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Use time to make better decisions

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Idea Journal Weekly 3

June 5 · Issue #246 · View online

We combine 3 ideas to help you think differently and be more creative.


Summary: Time can teach you about the quality of your decisions. Reflecting on past decisions can be enlightening—even scary. But you don’t necessarily have to wait for such clarity.
This issue explores offers a few ideas to help you use time as a tool—in the present—to make better decisions.
(~3 min read)

#1. How will you feel in the future?
Entrepreneur Emil Anton and his team at Alux write that whenever you’re stressing over some decision, you should use the “10-10-10 rule.”
Warren Buffett and other billionaire investors use this rule to figure out what to do, and here’s how you can use it too.
When you’re facing a stressful decision, ask yourself: How will I feel about it in 10 minutes? 10 months? What about 10 years? 
The beauty and power of the 10-10-10 rule is that it quickly helps you get perspective. For example, a choice might feel good in the moment, but have negative effects over the medium or long term.
As the Alux team points out, you can even use the 10-10-10 rule in reverse: “Maybe something will suck in the next 10 minutes and even a bit afterwards, but it will pay off in the long run.”
#2. Not all invitations are created equal
In an interview with author Tim Ferriss, technology expert Kevin Kelly talks about his trick for deciding whether to accept an invitation: he pretends the commitment is happening the next morning.
For Kelly, it’s easy to agree to do something that is 6 months away; but it has to “super fantastic to get me to go tomorrow morning.”
The next time you’re weighing whether to accept an invitation or an opportunity, ask yourself: Would I do it tomorrow morning?
#3. What would your past self say?
In an interview on The Knowledge Project podcast, organizational psychologist Adam Grant points out that we’re not very good at “mental time travel.”
For example, when we face a personal or professional hardship, we tend to amplify its importance in the moment: it can feel like it’s the worst thing that’s ever happened to you.
But it’s unlikely that any single hardship is the worst thing that’s ever happened to you, given all of your experiences.
Grant suggests that a crucial skill in successfully dealing with adversity in the present is the ability to get in touch with your past self.
When you’re facing adversity, he recommends these two steps:
1. Ask: What would my past self have done in this situation?
When you do this, you’ll often find that you now have resources and skills that help you deal with the present challenge that you didn’t have in the past.
2. If the first step doesn’t help, ask: What’s an adversity I faced that was similarly difficult, or even worse, and how did I overcome it?
Remembering that you’ve overcome challenges in the past has the following benefits:
  • It boosts your self-efficacy and gives you confidence that you can do it again.
  • It can sometimes help you remember problem-solving strategies you applied in the past, but have since forgotten.
You can also use mental time travel to better appreciate those things you’ve already accomplished.
Grant talks about how much he’s loved reading ever since he was a kid, and what a “meaningful life transition” it was for him to become an author and publish his first book, Give and Take.
But by the time he wrote his second book, Originals, it hardly registered as something to mark as a significant milestone: “It’s not like I should have been less excited or proud when book two came out than book one, and yet I had totally adapted to the idea of being an author.”
To better appreciate such milestones when they do occur, Grant now asks himself: If my five-years-ago self knew this was going to happen, how excited would I be?
Quote of the week
“In any situation in life, you only have three options. You always have three options. You can change it, you can accept it, or you can leave it. What is not a good option is to sit around wishing you would change it but not changing it, wishing you would leave it but not leaving it, and not accepting it. It’s that struggle, that aversion, that is responsible for most of our misery.”
- Entrepreneur Naval Ravikant in an interview with Tim Ferriss, captured in the book Tools of Titans 
Idea Journal
Idea Journal
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