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How to Make Absolute Decisions Using Rules

Too many of us spend our time trying to make good decisions. Sure, that's important. But you can do even better by making some of those decisions into rules.

By
Stever Robbins,
Episode #371

Rules Are Useful for Behavior Change

One of the biggest problems with decisions that require thought is that you can cheat. If you have decided that you will go to the gym every day after work, you simply get up and go. There's no gray area, and little motivation required. If you stop to ask yourself, "Should I go to the gym today?" the answer is, "Yes, because I always go to the gym." The wishy-washy decision "I'll go if I have time" makes the decision way more complicated. It gives you wiggle room, and you can weasel your way out of wiggly decisions. "Well I'm really busy tonight. So I'll skip the gym, just this once, because otherwise I won't have time to watch the latest episode of Game of Thrones."

Absolute decisions conserve willpower.

Set Some Rules!

Here are some areas where absolute decisions make it much easier to deal with certain distractions.

Facebook. I simply can't connect to Facebook without losing 15-30 minutes each day, or usually several hours. As we know from my episode on the 3/30 rule, that's weeks, if not months out of every year.That's unacceptable. The solution? My rule is that I can only look at Facebook twice a day, at noon and at 5 p.m., for five minutes each time—using a timer. Better yet, the rule would be "No Facebook." The problem with that rule is that I have my Get-It-Done Guy page to check in on, and, of course, party invites to RSVP to.

Work hours. I'm self-employed, and it's easy to let work spill over into my personal time. Setting a rule that I leave the office at 5:30 pm every day is super healthy. It also leads right into my Gym rule, which is that I go to the gym right after work. Daily.

Web sites whose details aren't safe for work. If you're under 18, close your ears for this one. You may have heard stories that some people (not you, of course) visit certain web sites that feature ... models wearing reduced wardrobes. There is speculation that too much visiting of these web sites can hurt certain offline relationships due to the way they affect the brain. There's even a YouTube TEDx video about this. The best way to deal with a site that proudly says, "come one, come all" may be to say "No" across the board.

Carbs. No white starches. This isn't one I adhere to, but apparently it's great for losing weight. And more and more, it seems like all the bad stuff we used to think was due to fat is actually due to sugar and refined carbs. Listen to House-Call Doctor and Nutrition Diva for information about carbs from people who really know. So, this one may be worth doing.

Decisions are all fine and dandy, but if you really want to build precision into your life, use blanket rules where it makes sense. Rules are decisions that don't have any wiggle room, so you don't have to think about them, and they keep your life within healthy limits. Other people respect rules, and they're easier to follow than fuzzy decisions. So next time you're frustrated at an obstinate customer service person, don't get mad, get observant. Because they're teaching you the very skill you'll use to make your own life as wonderful as theirs. This is a simple principle that I call, The Law of Rule. (See what I did there?)

I'm Stever Robbins. I help people live extraordinary lives and create extraordinary careers. If you want to know more, visit http://SteverRobbins.com.

Work Less, Do More, and Have a Great Life!

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

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About the Author

Stever Robbins

Stever Robbins 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. 

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