Your success is dependent upon the decisions you make.
If that’s the case, then how do you improve your ability to make the right decisions?
What if there were a method you could apply to guarantee you make the right business choices? Lucky for you, there is.
This model has generated millions for me and my partners. More importantly, it has relieved the stress and the burden of being the guy that everyone depends on to make the right choice.
In today’s article, I will share with you how to always make the right decision.
What’s the Problem?
You are probably making the wrong choices because you are looking at the wrong problem. Before I go any further into explaining the decision making model, you need to understand what you are deciding upon.
It’s a tough concept to grasp at first, but once it clicks, you will be able to analyze every problem from a much more useful vantage point.
This idea made sense to me after I watched this great clip from the movie Moneyball.
Always spend time identifying the problem
At Stodzy, we have an executive team. The team consists of Bryan, Tricia, and myself.
When there is a problem for us to solve, I will ruthlessly ask the same question over and over again.
“What’s the problem?“
It’s an effective exercise because you need to know what the problem is before you can find a solution. I’ll give you an example.
Four years ago, I started closing a lot of business at Stodzy. It was creating a huge bottleneck in our company, because the first month of any account is always very labor intensive.
We were getting clogged up with work since so many accounts were signing on at once. I remember Tricia saying “the problem is that you’re bringing deals in faster than we can handle them.”
I thought of Moneyball, and I said … “That’s not the problem. The problem is that we don’t have an effective onboarding process that will allow us to handle the influx of business.”
Once we identified the problem, the solution was simple.
This is a very basic example, but the overall premise is critical. If we had thought the problem was the volume of new clients, we would have come up with a different solution. In which case, the solution would have been counter productive to our goals.
This is something you will have to develop for yourself and you can come up with your own ways of identifying the true problem. But I want you to drill this into your brain.
Anytime you are experiencing a challenge that requires you to make an important decision, ask yourself, “what’s the problem?”
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The Important / Urgent Matrix
Now that we understand how to identify problems, let’s move on to the problem solving framework.
What I am about to teach you is one of the most useful frameworks I’ve ever learned. I refer to this framework every day.
Steven Covey’s 4 Quadrants
This framework is taken directly from the book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People written by Stephen Covey. The book is a masterpiece in self development.
In the book, Covey explains the 4 quadrants of decision making and time management.
Every action you take can be quantified in one of these four quadrants. There is …
Quadrant 4 – Not urgent and not important
These activities are a waste of time. Sadly, this is where the majority of you spend your time and where most of your mental energy is spent. An example of this could be …
- busy work
- scrolling on social media
- picking out furniture and office decorations
- most meetings
There is always a place for leisure and hobbies and I’m not suggesting you that turn into a productivity robot. However, if you want to be successful, you need to realize that most of the choices you are making are completely irrelevant.
Remove these decisions from your life. At first it will feel uncomfortable, but soon you will see these problems simply disappear once you stop paying attention to them.
Quadrant 3 – Urgent and not important
Quadrant 3 is the most dangerous quadrant, because is full of decisions that FEEL very important. This is where most productivity gets destroyed, because when people spend time in quadrant 3, they get burned out.
This is when you say “I’m working so hard, how come I’m not getting anywhere?”
Some examples of this may be …
- client emails that feel very pressing and important
- company disputes or arguments that need to be sorted out
- 90% of email
The solution to quadrant 3 is delegation. If anyone bought my course at Agency Clarity, you will realize that this is the part where I advise you to stop working in your business and start working on your business.
Unless you learn to delegate, your decision making will always be stuck in not important and urgent matters.
The opposite of productivity is urgency.
Quadrant 1 – Urgent and Important
NOTICE THAT I AM SKIPPING OVER QUADRANT 2. THERE’S A REASON, KEEP READING!
Quadrant 1 is the necessary and important tasks that require immediate attention.
You can not ignore the decisions in quadrant 1 the same way you can the decisions in quadrant 3 or 4.
Examples of quadrant 1 could be …
- deadline work (for instance, my weekly blog post and newsletter is due every Friday at 10 AM ET. This is urgent and important)
- an invoicing problem that needs to be fixed right away
- a burst pipe in your home
- your car breaking down
The goal is to set up your life and your decision making so that these problems become infrequent. Ironically, the way to make these problems go away is to focus your time on quadrant 2. When you stay focused on important and not urgent work, you get ahead of problems before they happen.
It’s a paradox, because you can’t completely ignore urgent and important problems, but in order to rid yourself of these problems, you have to inevitably decide to focus your time on important but not urgent tasks instead.
Stick with it. It will work itself out in time.
Quadrant 2 – Important and Not Urgent
This is where you want to be.
Work that is important and not urgent is the work that can be classified as “deep work.”
Some examples of this could be …
- writing a high converting sales funnel
- writing long form articles that will generate search traffic over time
- sales meetings
- writing proposals
- product development
- making investments
This is the work that moves the needle and that leads to growth. What’s important to understand about quadrant 2 is work has delayed gratification.
In most cases, the time you spend in this quadrant doesn’t actually manifest itself as a result until some time in the future.
That’s why most of you avoid this quadrant, even though it’s the most important place to spend your time. Most of you would rather spend time tweeting or having slack meetings, because that work feels like progress.
But progress is made through compounding and compounding happens over time.
So in almost every situation, the people who are successful are the people who have focused their efforts and their time in quadrant 2.
The First Step to Making the Right Decision is to Focus on What Matters
If you only learn one thing from this week’s article, please let it be this lesson.
Most of what gets put in front of you every day doesn’t matter. Every decision that is in quadrant 4, 3, can be completely ignored. In time, decisions in quadrant 1 will subside if you are willing to solve them appropriately and also accept the consequences of ignoring them as well.
You must build up the courage to accept the short term consequences of ignoring the choices that don’t matter.
Repeat that last sentence 5 times!
For example, let’s imagine you have a client who is constantly giving you a hard time and is never satisfied. This client emails you at least once a week with an urgent request.
The time you spend solving these problems will burn calories and waste your time. So instead of making the choice to solve whatever the latest problem is, you’re better off ridding yourself of the problem completely.
This means that you need to fire the client, regardless of how much they pay you.
It’s difficult because the urgency of the situation makes it feel like there is an actual problem to solve. But the problem isn’t what you think it is. The problem appears to be that the client is unsatisfied. But that’s not true. The problem is that you have a shitty client.
As a result, you are wasting your time in quadrant 3 decisions.
Fire this client and then move on.
You’re defaulting the actual challenge of decision making by simply spending your time on what matters. This is a short term setback that allows you to spend your time on important but not urgent matters, which means now you can focus on getting better clients who pay more!
Over time, the urgent and important problems simply disappear.
The Final Filter: What is Your Ultimate Outcome?
By this point, you should have developed a proper “decision making filter.” Most of decision making is deciding what to focus on. The very act of removing unimportant choices will clear your path to focus on choices that actually matter.
But it’s not always that simple, is it?
Life happens, problems emerge, and difficult choices will inevitably come to be. So in the rare instances that you are actually presented with a difficult choice that MUST be made, how do you go about that process?
Again, there is a simple mental model you can use as one last filter to guide your choices.
This filter is called “your ultimate outcome.”
Knowing what it is that you want is 90% of the battle
Most you don’t know what you want.
Your goals are too vague and ambiguous. Most of your goals are something along the lines of “I want to build a successful business.”
But what does that actually mean?
By establishing your ultimate outcome, you are creating a north star that will filter your choices one last time.
Your ultimate outcome needs to be specific, results oriented, and timeline oriented. In addition, it must define what you will do in exchange for your results you seek, because there’s no such thing as something for nothing.
For example, maybe your ultimate outcome is …
“By Jan 1, 2023, I want to be generating $40,000 a month in revenue. To achieve this outcome, I will spend 4 hours a day on generating new sales and I will perform the best services possible for my clients.”
Now that you know what you want, you are properly equipped to make decisions.
Any time you are presented with a challenge, you simply as yourself the following question.
“Will making this decision bring me closer to, or further away from, achieving my ultimate outcome?”
If the choice will bring you closer to achieving your ultimate outcome, then the answer should be yes. If it doesn’t then the answer is no.
Anything that doesn’t bring you closer to achieving your ultimate outcome should be ignored.
“It’s not that simple.”
To close out today’s article, I will leave you with another movie quote. The quote is from a movie entitled “Bleed for This.”
When I present this framework to you, most of you will look at it and think “it’s not that simple.”
As I mentioned above life is full of nuance, and there are inevitable complications that arise. But that’s a lie and it’s an illusion that is based in fear. Making the decision is very simple, but living with the consequences is hard. That fear paralyses you, because what if you fail?
This mindset is a fast track to mediocrity. To succeed, you need to make the decision and then move on.
So yes, it really is that simple.
Play to win. Make the hard choices. If you stick with this framework, you will inevitable come across tough choices and your priority should be TO ACTUALLY MAKE THE DECISION.
Be willing to say no. Be willing to upset people. Have the courage to follow your heart and the do what it right.