Making commitments, eliminating decisions and having your 3Ss in place is one half of the battle. The other half is what happens just before you execute. It's the decision before the decision, the moment prior to acting. Ultimately, it's the hinging task that your success of execution hangs on.
Everyday you'll face your precursors, and your ability to do what you need to do relies on how you approach the situation. You might overthink, have an excuse or lose the battle to a shifting priority. Chances are, though, if your ability to execute is compromised, something about your structure, strategy or system has changed.
That's where becoming hyper aware of and mastering your individual precursors is so critical. Just as you want to eliminate the decision of doing, you also want to eliminate the decision that comes before the action.
Are You Choosing The Path Of Least Resistance?
- How many times have you put on your gym kit in the morning and not trained?
- How many times have you got an entire week's shopping and not cooked your meals at home?
- How many times have you put on your running shoes when you've arrived home from work and not done your cardio?
Battling The Negative Precursor
One example I often hear is people finish work having already made the decision not to carry their gym kit with them. Instead, they've said they'll go after having dinner at home. The problem here is they've combined two precursors that'll make it harder to leave the house once they're there - the simple act of getting home and the eating of a meal. Both will trigger relaxing and shutting down for the day - the opposite to the original intention.
By using positive precursors, such as changing into your gym kit before leaving work, you'll guarantee an increased rate and intensity of sessions completed. This will make it harder to fall back on the 'relaxing' precursor of training after dinner.
The key lesson here is to look at the structure of your day and be self-aware enough to know which precursors are serving you, and which are setting you back. The goal is to unlock more mental capacity and remove the 'should I do this now?" battle in your head.
Minimising Decision Fatigue With Precursors
Historically Positive Precursors
- Note key written content that needs to be done
- Open up a document and make a little note on what I want to write about.
- Brush teeth
- Put on gym T shirt, hoody and tracksuit bottoms (for later in the day – another precursor)
- Journal for five minutes (already laid out next to me – another precursor)
- Walk downstairs and mix psyllium husk, lemon and salt into a glass of water
- Use the bathroom and read for five minute
- Sit on corner sofa, open up laptop
- Play Chopin’s Nocturnes, Op. 9: No.1 in B Flat Minor on repeat
- Start writing
Finding Your Precursor Domino
- The precursor has to be the easiest part of the process, and one with the least resistance that can be done at any point without thought. Examples include putting on your running shoes, opening a book, opening an app, and buying the groceries.
- Creating these precursors at the turning points in your day will change the way you act just by virtue. Examples include the morning period, lunchtime at work, immediately after work and the one hour pre bed. If you can manage to put precursors in those times for the tasks you want to achieve or do daily, you will be in a very good place to be able to execute them daily.
- If you already have a solid routine, your best solution is to analyse your day and find precursors to certain things you want to change. If every week you have to use a lot of willpower to achieve something, or if there’s a moment where you fall short every week, e.g. ‘shall we just get a takeaway and a bottle of wine’ on a Friday night, you’ll need to implement a precursor to stop this if you’re in a dieting phase. An example could be to buy food (and all the ingredients) conducive to your goals for Friday on a Thursday.
- Analyse your current set up and find situations in your day you want to automate, and then put something in place to make that happen prior to the event. For example, if you want to stop worrying about whether you’re going to eat chicken or turkey today, plan it the week before, or just follow a set meal plan. If getting dressed in the morning causes a ton of stress and zaps your energy, create a ‘uniform’. You want to try to automate as many of the menial, non-creative components of your day so you can save time and energy for the tasks that matter most.
If you are intrigued and want to find out more about how to identify your specific precursor domino I talk about it a lot more in my book Transform Your Body. Transform Your Life. The book gives you all the tools you need to achieve your goals and become the best version of yourself.