Traffic Lights & Successful Thinking
Do you find yourself regretting a choice you just made?
Saying yes to something you wish you hadn’t, doing something that wasn’t helpful. or perhaps finding yourself in the company of someone you would rather avoid?
Well, you are not alone.
Read on for a simple tool to help.
A tool to tackle this in an easy and effective way.
Clarity and Better Decisions
Life can be challenging. Every single day we have to make so many decisions. Doing something, not doing something, agreeing to something, not agreeing to something. Maybe even trying to decide how to undo something we have already agreed to!
And, as for those decisions we make instantaneously, and then regret, or are unhelpful. Those decisions we could do with taking more time over. Or the decisions which need additional willpower or energy, because they are more emotionally difficult, time consuming, or we need to break a habit around them. Well, they have their own challenges.
When we are tired, have conflicting demands on our time, or we have used a lot of that willpower during the day, it can be harder to stay focused. To go on to make the best decisions, or choose what is best for us, or our organisation, in those split seconds.
What can we do to make it easier?
It boils down to ensuring we can make quick decisions that are aligned with our goals, focus, or desired outcomes.
One way to do that is to use an effective tool for decision making, and today I am introducing to you to such a tool – the traffic light system.
A simple method I have recently developed to make useful, and proactive, choices quickly.
It can be used for time management, for taking a litmus test of how you are enjoying elements of your day or week, reviewing productivity, deciding what to do next in challenging situations, and more.
I came across using red, amber, and green, in the context of food choices, and have now expanded it outwards. I hope you find it just as useful.
How do I use traffic lights in decision making?
Well, in addition to the traffic lights on our streets, you may have seen red, amber and green used in other situations. One example that you might be familiar with is a traffic light system used on food packaging in UK supermarkets. It gives people, at a glance, nutritional information such as the level of certain fats, sugar and salt. Red being high and green being low.
In the same way you can use, at a glance (or instinctively) red, amber, and green in your decision making and thought processes.
What does this look like in practice?
Well, let’s look at the three colours first as follows:
Red – these are, for example, people, activities, foods, approaches, or behaviours that are usually the direct opposite to your goals, or desired outcomes. You know they are not good for you, or they don’t take you towards your goals, or form part of the life you want to lead. They can even impact on your physical or mental wellbeing. (Consuming certain types of high calorie foods or drinks might fall into this category, or agreeing to certain obligations).
Yellow/Amber – these are, for example, people, activities, foods, approaches, or behaviours, that whilst not destructive, you need to proceed with caution. You may need to limit them, be clear on your boundaries, or only indulge in them occasionally. Your aim is to avoid them stalling you, or worse, when in volume, taking you completely off track. (Social media use, or responding to certain types of emails might fall into this category).
Green – these take you towards your goals, and/or bring you joy, happiness, or energy. They feel good, or support your mind, body, goals, and life. It may be that some of these you can do in abundance readily and/or feel great. Others you may need to push yourself to do, however, you know they move you towards your desired outcomes. They support specific goals, or your life and wellbeing as a whole. (Going to bed early might fall into this category, or spending quality time with family and friends).
How to use it – a few more examples
The beauty of this tool is that it is meant to be instinctive to a larger degree. Especially if you are clear on what you want to achieve. Once there, you can quickly judge whether what you are about to do, or choose, will be on the spectrum of green, amber, or red.
Over thinking can take away some of the benefit and ease of its simplicity. So do try playing around with it for a bit to see what your instincts are.
For those that would like some examples, here you are:
Using the traffic light tool in business – an example of time management:
Let’s say your goals include more sales – does the activity you have chosen (or were doing just before reading this!) genuinely take you proactively closer to a sale (green). Or is it amber, perhaps indirect marketing, and, as such, you need to keep an eye on how much time or money is spent doing it. Or, when looking at it head on, is what you are doing in fact superficial? Perhaps it keeps you busy and therefore it feels like you are doing something, but it is not genuinely generating sales and so it is a red activity. Not only are you not moving forwards towards achieving a sale, but time is being lost.
What about the client themselves, are they green, yellow, or red for your business?
Using the traffic light tool in life – an example of using it a litmus test:
Looking at your week ahead, do you have anything coming up that makes you feel excited (green)? What is neutral, or is reasonably necessary (amber)? Is there anything that makes you feel anxious, unhappy, or is likely to derail you, or worse, sabotage your goals and outcomes completely (red)? What about the person you are spending time with?
Using the traffic light tool overall:
Whatever the situation, you can apply it to any given decision. You apply it by doing a quick cross check against your goals.
The aim is not to overthink it. You can then use it to your advantage in your day to day decisions.
If necessary, you can put aside time to create better solutions, to get you to where you want to go. You can do this by achieving greater clarity on your goals, and determining what precisely a red, amber, or green activity/person/item/choice might be.
You will usually find this tool effective because it begins with the fact it encourages you to pause, which in itself makes a significant difference.
It then lends itself to a useful and quick assessment of what you are considering, allowing for proactive and effective decision making.
As a tool it can also quickly become instinctive and habitual.
In some of the more challenging situations, it can also be an impetus for change, motivation to stay on track, or a reason to keep going.
I hope you found this useful. I would love to know how you got on. Drop me an email or join me on social media, and tell me what changed for you.
In the meantime, play around with it, and have a great rest of the week.
p.s. found this useful? Please share it with others.