What is a success if not a sequence of well-made choices? Well, depending on the definition of success, it may not always be true. As Nassim Taleb puts it:
Mild success can be explainable by skills and labor. Wild success is attributable to variance. – Nassim Taleb, Fooled by Randomness
But if we take the chance out of the equation, we are left with the amount of work that one has produced to achieve it. Although not just any kind of work and not even hard work, but smart work. And by smart, I mean choosing the right things to work on at the right time. It’s all about prioritization. This, in my opinion, is a skill absolutely essential and crucial for success.
Lately, I’ve been reflecting upon the choices I’ve made during recent years and came to the conclusion that they were poorly thought through. This led me to the idea of formalizing my decision-making process. I needed a metric for prioritizing tasks in my life that would take the burden of responsibility off my shoulders and provide a system that I can rely on. It was tempting to come up with a complex numeric metric, but such metrics are hardly practical when there is a countless number of variables that affect it. So, instead, I came up with a process. It’s still in the early stages, but the main idea is clear (and kind of obvious, to be honest; I’m sure a lot of people came to the something similar): it’s a roadmap.
I have an idealized image of myself and my life in ten years from now, an image that makes me legit envious. Then I work backwards from it by designing an intermediate idealized image of my life that I expect to bring to life by the end of the year. I use this image to define the list of things that I should focus on this year that would bring the image closer to reality. Each week during the weekly review I use this list as the main reference while choosing the tasks for the upcoming week and analyze my current trajectory. If the trajectory is not satisfying (i.e. I’m not getting closer to the intermediate image) I readjust the list. Then, at the end of the year, I refer back to the choices I’ve made and compare the expected result of these choices to the actual one. This serves me as a reference for designing an idealized image for the next year.
This is a simple and quite intuitive approach to prioritization, so I don’t expect anyone to find it ground-breaking in any sense. After all, everyone chooses tasks to do based on their main life goals. However, it’s not the process of choosing things to do where such formalization (and, specifically, the laid down list of the things to focus on) helps the most, it’s the moments when you have to decide not to do things. It gives you back the power of saying “no”.