Look around your room or office. Do you have shirts that are laying around? Paper that has not been processed, filed or thrown away? Emails or messages that have not been returned? These are all open loops. They drain energy. They all represent a half step that has not taken the next step. Everything has a next step. If it’s caught between steps, it drains your attention and energy in incremental measure.
Now let’s take what you want in your life or business. Is it more customers? More revenue? More time? More health? If you do not think there is a connection between the level of physical and virtual mess in your life and the lack of gaining what you want, you have a blind spot. I have seen the symptoms repeatedly in business coaching. People want to do step 4 before they do step 1. They want more customers now, but they do not have a repeatable, scalable and engaging approach to the customer experience. They want more time without creating systems and boundaries to give them more space. Step 4 will be elusive because they are not willing or seeing that step 1 is in their way.
We do not live in a simple world. We live in a sophisticated and complex world. We cannot change this reality; we can only change ourselves. There is a key, concrete area of our thinking which will determine whether we are successful engaging this reality – decision making. This is the pivotal attribute of leadership. Thus, if you want a life and business which thrives, learn to make decisions about everything. The decision making process starts with the small things to enable you to attack the big things. Here are the habits which will help you become more productive and clear your path towards your greater goals:
- Make Decisions Now. You likely have all the information you need to make a decision. Should you attend this event? Force yourself to make a decision now. If things change, change your mind. Use it to make a decision which is likely going to be right. Otherwise you are creating open loops at the cost of decisions coming down your unrelenting conveyor belt of continuous choices.
- Address Everything. If you open an email 17 times, it is because you have not engaged your brain to figure out what you are going to do with it. You have to think about what it means and what your next step is. Thinking is the key word. Engage your brain. You will have to make a decision. The question is whether a decision is being made for you or you are driving it. No decision is a decision as well. It is just an inefficient one. A conscience decision that you do not want to do something is more powerful than a passive one of not dealing with it.
- Create Meaning Fast. We live in the knowledge economy. It is not about information. You have a plethura of information. Show me what to do with it. If you want to become more valuable, train your brain to convert information into meaningful action. As Bill Jensen stated, “Every 1100 days your ability to transform information into work becomes twice as important.” Think about three years ago. There was more allowance for being slow and ambiguous. Three years from now, the pace will only quicken and those that understand this calisthenic will prosper.
- Learn to Say “No”. I am astounded in my interactions with business people. Overall, people do not know how to say, “No.” They just let a conversation or interaction die. It shows a lack of clarity and character. If you do not want something, do a favor to the requester, and tell them kindly and professionally. This communicates leadership. Letting an issue die on the vine shows passivity. Saying “No” helps you get clear about what you want and do not want. It builds conviction which you need to win. Otherwise you will be an aimless drifter hoping good things happen. Tell me what you say “No” to and I will tell you what you stand for.
Leaders make decisions. Followers look for leaders to make decisions for them. Decision making requires you to think. The thinking that is required pushes into areas such as, “What do I believe?” or “What key strategies am I committed to?” or “What is important to me now?” If your life and head are cluttered with indecision, it is near impossible to live a purposeful life. Purpose requires clarity of thinking and decisions. This week, there will be thousands of small and big decisions you will have an opportunity to practice the above advice with. Use these training wheels to see if you can develop as a leader through decision making. Do not let any items remain ambiguous. Your diligence will surely have a reward.