Make better decisions by having a default answer

We make a lot of decisions daily. Not all of them are great. I have discovered that by having default answers prepared for common questions, I can fast-track a good answer, saving myself some mental energy in the process and improving my decision making overall.

Have you ever been relaxing at home on a Saturday, lying on the couch, almost asleep, when you hear a knock on your door? In your stupor, you open the door to find a salesperson on your front stoop. They go into their spiel before you can object, and you just can’t seem to get a chance to jump in to stop them. Eventually, you end up agreeing to a free “assessment” next week because they will “be in the neighborhood” and you just want to get away. Bad decision right?

I created a default answer for just this situation. When a door to door salesperson knocks on my door, I open it and quickly tell them that I don’t make any decisions about purchases at my front door. I invite them to give me some materials if they want, and tell them I will reach out if I’m interested. I don’t listen to sales pitches at the door, because I won’t make a decision at the door, ever. This approach gets people off my front stoop much more quickly and gets me back to my nap (yeah right, like that ever happens with five kids). By having this as my default answer, I know I will never get sold at my front door again.

You can create default answers for all kinds of common questions. For example:

  • Someone wants an in-person, one-hour meeting with no agenda that isn’t interesting for you.
    • Default answer: “No.” Don’t offer an alternative, just no, protect your time.
  • Someone wants to have a one-hour meeting (because everyone always wants to meet for an hour), but you know the meeting could be shorter.
    • Default answer: “Let’s make the meeting 30-minutes, and can you send me an agenda for the meeting the day before?”
  • Someone important to you, that you respect, asks you for a favor, or to be a part of something.
  • Someone sends you an email that is super vague and will take a lot of time to figure out what they are asking or needing from you.
    • Default answer: “I’m not following what you are asking or needing from me. Can you give me more context about what you are needing and send this back to me?” I’m sending this email back more and more these days.
  • You get asked to volunteer for something that is a good cause but is not in line with your goals.
    • Default answer: “Thanks for asking, but I can’t make this a priority right now.” It’s nice to be asked to do things, but keep in mind that every yes you give is a no to something else.

My advice on creating default answers in this increasingly demanding world is to say no a lot, and yes to just the right things that will make a big difference in your world.

Photo by Isaiah Rustad on Unsplash