today I want to talk about how to make difficult decisions. Most importantly how to make the right selection when faced with a difficult decision. The key to making a good choice is having it align with your goals by using priorities.

My Difficult Decision To Go To Peru

A few weeks ago I messaged a friend on Facebook. I had met this guy in a monastery in China. He has an interest in all things spiritual and esoteric, and an all around a fascinating fellow. He told me that he was going to Peru sometime this Fall.

I knew where Tibet is. However, Peru’s location was previously unknown to me. Does that make it better?

After sorting out where Peru is (unfortunately I’m not joking), he invited me to come with him. He sent me a quick itinerary about where we would go and what we would experience during the trip. The only way to describe it was as a once in a lifetime adventure.

You know me, I love adventure! It’s what I long for. A three month trip to through the Peruvian rainforest and coastline would be nothing short of fantastic. I had an astounding time with this guy in China, and this trip to Peru promised to be next level. I mulled over the idea fraught with the question “Should I stay or should I go?”

My Difficult Answer

I settled on not going, and I’m happy with that decision. I know that my goal for the end of this year is to grow my side hustles, this blog, and my writing career to a point where I can profit from them and not need another day job. I’m making considerable progress towards this goal. Leaving for Peru for three months would hinder me significantly.

After explaining this logic to a college friend, he pointed out that I was able to make this decision because I have priorities. This feedback was insightful. Previously I had figured I made it because I’m a pseudo-rational adult. I wondered, “how to other people make decisions?” After questioning if there was a world out there that doesn’t know how to make good decisions I was determined to contribute as best I could to this potential epidemic. Or at least explain why priorities are essential to determine what is important to you in life.

Priorities Focus Your Actions

I talk about goals a lot around here. It’s the biggest thing that I have found to have a positive effect on my life. This results from my view that life is complicated without goals. Additionally, as an ex-engineer, I like having measurable data, and goals are exquisite for that. There are hundreds of different ways to plan goals, and some bloggers denounce them altogether. I’m still finding my path through this mist of goals. Regardless of your philosophy towards goals: Action is the only way to achieve goals.

Our action is the fuel that helps our reach your goals. So, of course, it’s no surprise that I’ve talked about being a doer too. But where do priorities fall into this mix? If action is fuel to reach the goal, then priorities are the fuel line that helps you aim. Priorities are what help you determine where you will spend your limited time and energy.

Because priority aims action, they are brutally important to making good decisions. If tasks that don’t line up with your goals consistently monopolize your time then you will fail to achieve your goals in the end. Setting goals and taking unfocused action isn’t enough to achieve your objectives. You must work on important tasks that will help you reach your goals.

Stop Being Reactive

I used to be extremely reactive in my life. If something came across my desk, I would work on it. If I got a notification, I pounced at my phone. My email was the first and last thing I looked at during the day. As a result, I got nearly nothing done. Working for myself further accentuated this problem. Some days I didn’t even know where to start. For better or worse, I no longer had a boss telling me where to focus.

This time was when the war of The Urgent vs. The Important started. I was losing battle after battle, weeks went by, and I had nothing to show for my work. Then I began to reduce the urgent tasks in my life. Overwhelmed with little red circles on my phone, I got my priorities in order. I started working on the Important things first. Only after completing them did I react to the urgent.

I turned off Facebook notifications, Email notifications, and any other app that wasn’t my text messages or messenger. I put my phone in airplane mode when I wrote. Lastly, I automated the things that could be automated, not every bill needs 100% of your attention. I automated my budget using Personal Capital and nYNAB.

Sometimes this picture is a good metaphor for my days.

Win More Battles Against the Urgent

The most important thing that I did for myself to start winning these fights against the urgent was specifically making time for what was important. Some find that the most productive time is the first hour of their day. To win against the urgent, they block their first hour off. Maybe your time is later in the day. Schedule it in your calendar, and make sure that you do it. I know that if you don’t make room for my important tasks, then the necessary action will never happen.

My Biggest Fear In Life

The dread of not achieving my full potential is what keeps me up at night. If I fail to reach my goals continually, simply due to not making them a priority and taking action on them, then I feel like I have failed as an individual. If I fail to reach my goals but put the best work in I could, I cannot pass the blame onto myself.

Parting Words

Don’t let the urgent tasks that pop up slay the important. When you reflect, you will see where your time was spent, and the allocation will directly correlate to the goals you achieve. Make time for the priorities in your life, whether that is your hobbies, health, family, or friends. The urgent will persist, but it is not always the most important thing to be working on.
Let me know what the urgent thing that keeps popping up in your life is? Is it absolutely important? Or have you unfortunately trained yourself to react to this task?

Photo Credit: missannafaye & Neil Turner

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