In January’s newsletter, I briefly summarized the 10 Joy of Getting Things Done Tools that can help you succeed with your goals, such as New Year’s Resolutions. This month I will go into detail about Tool #4, Make Your Decision Ahead of Time.
When confronted with a decision between something easy and something difficult, we tend to go with the easier one in the moment, especially if the easier choice is also the one that we usually choose. If we’re at a restaurant, and we have to choose between our regular order, the double cheeseburger with bacon and the healthier alternative, broiled chicken with vegetables, it can take some serious willpower to go with the chicken and veggies.
Or think about your evening. You’re tired, the day has been long, and you usually flop down in front of the TV after dinner even though you know that there is a stack of paperwork on your desk that you really need to tackle, but the couch is beckoning…
However if you make your decision ahead of time as to what you are going to do, you significantly increase your chance of success. When you make your plan, choose what you are going to do, when you are going to do it, and how much you are going to do. When the time comes, the decision is already made. There are many ways to reinforce your decision to add to the probability of success. You can write it down on your calendar, just as if it were an appointment. Tell a friend or two what your plan is, and tell them that you’ll follow up with them. Visualize yourself doing it ahead of time, sort of a mental rehearsal. Plan a small reward for yourself when you follow through.
So say you want your evenings to be more productive, maybe you want to tackle that mound of paperwork after dinner. Decide in the morning that you are going to do some paperwork when you finish dinner. Imagine yourself actually getting up from the dinner table and going directly to your desk. Tell a friend about your plan, and tell him or her you are going to let him know that you did it. Decide that if you do 20 minutes of paperwork, you’ll allow yourself to relax in front of the TV afterwards, but if you don’t do it, no TV for the night.
I had a friend who lost over 100 pounds through Overeaters Anonymous. Every morning, she called her sponsor and told her sponsor what her eating plan was for the day. Every evening, she talked to her sponsor again, and reported what she had eaten. By planning ahead, and also knowing that she was going to be held accountable to her plan, she was able to stay on the straight and narrow. The combination of planning and accountability was the winning combination for her.