I used to watch a show called NCIS. It’s a television drama about special agents from the Naval Criminal Investigative Services. They investigate crimes committed within the Department of the Navy of the United States. The show focuses on a team of special agents led by Leroy Jethro Gibbs.
Gibbs has a set of rules that he lives by. In addition, he considers it to be part of his duty to teach these rules to his team. The rules are guidelines or rules of thumb that Gibbs was taught by mentors, as well as things he’s learned from experience. The purpose of the rules is to help Gibbs, and his team, make good split-second decisions while solving crimes.
Here are some of Gibbs’s rules (he has about 50 of them):
- Rule 1: “Never let suspects stay together.”
- Rule 2: “Always wear gloves at a crime scene.”
- Rule 3: “Don’t believe what you’re told. Double check.”
I was thinking about Gibbs’s rules the other day, and how I could set rules for myself in order to help me achieve my goals. Then, today, I came across an article on money habits, and one of the habits that the author recommended was creating financial rules.
The article referred to these financial rules as “heuristics”. Heuristics is using general knowledge gained by experience. For example, chess players use a heuristic approach. Heuristics work for two main reasons:
- First, because heuristics make decision making easier. Instead of having to make decisions on the spot, you simply apply rules that you’ve set beforehand. In addition, they’re rules that are designed to help you achieve what you want.
- And, second, because psychologists have found that we feel bad about ourselves when we break rules, even rules we’ve set ourselves.
Therefore, for every goal that you have–whether it’s to start getting thirty minutes of exercise a day, to stop smoking, and so on–you should set heuristics for it.
Examples of Rules of Thumb or Heuristics
You can set rules of thumb, or heuristics, for any life area. Below you’ll discover fifteen examples.
If you’re trying to save money you can set rules such as the following:
- Rule 1: “Never spend more than $75 on a pair of shoes.”
- Rule 2. “Never make the decision to buy something that costs more than $100 without sleeping on it first.”
- Rule 3: “Don’t eat out more than twice a week.”
Fitness and Weight Loss
If you want to lose weight you could set rules such as the following:
- Rule 1: “Never bring junk food into the house.”
- Rule 2: “Never skip breakfast.”
- Rule 3: “If you’re still hungry after a meal, wait twenty minutes before deciding whether to have seconds.”
If you’re trying to be more productive, you could set rules such as the following:
- Rule 1: “Never open your email before planning your day.”
- Rule 2. “Write 1,000 words a day, every day, before lunch.”
- Rule 3. “Never watch more than one hour of television a day.”
Becoming an Early Riser
If you’re trying to become an early riser, you could set rules such as the following:
- Rule 1: “Don’t drink caffeine after 1:00 p.m.”
- Rule 2: “Never hit the snooze button.”
- Rule 3. “Turn off the computer at 11:00 p.m.”
Life in General
And here are some general life rules you could consider applying:
- Rule 1: “If you feel pressured to make a decision, say ‘no’”.
- Rule 2. “If you don’t want something to turn into a habit, don’t do it three times in a row.”
- Rule 3. “If someone says something that upsets you, take a deep breath and count to three before you respond.”
In order to start applying rules of thumb that will help you to achieve your goals, do the following:
- Get a piece of paper and a pen and write down an important goal that you have at the top of the sheet of paper.
- Create at least three rules that you think will help you to achieve your goal and write them down. Don’t come up with too many rules or you’ll get overwhelmed and probably end up breaking all of them.
- Start applying your new rules in order to make decisions that will help you to achieve what you want.
- Look at your rules on a regular basis to make sure that they stay fresh in your mind.
It may be difficult for you to follow your rules at first, but if you stick to it soon you’ll be following your rules without having to give them a second thought. And that will help you to achieve your goals.
Just as Gibbs uses rules of thumb to solve crimes, use heuristics to achieve your goals and live your best life. What are some rules of thumb that have helped you to achieve your goals? What are some of the heuristics that you’re going to apply going forward?
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