Long-term thinking improves short-term decision-making

Jan 5, 2022 | Goal Setting

All successful people use long-term thinking when planning their goals and prioritizing their time. That’s how they manage time successfully, avoid burnout, stop doing time-consuming low-level activities and achieve optimum productivity.

Let’s start with a question:

What comes to mind when you hear the term “superior thinker”?

In my mind, a superior thinker can accurately predict the consequences of doing or not doing a task.

Long Term Thinking and Prioritizing Our Tasks

Before working on a task, we need to know how important the task actually is to the overall success of our business. Then, we can use techniques like the 80/20 rule to determine if we should work on it, delegate it, or set it aside for later. 

A superior thinker carefully evaluates the potential consequences of working on a task. Is this task beneficial to my company and personal life or not?

As my mentor Brian Tracy says, this is how you find out what your next frog is. 

The Long-Term Perspective

After 50 years of research, Dr. Edward Banfield of Harvard University concluded that the long-term perspective is the most important and accurate way to predict who is moving up socially and economically. 

In other words, he is saying that long-term perspective is more important than:

  • Family background
  • Education
  • Race
  • Intelligence
  • Personal and Professional Connections 

Let that sink in; nothing is more important in determining success in business and life than having a long-term perspective.

My attitude toward time has the most significant impact on my choices and behavior! To be more successful in life and business, I have to adopt a long-term perspective. If I do, this guarantees that I make better decisions about my time and my activities than those who don’t.

I had to re-read this several times to ensure I got it correctly.

Successful people have a clear focus on the future… 5, 10, and even 20 years down the road, always asking: is what I’m doing today consistent with the future I desire?

The things we consider essential should have long-term potential POSITIVE consequences.

If a task doesn’t have long-term positive consequences, we shouldn’t let it take up our time. So, before starting a task, you need to know the potential consequences of doing or not doing the task.

Rule: future intent influences and often determines present actions.

What I’m going to say next might be upsetting to some; however, considering everything we’ve discussed so far, this seems to be a logical conclusion. Successful people are willing to make sacrifices and go without certain things to enjoy far greater rewards in the long term. This is not easy to do, especially living in an instant gratification society, but everyone who’s made sacrifices for the greater good can appreciate this. 

Denis Waitley, a motivational speaker, says, “Losers try to escape from their fears and drudgery with activities that are tension-relieving. Winners are motivated by their desires toward activities that are goal-achieving.”

Here are some examples:

  • Show up a little earlier. 
  • Look for the good in everything and everyone, see opportunity in every setback and never give up.
  • Read regularly something in your field, take courses, improve your skills (by the way, Self-Improvement is one of the 6 in my business name Balance 6).
  • Always focus on high-value tasks and refuse to work on other tasks until those are done.

Things not to do:

  • Show up last minute
  • Read the newspaper, drink coffee
  • Socialize with coworkers
  • Make excuses or blame people or circumstances

These seem more fun and enjoyable in the short term but ultimately lead to frustration, underachievement, disappointment, and lack of motivation. There’s a time for these enjoyable things too, but they can’t be our focus.

So what I’m saying is to FOCUS on activities with significant potential and positive consequences, make them a top priority and work on them until done.

Motivation follows once we develop a long-term focus and clarity on the future and why we desire it.

If we are clear about our intentions and the positive consequences of our actions, we will develop the motivation to stay focused on completing the tasks that impact our future the most.

As you can see, continually thinking about the potential consequences of our decisions, actions, and behaviors determines our true priorities in business and personal life.

We need to FOCUS on activities with significant potential and positive consequences, make them a top priority, and work on them until done.

No matter what we do, time is going to pass on by. Therefore, it is up to us to decide how we spend our time to determine where we will end up further down the road.

Goethe said: “The things that matter most must never be at the mercy of the things that matter least.”

Written by Christoph Nauer.
Christoph is a Brian Tracey certified Time Management Master.
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