Making the right decision

pharrell williams fast company

I’m not the most decisive of people.

While reading Fast Company‘s “Secrets of the Most Productive People” though, I started to notice a pattern. Many profiles included answers such as, “I eat the same thing every day,” or “I don’t have a million clothing items to choose from.” These people argue everyone only has a finite amount of decision processing power each day, so they limit choices in other areas of their lives to save it for the ones that truly matter for supporting their family, coworkers and business.

So maybe it’s not that I’m indecisive…maybe it’s just because I’m making so many important decisions every day (ha) that I get too overwhelmed to place my drink order within a waiter’s first through third visits. (But seriously, how am I supposed to choose between beer, wine or cocktails I know I love or risking it all on a new one I might not like as much?? Sigh.)

Pharrell Williams said visionaries like Vogue’s Anna Wintour “understand instinctively how to protect creativity within a business. ‘They are 100% decisive. Snap, no. Snap, yes.'”

I would like someone to describe me as 100% decisive. I used to think I just needed to get better at choosing an option right off the bat and letting the chips fall where they may….but that is only half the equation. What makes these people “visionary” isn’t that they make decisions quickly, but that they make the right decisions quickly.

How do we (I) get better at successful snap decision-making? I don’t have all the answers, but here are some ideas:

1. Fully know yourself / brand / goals to better recognize what fits or not

2. Have a plan to minimize distractions

3. Surround yourself with people who are smart, skilled and trustworthy

4. Learn from decisions that didn’t work out as anticipated

This article made me realize the importance of #2 and evaluate how I can plan or streamline to improve my own day to day. I function much more efficiently during the week when I know what I’m going to eat, for example, rather than looking up at noon with a grumbling stomach, needing food now, researching the unimpressive surrounding options, then settling on a Whole Foods field trip yet again.

It’s also time for another closet purging. Really, it’s crazy how many clothes (read: dresses; my roommate’s parents refer to me as “the girl who never wears pants”) I own, despite bags and bags of giveaways in the last year and a half. Plato’s Closet is my ally in the never-ending effort to own less stuff, and since my closet seems to regenerate like Halloween’s Michael Myers or those birthday candles that just don’t blow out, it looks like I’ll be making another trip soon.

I have a feeling my bank account is also going to appreciate this added foresight.

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Time for something new

tips for time management

Unless you count the obsessive speed with which I can power through two seasons of Sherlock in one weekend (in addition to a full social calendar, a movie and six episode of House of Cards), I can’t really boast “efficient” and “productive” as two words consistently high on the list for how I spend my personal time.

For instance, continuing my Italian education has been a goal of mine since college. My old textbook and verb tense flash cards taunt me from my bedroom bookshelf, but somehow seem to require far too much effort to actually pick up when the time to do so presents itself. The next How I Met Your Mother episode on the other hand? My Netflix’s placeholder at the end of Season 6 speaks for itself.

But with a glass of Turkish wine in hand and the glowing Bosphorous Bridge in the distance, I turned to my roommate during our trip and told her I knew what my next Big Goal is…making time for getting back to really learning Italian. Now, I’m fully aware the likelihood of me knowing Italian in Texas isn’t exactly going to break down language barriers anytime soon. For me, it’s more about the personal achievement and the satisfaction of *finally* following through. And if planning another trip to Italy becomes the ultimate reward for my efforts…well I think I can live with that.

Most people have way more free time than they think they do (according to Fast Company) and I’m guilty, too. These three words (also from Fast Company – are you picking up on my other obsession?) have gone a long way in inspiring me to re-evaluate how I spend my time and how I can make more of it or just feel like I do: Protect, Delegate, Automate.

  • Protect your time. My parents always told me as I rushed out the door breakfast, make-up bag and shoes in hand that I don’t give myself enough time for anything I do, resulting in over-scheduling and chronic late arrivals. After experiencing a pathological amount of “really bad traffic,” I had to admit that maybe there’s a tiny bit of validity to their observation. While all this running about is great for calorie burning, saying no every now and then and allocating more time for everything can go a long way in building in both more free time and more energy to make the most of that time. Another Fast Company article held advice from a CEO who never schedules meetings or plans to do any work on Fridays, therefore building in plenty of availability for when things pop up or get shifted. Interessante.
  • Delegate. I place a lot of responsibility on myself in the form of personal tasks, work and guilt, which don’t always need to be mine to take. Asking myself, “Do I really need to be doing that or can someone else excel at it, handle it or learn from it?” has gone a long way in helping my work team to succeed, my stress to subside, my trust in others to grow and finally, my to do list to shrink along with the time spent thinking about it.
  • Automate. What do you do often that can be streamlined to free up actual time and/or mental time? For me, this means setting up automatic bill payments, text reminders about non-automatic payments, email rules, calendar reminders on my phone for everything from taking out the trash to replying to an email…I think you get the idea.

Now all that’s left is to finally do it! I think I’m going to commit to one Italian session a week through the end of the year…that’s only 10, which is totally do-able. Google searching “learn Italian for free” has led to a few helpful resources, and of course, I always have those trusty flash cards waiting patiently.

Knock knock.. you there right side?

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It’s been 6 days since my return to the real world and things are just now starting to get back into a normal routine. Since I opted to go relax at a lakehouse this weekend and therefore postponing the necessary post trip “getting my shit together” for another few days, I am only now settling in to real life. My laundry is done, my cold is gone, I no longer feel like a zombie and the song “I can see clearly now” is playing in my head. Perhaps a weekend of hiking, hammock-ing, and tanning by the pool with my boyfriend, my dog and a few friends was just what the doctor ordered. And that brings me to tonight. Tonight is the first night that I can actually relax. On my own. In my pj’s Well, almost.

The only thing still on vacation is the right side of my brain. My left side is totally here making list, putting in maintenance requests, ordering new credit cards and IDs and establishing new budgets. But that damn right side is still over in Paris – or maybe it was stolen with my wallet in Sevilla? I am having the hardest time at work this last week coming up with an original idea. Pre-Europe Lydia loved brainstorming. I loved utilizing things I’ve read and compiling them to form one new amazing concept. Everything is taking me just a little longer since I must set aside time for staring at a blank screen wondering how I used to form sentences. It’s more than writer’s block. It’s a creative block.

Which brings me to my goal for the week. To get inspired. This entails sifting through the 100+ unread newsletters I have from a multitude of amazing idea-inspiring sites like PSFK, Fast Company (Design, Exist and Create.. I’m an addict), ColossalBig Think and the threads going in one of the many LinkedIn groups I stalk. I am not exactly expecting that I’ll walk into my office by Friday morning with a glowing light behind me and my head full of all-knowing knowledge (but that wouldn’t totally suck), but I am looking for a little spark. Like the lightning that comes down in War of Worlds to send a little driver into the ready and waiting machine that is my mind. That’s all I want. Juuuust a liiiiittle lightning.

Am I also subtly suggesting that you might also be interested in those aforementioned websites? You betchya. They’re awesome. Hop on my let’s-get-inspired bandwagon, flood those inboxes and let’s get those gears moving.

All, I have no idea where that War of Worlds reference came from. Do you see my problem?