Decision-Making


How to focus on the choices that matter the most…

Each and every one of us makes countless decisions every day. Some don’t matter much, like what to wear or what to eat for lunch. Others carry a little more weight. Last week I talked about the general weight of decisions in our lives, go back an re-read it here [Cast Your Burdens].  This week I want to focus a bit more on the specific and unique decision making needs of business owners. Business owners make decisions about how to manage cash flow, how to protect the company (with insurance mostly), and which benefits plan to choose so that they can attract and retain the best employees.

Have you ever found it difficult making important decisions? You’re not alone.

As I talked about last week, researchers have found that we only have limited decision-making power. So called, “decision fatigue” effects us all as the day progresses. Check out this article from the New York Times to back me up. As the day rolls along and the number of decisions we need to make pile up, our brains get tired and start to look for an easier way out. That can mean delaying decisions, paralysis by analysis or it could lead to reckless decisions made primarily just to get it over with so that we can move on.

One option some entrepreneurs have found to help manage decision fatigue is to eliminate, or create a habit around certain choices. I’m currently reading Charles Duhigg’s 2012 book “The Power of Habit”. At one point in the book he talks about what he calls the Keystone Habits that can shape entire organizations and remove a cumbersome layer of decision making, streamlining processes and leading to increased efficiencies and ultimately higher profits. Case in point, two of the world’s most successful entrepreneurs simplified some of their decisions by wearing the same clothing every day: Steve Jobs was famous for his black turtlenecks, and Mark Zuckerberg favours grey T-shirts. I have even taken on a modification of this habit myself, I line up my pants and shirts in my closet on laundry day and simply put on whatever is at the front of the line every morning. Granted, not quite a streamlined as wearing the same thing every day but it is one less decision I need to make in the morning, freeing my mind up for more important things later.

Another idea is to devote more time to important decisions earlier in the day, that way you are fresh and can devote better energy to things before the relentless piling on of minor choices makes it harder to concentrate and make the best decisions. Consider scheduling an hour or so every morning to contemplate some of the bigger choices you need to make that day.

It’s important to start by identifying which of your regular decisions are most important. Most business owners agree that decisions related to cash flow management are the highest on their list of priorities. A recent survey showed that over half (59 per cent) of small business owners were concerned about cash flow with 20 per cent saying they are seriously concerned. This would seem to point to the fact that they are likely to get the most outside advice in this area but over a third of them (38 per cent) said they were dealing with their cash flow issues alone, without any help from an external advisor.  Know to be clear, I am not an accountant but one of the biggest advantages that I can bring to the table for my clients is help with decision-making around cash flow management. For example, I can help put together an optimal mix of bank accounts, lines of credit and investments to maximize returns mitigate risks and cushion your business from cash flow crunches.

And speaking of risk, another important area is risk management. Having a clear risk management goal like, building a diversified customer base or multiple revenue streams helps you make better business planning decisions and move the business forward. But keep in mind that when it comes to insurance, any delays in decision-making actually increase your exposure. Business owners must make it a top priority to finalize insurance policies as soon as they are financially able. This includes all forms of general liability and business interruption insurance to critical illness, disability and key person insurance for the owners and employees.

Lastly, there’s another area of risk management decision-making that most business owners forget about until it’s too late. If you have employees, you know how much your business relies on the productivity and loyalty of all of your people. And you’re probably also aware of how much turnover can cost. That’s why it’s so surprising to me that according to the research cited above just 17 per cent of business owners consider group benefits including health and retirement savings plans when building a risk management strategy. Even a simple, entry-level benefits plan for as few as 2 or 3 people can do wonders for moral and help to retain and attract better employees.

Postponing important financial decisions may mean missing out on opportunities to grow, develop and protect your business. So if you’ve been mulling without deciding, consider what you need to move forward. Are you considering all of the options? Do you have enough information to make an informed choice? Can a financial advisor offer any input? What other barriers are standing in the way?

Small business owners are busy people, I get that. Anything that can help streamline your decision-making process and make it more efficient is of great value. I am here to help. I can provide clarity and give you a big-picture perspective on decisions that benefit you, your company and your employees in both the short and long term. Contact me any time.

Lauren C. Sheil is a serial entrepreneur who has been in business for over 25 years. His latest book “Meekoethics: What Happens When Life Gets Messy and the Rules Aren’t Enough” is available on Amazon.com.

He can be reached at themeekonomicsproject@gmail.com or by calling 613-295-4141.

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Cast Your Burdens


Life is heavier than the weight of all things – Rainer Maria Rilke

I’ve recently become aware of the sheer weight of life.

I’m not just talking about the mental “weightiness” of our lives or the existential weight of the decisions we make on a daily basis. I’m talking also about the basic physical weights and measures of the things we possess and the life that we carry with us wherever we go.

Some statistics:

  • The average North American home has tripled in size in the last 50 years while the number of people living in those homes, the average family size, has gotten smaller.

  • 1 in 4 of those homes doesn’t have enough room in their garage to park a car while 1 in 10 rents extra off-site storage.

  • Over the course of our lifetime we will spend a total of 153 days (or 3,672 hours) looking for misplaced items.

All of this “stuff” is quite literally weighing us down but that’s not all – Psychologists have identified a relatively new pathology known as decision fatigue.

Decision fatigue refers to the deteriorating quality of the decisions we make the more we make them. It is now understood to be one of the main causes of irrational decision making. Judges and other professional decision makers have been shown to make less favorable decisions later in the day than they do early in the day. If you want to win in court, try to make sure your case is on the docket in the morning.

Decision fatigue also leads to poor choices in our personal lives, such as how we spend our money and our time. There is also a paradox inherent in decision fatigue in that people who lack choice seem to want it more while at the same time find that making too many choices can be psychologically draining.

Lastly, research is beginning to show that the single biggest factor causing decision fatigue is not the importance or consequences of the decisions being made but their sheer volume. Deciding what to wear in the morning or what to eat for breakfast contributes just as much to our daily decision fatigue as determining the case of a plaintiff in a multimillion dollar civil complaint. A decision is a decision and fatigue is fatigue.

Ask anyone what they truly want out of life and the answer will more often than not boil down to some form of peace and happiness. Still more research is beginning to show that people who report being the most peaceful and happy with their lives also seem to be the ones who are forced to make the fewest decisions throughout the day. And the decisions they do make whether in their personal or professional lives tend to be of higher quality.

I was recently challenged by a friend and spiritual mentor to embrace some of the tenants of minimalism. At the same time I’ve been reading David Allen’s definitive work on time management and productivity “Getting Things Done”. Both seek to reduce stress and increase enjoyment and productivity by reducing the weight of things in our lives and streamlining decision making.

It seems counter intuitive but by reducing the number of choices we are faced with we actually open up our minds to new possibilities and new ideas and lighten the burden of some of the bigger and more consequential decisions we are faced with. Albert Einstein, one of the greatest thinkers of modern history was known to have 7 copies of the exact same set of clothing, one for each day of the week, and ate the exact same meal for breakfast and lunch every single day. That’s three fewer decisions he had to make than most other people which helped to open his mind for weightier things.

In my work as a financial advisor I see the other side of the coin every day. Lives built on a house of cards of debt, and stress. People are running faster and faster just to remain in one place. We have been sold a lie that the key to happiness is the acquisition of more. And that the truly happy and “together” people are also able to do more with their time. Carrying last year’s model smart-phone is considered a sign of poverty in some circles and simply stopping to relax with your family, without a program or agenda to follow, is somehow seen as sloth or a waste of precious time.

The truth is we need down time in order to maintain our sanity.  There is nothing wrong with staying in and doing nothing, just like there is nothing wrong with carrying and using a still functional smart-phone.

Minimalism and the type of streamlining decision making advocated by authors and consultants like Allen, are not a panacea for all that ails us. But they can be a first step in determining what truly matters, making better decisions and living a more peaceful and fulfilling life.

It’s time to lighten our lives, worry less and live more.

Lauren C. Sheil is a serial entrepreneur who has been in business for over 25 years. He has operated a small farm, a recording studio and a music manufacturing plant, and has written 3 books on Economics, Ethics and Spirituality.  He has presented his ideas to business owners and leaders from all over the world. His latest book “Meekoethics: What Happens When Life Gets Messy and the Rules Aren’t Enough” is available on Amazon.com.

Mr. Sheil is currently a Financial Security Advisor and Business Planning Specialist with one of Canada’s premier financial planning organizations.  He brings to his work a passion for people and a desire to teach everyone to live life to the fullest while Eliminating Debt, Building Wealth and Leaving a Legacy.  

He can be reached at themeekonomicsproject@gmail.com or by calling 613-295-4141.

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New Media Channel – I’m on YouTube!


Thanks to the camera in my iPhone and a free editing program I downloaded, I am know able to record my thoughts on video!

Here is the first of what I hope will become a new way to communicate my message to the world.  Check out my first Vlog – “What I do and Why I do It.”

Let me kow what you think!  Feedback is always appreciated.

From Selma to Mumbai, and Death in a Concentration Camp


This post from a few years ago is getting new attention – In Trump’s America there are lessons in the past for all of us…

The Meekonomics Project

Private, reflexive, ventilated rage is often justified today as a proper attack on “oppression”. The problem with that is that, once it has drawn attention to a grievance, it does not do much to change anything. Change, over the long haul, requires organization, patience, good humor, and the ability to negotiate and compromise; all of which may be energized by anger or killed by it. – Carol Tavris; Anger, the Misunderstood Emotion

selma

I used to be a very angry person. I went through a period in my life when everything seemed to go wrong. In the course of just a few years, I lost everything, my business, my house, the respect of my peers, my social circle, my pride and to large extent my sense of self. And it ticked me off to no end.

I realized I was headed for disaster one evening, after a particularly hard day when…

View original post 759 more words

The Big 3 Life Changing Events that can Significantly Affect Your Finances


In my practice as Financial Security Advisor I hear variations of these themes almost every day, my job of course is the help people live life to the fullest, get out of debt, build wealth and leave a legacy but that’s a lot harder than it sounds, especially when one of these large uncontrollable and unpredictable events occurs. But there are a few things we can do to prepare, and throw you a life line when you need it.

1 – Serious Illness

According to a Statistics Canada report from 2011, about 8% of full-time employees are away from their jobs for part or all of any given week due to illness, disability, or personal and family responsibilities. When you add it all up people miss an average of just over nine days at work every year. Illnesses very greatly in intensity and cost, they can range from a head-ache with the sniffles to Ebola. They can be acute (and over relatively quickly) or chronic (and last a long time). Whether an illness affects you or a close family member, it may lead to unpaid absences from work as well as a wide range of additional expenses that aren’t covered by provincial health plans or employer benefits.

Check with your employer or your benefits manual to find out exactly what is, and isn’t covered, and consider purchasing additional coverage in the form of Long Term Disability or Critical Illness Insurance to avoid some of the financial losses that could occur should something like this happen to you.

2 – Job Loss

Again, according to Statistics Canada, in 2015, the economy created 151,000 full-time jobs.

Yay?

On the surface this looks like good news, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. The unemployment rate still rose by 0.4% to 7.1% with 110,000 more people looking for work at the end of the year. Some of the people were of course new to the work force, newly graduated from colleges and universities, or new immigrants but others were established and experienced workers who had lost their jobs. Job loss can sweep through a specific industry, like manufacturing in Ontario or the oil patch in Alberta. Or it can happen individually. Some lucky workers are offered severance packages but too often they receive nothing and families face an immediate drop in income.

Job loss is the very definition of a financial emergency and the number one reason you should have an emergency fund of at least 3 months of expenses. Knowing your bills will be paid while you look for work and wait for other forms of support like government employment insurance to kick in can relieve a lot of stress associated with losing your job.

3 – Divorce

About 70,000 divorces are finalized every year in Canada, not to mention the breakdown of common-law relationships that never make it into the official numbers. Separation and divorce carry with them far more considerations than the merely financial concerns that come up and I don’t mean to over simplify and minimize what can be a significantly painful and personal experience. It may be the result of years of discord, or sudden and unexpected but the fact is that managing two households is significantly more expensive than one and when one party makes considerably less income than the other the impact is often felt disproportionately.

Not to mention the potential for a large legal bill at the end of it all. Engaging the help of a financial security advisor to help separate financial assets, like joint retirement accounts, life insurance policies and RESPs is a must for any separating couple.

This is by no means an exhaustive list but keeping these three things in mind when designing your financial plan could go a long way to avoiding a lot of extra head-ache, heart-ache and stress down the road.

Lauren C. Sheil is a serial entrepreneur who has been in business for over 25 years. He has operated a small farm, a recording studio and a music manufacturing plant, and has written 3 books on Economics, Ethics and Spirituality.  He has presented his ideas to business owners and leaders from all over the world. His latest book “Meekoethics: What Happens When Life Gets Messy and the Rules Aren’t Enough” is available on Amazon.com.

Mr. Sheil is currently a Financial Security Advisor and Business Planning Specialist with one of Canada’s premier financial planning organizations.  He brings to his work a passion for people and a desire to teach everyone to live life to the fullest while Eliminating Debt, Building Wealth and Leaving a Legacy.  

He can be reached at themeekonomicsproject@gmail.com or by calling 613-295-4141.

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