I was driving — scratch that. I wasn’t driving anywhere. I can’t drive. Or do jumping jacks.
My dear friend, the amazing Kate Whitten Mottram neé Manuel, was driving her and me in my definitely-blue-not-black Escalade north on Congress Avenue on Friday; away from the corporate headquarters of Life Saver Pool Fence and toward my humble abode.
There were less cars on the road, but still way too many given the global pandemic.
And that pandemic, of course, was what we were discussing.
She was struggling, like many of you likely are, with the cognitive albatross of the never-ending decision making. What outing is essential? What is safe? What is responsible? How can this be made safer? How can this risk be mitigated? What do I do, case after case after case?
I gave her a piece of advice that has helped me tremendously over the years: make a rule. Spend some time, think it through, and make a rule. Decide one time what to do and then apply that rule ruthlessly whenever it arises, saving yourself from having to be constantly weighed down by making a decision on a case by case basis every time this thing, whatever it is, comes up.
For instance, for COVID-19, I’ve decided I leave the house to go to work. And that’s it. Nothing else. That’s the rule. When things pop up that seem tempting / important, I follow the rule.
On a more trivial note, I have a rule about showers. I don’t do them. Baby showers, bridal showers, golden showers, regular showers… none of the above. I hate them (we all do), and I used to agonize over whose baby / bridal shower was important enough for me to go to. Now, it’s real simple. I don’t go to any.
Same goes for small children’s birthday parties. If your 1 year old is throwing a rager, save your money and don’t send me an invite. I’m not going.
Go ahead and add weddings that require me getting on a plane to that list, too.
I also, automatically, get tickets to see every comedian I am familiar with who comes to the Palm Beach Improv. I got tired of trying to decide who to see and who not to see. So, I made a rule. And now I see them all.
I even have a rule about which watch to wear each day.
As much as this helps streamline a personal life, it’s even more important in business. I see so many businesses constantly wrestling over the same issues again and again on a case by case basis. Don’t do this. If something comes up more than once, make a rule.
When a customer calls and is interested in getting a pool fence, we do the same thing every time. When someone inquires about becoming a dealer, we do the same thing every time. When we get a warranty email, we do the same thing every time. I even have a 10 page Word document filled with email responses, ready to be copied and pasted, because I respond to a myriad of different scenarios the same way every time.
When you make a rule, not only do you save yourself the bandwidth of having to solve the same problem over and over again, you also make better decisions. You make the rule when you’re not currently in the situation, when you are removed from it a little bit, and thinking pragmatically. When you spend some real-time making the right decision once, then stick to it, you are much better off than quickly trying to make a choice on the spot when you’re in the thick of it.
No one likes following the rules imposed on us by others. Those rules are never fun. But if you make and live by your own rules, life gets a lot less stressful and your business gets a lot more automated.