Making a Decision

Making good decisions is the difference between success and failure in life. Using multiple time frames can improve your decisions dramatically. Get-It-Done Guy explains how. 

Stever Robbins
4-minute read
Episode #276

A decision’s consequences start now and go on forever. But when we make decisions, we usually only use a single time frame for considering the consequences. Good decisions require using a time frame that matches the decision, not a time frame that matches whatever time frame you happen to use.

Temptation Has a Time Horizon

Too short a time horizon is when we consider consequences into the next few minutes, weeks, or months,. But a decision’s Really Big Consequences may be years away. Choosing a living group at the most formative time in your life based on tonight’s lobster dinner? That’s too short a time horizon.

When that slice of J.P. Licks’s Oreo Ice Cream Cake beckons, you (and by “you,” I mean “I”) think only of that moment of tasty awesomeness, and not the 3 weeks of cardio it will take to work it off. 

Resist temptation by consciously and vividly imagining the unpleasant, far future consequences. Imagine them as big and bright as the temptation. Resisting will be much easier, and you can just send that Oreo Ice Cream cake to me.

Short Term Discomfort Motivates Short-Term Decisions

In my coaching practice, Ive found that clients’ bad decisions often come from using the wrong time horizon. One client took a job she knew was a bad fit. “It’s my only offer, so I have to take it!” she explained. Bad decision! To relieve her short-term job anxiety now, she created a long-term cauldron of stress, spending years in a job she hated. Most people would rather cut a stressful job hunt short by taking a job that makes their life a living Heck than extend the job hunt and find a job that’s such a good fit they keep it for years. The short-term overwhelms the long-term.

Pair your short-term decisions with contingency plans for the long-term!

You’ll also find the short-term driving other common decisions: hiring to fill a need now  when the candidate is a poor fit long-term. Polluting a little bit, for now, when that pollution will accumulate, causing serious problems down the line. And being just a tad unethical, because it’s “just this once.” Without realizing that “just this once” easily becomes a slippery slope.

Pair your short-term decisions with a contingency plan for long-term consequences! Trial periods for new hires are a contingency plan to fill a current need without committing to long-term mis-fit. Having pollution licenses that must be re-evaluated and renewed would be a good contingency plan for allowing short-term polluters, if they were properly enforced (don’t hold your breath). And a Cayman Islands vacation home is a great contingency plan if you decide to ski down that ethical slippery slope.

Sometimes We Think Too Far Ahead

You can also think too long-term as well. Many entrepreneurs build companies without knowing how they’ll make money. They think, “Ten years from now, we’ll have it all figured out.” But if they have no plan for surviving from now until that decade is up, they’ll run out of cash now and go belly up.


About the Author

Stever Robbins

Stever Robbins was the host of the podcast Get-it-Done Guy from 2007 to 2019. He is a graduate of W. Edward Deming’s Total Quality Management training program and a Certified Master Trainer Elite of NLP. He holds an MBA from the Harvard Business School and a BS in Computer Sciences from MIT.