Your life is a series of micro decisions. Not 3-4 big decisions which shape your entire life, as conventional wisdom suggests.
Take having a baby, for example. It’s a huge decision. But you don’t wake up one day and magically decide to have a baby.
First, you might jump on a dating app. You might then go on a date and make a micro-decision to tell a joke that reveals your true character. Then you might decide to see them again. Then you might make a small decision to go to their apartment and watch ‘House of Cards.’
Then they might ask you to be their date at a work function. Then you might have a few coffee dates. You might see someone else for a while and still think about them. Then you might come back six months later and try hitting it off with them again. Then you might suddenly kiss. Then you might sleep with them. Then you might be evicted from your rental home because the landlord wants to sell it. Then you might ask them to move in with you.
Before you know it you’ve made lots of micro-decisions that cause you to have a baby together. See, a big life event isn’t a giant decision you make while feeling scared shitless.
You make the important life decisions through the daily micro-decisions you’re already making. That’s why it pays to focus on the micro-decisions. Here are a few micro-decisions to think deeply about.
1 minute, not 60 minutes
‘Grandiose’ is the death of progress.
The habit preachers have made starting a routine feel way too complicated. Could you start a new habit for 1 minute a day? Yes. Could you start a new habit that took 60 minutes or longer a day?
Well yes, but it would be ten times harder. What has worked for me is creating new experiments that last for one minute. I can do anything for 60 seconds. But one hour is much harder.
When my meditation habit went down the toilet (thanks to covid) I used one-minute meditations to get back on track. Doing one-minute meditations helped me get acquainted with the feeling of progress again. Once I felt progress I could meditate repeatedly.
Have the same wake-up time every day, not a scattered one
I used to decide when to wake up every day. My body would always want to keep sleeping.
A micro-decision I made was to automate my wake up time. I put my phone on the other side of the bedroom to remove the need to decide. It’s a tiny decision that has helped me find at least an hour more of time per day to write.
Once you’re up, it’s easier not to go back to sleep.
Don’t reply to an email that makes you feel dead inside
I get emails all the time that makes me feel dead inside.
They have some sort of corporate interest I couldn’t give a hoot about. I force myself to read the email out of respect and then feel like throwing up in my mouth. The self-interest of the sender is enough to derail humanity.
I used to try and reply to these emails. Now all I do is delete them and move on with my day. It helps me curtail the rage to reply back and say something I’ll regret later.
The beauty of emails is you can ignore them. It’s a micro-decision that will help you save your precious energy for the emails that make you want to say “I love you, man!”
Read writers you actually like
There are some painful writers out there who publish nothing but “the world is screwed and the next 12 months will ruin America.”
These writers are hoping to bait readers with outrage. The shared suffering is supposed to make you give up your precious attention to their cause. It takes two seconds to say to yourself “I don’t like this writer” and move on.
Everything you read on daily basis shapes how you see the world.
Don’t read bullshit.
Put a 2-liter bottle of water on your desk the night before
Most of us are chronically dehydrated. You’re smart enough to know you need to drink more water.
One micro-decision I’ve automated is to full up a 2-liter water jug the night before and place it on my desk. That way, when I wake up and sit down at my desk first thing, water is there ready for me to drink. You’re the most dehydrated when you wake up because you’ve been sleeping.
Put water jugs in places you work so you can stare hydration in the face and drink more water. Water cleans out your system.
How you act around dogs has a lot to do with your human interaction
I’m mostly kind to humans. But it all started with dogs.
I make a micro-decision every time I see a dog to smile at them. The dog normally gives me a puppy look in return that could melt the polar ice caps.
I found the more I learned to smile at dogs, the better I got at randomly smiling at humans.
Learning to smile at all living things helps you feel stupidly happy without even knowing it. Now I smile at bad things, too, thanks to this micro-decision. When a lady on the train dropped coffee all over my brand new white shirt, I just smiled.
Learning to smile is a forgotten art. Start with dogs because they won’t judge you and will smile back without asking, even if they dislike you.
Use YouTube ads to check the bitcoin and ethereum price
Youtube ads are only annoying if you watch the ad.
I make a micro-decision every time a YouTube ad comes on to check the bitcoin and ethereum price. The historical significance of these two technologies in creating a decentralized Web 3.0 is too big to ignore.
Checking the price helps you see how far we are in the adoption curve.
Get a Web 3.0 update next time a YouTube ad tries to take over your life.
Stretch a body part that hurts while you’re waiting inline
Life is a series of lines.
There’s the line to get into school; the line to get into university; the line to go to the doctor; the line to pay at the supermarket; the line to get your cancer test results; the line to buy gas for your car; the line for the elevator at the office block you visit for work. Lines create frustration for many people.
What if a line had value beyond scrolling the newsfeed of your favorite app on your phone?
Well, it can. There’s always one part of your body that hurts. For us 6-foot giants who reincarnated as big bird from Sesame Street, it’s our backs.
Lines are the perfect moment to stretch. It takes less than 60 seconds and can prevent long-term injury.
Right now my calves are stiff elastic bands ready to snap. While waiting for the lift at my student apartment this morning I stretched them. I’ve been making this micro-decision for a few months now and noticed a notable improvement.
Your environment is full of queues you can use to stretch. Don’t worry about the odd looks. Use the weapon of mass interruption — smile at onlookers.
See every purchase as another hour of work you’re forced to do
I think of purchases in relation to how much time I have to give up doing stuff I don’t like.
Not all the work you do is full of unicorns and rainbows. Some work is deadly boring and necessary so you can survive. You have to do more work you dislike every time you make a purchase.
If every purchase was forcing you to work longer, would you still make the same micro-decisions at the online checkout to proceed and have your credit card charged? Probably not.
Link purchases to the number of hours spent doing work you hate. You’ll stop pissing your money away when you do.
Invest in 1 percenters
When you invest in 1 percenters you cap your downside. I invest time and money into lots of 1 percenters. If the 1 percenter pays off then I invest a little more time and assess the return.
Too many people invest far too much into something before stepping back and seeing the benefits. This creates the sunk cost fallacy — where because you’ve already spent resources on an experiment, you keep doing it to chase the initial outlay, instead of abandoning the experiment and leaving with a valuable lesson.
A micro-decision you can make is to invest in more experiments with one percent of your resources.
I invested one percent this year into these things: zoom calls with strangers, esoteric podcasts that I’d never normally listen to, older social media platforms like Twitter, publishing on a WordPress blog, weird exercises, random books people recommended.
Many of these mini-experiments failed or produced zero output. But each of these experiments helped expand my curiosity.
Curiosity helped me accidentally stumble upon ideas that did have a meaningful impact.
Make lots of 1% bets.
Remember: Your day starts the night before
Make a micro-decision to get ready for tomorrow the night before. When you’re sleepy (right before bed) is the best time to do menial tasks like packing your bag, putting your workout clothes on the floor ready to train, organizing the days’ food, and locking things in your calendar.
Micro-decisions are best made the night before you need their benefits.
The easily missed micro-decisions have way more impact than you think. Change doesn’t happen in one giant leap of faith.
Micro-decisions are the pathway that leads you to the results that will cause you to look back and smile. Make enormous progress with lots of subtle micro-decisions.
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This article originally appeared in Medium.