In some way, living a good quality life is not rocket science. With time, good decisions lead you to a good life and poor decisions lead you to a crappy, stressful low quality life. The better decisions you make, big or small, the better off you are. Good decisions accumulate, and with time they bring great yields.
Examples of good decisions are saving money, not overeating, exercising a few times per day, investing into your knowledge, brainstorming ideas, finding and doing a job you love, and so on. Examples of bad decisions are smoking, drinking excessively, eating too much sugar, getting uncontrollably into debt, buying things you don’t need and staying in an abusive relationship, just to name a few.
On a logical level, it’s pretty simple to understand that but in real life, it’s quite hard to follow good smart decisions; simply because you weren’t programmed to make smart long-term decisions.
You were initially programmed for life in a jungle, which means instant gratification (life was short), laziness (energy needed to be saved), overeating (food was rare) and any kind of domination – material, physical, intellectual (the alpha male/female got it all).
That’s why it’s hard to make smart decisions.
The intellectual, conscious, creative and planning part of you has to override the animal instinct that ruled decision-making for millions of years in our ancestors. And it has to do it over and over again, it never stops.
That’s an extremely hard thing to do. It takes a lot of cognitive power and severe self-control, together with constant curbing of primal needs, and never letting the benefits of reinvesting into your tomorrow out of your sight.
Rare are the people who are mentally so strong that they can follow smart decisions in all different areas of life all the time. That’s why I wouldn’t count on self-discipline too much. In reality, counting solely on your self-discipline is not a superior life strategy.
Sooner or later, you kneel down in front of the laws of nature and genes. That’s why you have to be much smarter than relying on your self-discipline. You always have to be one step ahead of life.
Don’t use cognitive power for good decisions if you don’t have to
If you can’t completely automate it, semi-automate it. Make sure it takes zero cognitive effort, or almost zero, to do something smart. Take transaction costs all the way down, as low as possible. Let it happen automatically.
Make sure you don’t have to think about it, make sure that it takes zero discipline and that smart decisions just happen by themselves. Put good decisions on autopilot. You have to be a little bit creative, but let’s look at few examples of how you can do that.
The easiest way to automate good decisions is with money management. That’s because nowadays, money is nothing but some numbers in an online app, and you can do all kinds of transactions and functions simply by using your computer.
Here are examples of good decisions you can automate:
- Automate transactions to your savings account every time you get a paycheck.
- Make sure you need to get an approval for all costs higher than a certain amount (from your spouse or CFO), especially if you like to overspend.
- As an alternative, you may have a rule that you aren’t allowed to make any big purchases if you don’t sleep it over (for 14 days).
- Don’t have a credit card with you, but only enough money to buy yourself lunch and a healthy snack.
That way, you don’t have to struggle with decision-making, good decisions are already made for you. Every week, money gets transferred to the savings account and you live with the rest. You can’t do impulse purchases, because you need approval or wait long enough for your emotions to stabilize. If you only have enough money for lunch with you, you can’t do small unnecessary purchases that sum up in high amounts of wasted money with time.
Here’s an article that gives a lot of detail about how to make good automatic money decisions. With money, you can really automate being smart. All other areas can be more or less only semi-automated, still following the basic rules of positive automation – meaning that something good happens with the least effort possible.
You can (semi-)automate good decisions in all three areas of health – diet, exercise and lifestyle. Now let’s not pretend and exaggerate: doing one hour of exercise as part of your morning routine is extremely good for you, but it takes effort and years before the habit becomes such a strong part of you that we could call it automation.
Nevertheless, there are many small things you can do for your health that are pretty much semi-automated and easy to follow:
- Subscribe to a weekly fresh delivery of organic vegetables and fruits to your home, and then put it in a visible place. You can also standardize the typical daily meals you like the most.
- Eat a salad for one of your main meals. Don’t think about it, don’t decide about anything, for one of your main meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner), just order or make yourself a salad. All the effort it takes is for you to say: “And one salad please” to the waiter. You can do the same with one piece of fruit.
- Have a strict deadline for the hour after which you don’t eat anymore. “You don’t have to decide about anything, you simply don’t eat anymore. (after 6pm, for example). It’s how intermittent fasting works and it can really do wonders for your health. You can do the same by not eating dessert at all. If you don’t eat dessert at all, there is nothing to decide about.
- Every night, prepare your sports bag and take it with you. Just put it in your car. Now, the training bag won’t force you to go to the gym, but it will put additional pressure on you. It’s simple and easy to pack your exercising clothes every night and take them with you. You can automate that. Let’s hope that the rest will follow.
- You can automate for all electronic devices to go into sleep mode at a certain hour, let’s say 9pm. Then you can take a book, read for a while and go to bed early.
There are many decisions regarding your health that you can automate. Yes, they are called healthy habits, but the idea is to take transaction costs as low as possible, so that it takes almost zero effort to follow. At the end of the day, the best habits are the ones with which you can follow through in the long term.
An important part of quality relationships is putting in all the necessary effort. You have to water a relationship like a flower, otherwise it starts to wither.
You water relationships with attention, love, affection, understanding, care, good communication, by providing value, mutual support and with many other contributions on a physical, emotional, intellectual, spiritual, material and social level.
It’s not easy to be consistent in relationships and make sure that your investment levels stay the same all the time or even get stronger. You get drained, you have bad days, and your affection may fluctuate.
That’s why you should try to automate some good relationship decisions. Not to make the relationship mechanic, but to protect yourself from your own weaknesses.
Examples of automating good decisions:
- If you get upset with something, you tell it to the other person immediately and start looking for a solution.
- You never go to sleep on bad terms with your spouse. You always work things out before going to bed. You don’t even think about whether to talk or not, you don’t hold a grudge, you automatically solve the problem before going to sleep.
- Every day when your spouse comes from work, you put away all electronic devices, you stop doing whatever you were doing (no matter how important it is), and you talk for a while about your day – fully present.
- You book a date with your spouse every first Wednesday of the month. It’s in the calendar, it’s automated, there is no rescheduling and you go someplace nice, just the two of you, without any distractions. In the same way, you can automate lunch with your best friend in regular terms.
- You send a creative love message every day to your spouse. Every day, one message, with no exceptions. Get a reminder or alarm saying it’s time to get romantic and creative.
- If you get a message from somebody, you reply immediately in an active constructive way.
There are many ways how you can automate good gestures in a relationship. Yes, you have to make sure things don’t get mechanic and that you really do it because you want to. It’s good to keep a creative component or some kind of effort, even if you automate part of a decision. And at the end of a day, if you don’t want to do it, you can stop at any moment. You have to stay agile.
But the idea is to free yourself from cognitive burden and not to rely solely on your self-discipline. Even more, you don’t want to get indulgent and sloppy in relationships with time, when you settle. You want to invest more and more in quality relationships not less, and automation and semi-automaton can help you with that.
Endless options for smart decision automation
Much like we’ve seen for the core life areas (health, wealth and relationships), you can use the same principle in other life areas. There are numerous ways how you can automate and semi-automate good decisions, not only to make sure that you’re going in the right direction and to save your cognitive capabilities for other life matters, but also to simplify your life and make more room for being relaxed and happy.
Here are some additional examples for automating good decisions:
- Read every day before you go to sleep, and make sure you don’t fall asleep if you haven’t read at least one page of a book.
- Have a few standard outfits for different occasions and put them in a queue. You pick the one that’s waiting first in the queue. Or you can wear the same outfit every day, like Mark Zuckerberg does.
- You check email 30 minutes before your work ends and you reply or delete all emails in these 30 minutes. You don’t check your email otherwise.
- You simply don’t do meetings. When something needs to be communicated, you use your phone or go for lunch with that person, and when something needs to be solved, you organize a workshop with a strict deadline and a goal to be met.
- Every 14 days, you have a planning sprint for the next two weeks. It’s in your calendar, it’s fixed and nothing can get between you and strategic planning of your future.
- Put a web nanny to stop you after an hour on social networks and make sure your computer won’t even start before you watch an online course for 30 minutes.
- Automatically get the things you regularly buy in the same intervals from Amazon Subscribe
Your plan to automate good decisions
The easiest way to automate parts of your life (smart decisions) is to start with money. Log into your bank account and simply set a weekly transaction to a savings account on the day you receive a paycheck.
Then make sure you don’t spend that money, and watch your savings account grow. Doing automation with money is the easiest because it’s purely based on technology. Starting to automate good money decisions should motivate you to do automation in other areas of life as well.
In fact, you can easily do 100 % automation with all other tech stuff. There are two very popular web apps called IFTTT and Zappier that can automate many of your computer tasks and save you tons of time. With one app or the other you can automate things like:
- Save any email attachment I receive to Dropbox or Google Drive
- If I star an email, remind me to take care of it
- When I’m in a meeting for more than 60 minutes, schedule a phone call to myself and run
- Log my working hours automatically in a Google Spreadsheet
- Back up Facebook photos I’m tagged in to Dropbox
IFFT has something called individual automation functions recipes. If you check their site, you can find hundreds of them. I really like that name. An automation recipe. It’s time for you to get creative and cook up a few good automation recipes, besides tech and money stuff.
I encourage you to take a piece of paper and outline a few automation recipes you can do in your life. Start with the easy things and ideas you can do immediately. You can use the IF – THEN model and sketch out your ideas for automation.
Make your fist recipe, and then add new recipes as quickly as you feel comfortable following through with them. The lower the transaction costs and the more you can really automate, the less willpower and discipline you need. If complete automation is possible, it takes almost zero effort to introduce a new habit in life. Look for such opportunities. Be smart and automate good decisions.