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Decision Points are Key to Great Productivity
I have been reading and reporting on self help books for more than a decade, so many of the concepts and techniques are familiar to me. Some I’ve even adopted and made part of my own life. When I encounter a new book, I tend to examine how I already do things and compare my system--or lack thereof --to what is being taught in the book.
I recently read Two Awesome Hours:Science Based Strategies to Harness Your Best Time and Get Your Most Important work Done by Josh Davis. The book says one of the keys to getting your most important work done is to be conscious of “decision points.” Decision points are times during our day when we decide what to work on next. “The trick,” writes Davis. “...is to recognize those relatively rare moments when we have a decision point--in between tasks--and to seize them.”
I started this review of Two Awesome Hours first thing one morning. Without a second of hesitation or procrastination, I sat down at the computer and opened up a blank document on Google Drive. Before I began I decided that I would spend a half hour reading and taking notes before I moved on to another project. And for the entire 30 minutes as I worked, I went back and forth mentally about what task I would take on next. Before the 30 minutes was up I decided to spend ten minutes on an outline for a novel. Following the outline I decided I would work on another life coaching article that was near completion.
I did not stop in between tasks to decide what to do next as I had already made up my mind. I transitioned seamlessly from task to task believing I had no problem with Davis’ “decision points.” That is until I finished up and revisited my daily to-do list. I stared at the eleven remaining items with dismay. I had no clue about what to work on next and it was not a good feeling at all. Davis was right. Lack of motivation for certain tasks combined with the fear of being unproductive makes these “decision points,” the time in between tasks, very uncomfortable.
But how was I able to make the decision about the first three projects and execute them so effortlessly? According to Davis, much of what we decide to do is emotionally driven. After observing my own decision making process for one morning, I could not deny that this is probably pretty true for me. The Two Awesome Hours e-book had sat unopened on my library loans page for weeks yet I did not start the article until the loan had mere hours before expiration. When I noticed the time had dwindled down to nothing the night before I was kicking myself for not getting started. Also I’d also been beating myself up about the outline which I had promised to work on a little bit each day for a year, yet it sat dormant for half a week. Bad feelings were attached to both of these projects, so perhaps I worked on them first thing to alleviate the guilt. Therefore it was a no brainer to follow up with something that would make me feel good--the completion of an article. But when all of the emotionally ladened stuff was out of the way, I could not decide what to work on next.
“The problem is we jump from task to task without giving much thought to what makes sense to do next”.writes Davis. “We respond reflexively or follow our impulses...The result is a tremendous amount of time and energy wasted.”
I don’t feel that I wasted time as I sailed through the first three projects that day buoyed by emotion, but I did feel lost right after.
Instead of ruthlessly plowing through decision points, Davis advises readers to stop in between tasks and reconnect with what is most important. From there decide the next best thing to do. Davis says that intentionally pausing at a decision point, gives you some distance from your immediate concerns. When you are not distracted by all of the details that make up your life, you can see the big picture “allowing you to make more strategic and intentional choices,” writes Davis.
I don’t know if pausing at decision points in between tasks will make me a more strategic thinker/planner. But I do believe that much good can come from taking as many opportunities as possible each day to reconnect with my purpose.
Two Awesome Hours by Josh Davis is available at the Brooklyn Public Library.
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