Recently I’ve been writing a lot about productivity and getting things done more efficiently so you have more free time.
We’ve also discussed decision fatigue before: the concept that you have a limited amount of decisions your brain can properly make in one day. You should not waste these decisions on low-value things, but save them for high-value choices.
Therefore today, I want to talk to you about personal policies.
Personal policies are a set of rules and boundaries you set for yourself so you don’t have to rely on discipline (or your decision-making powers) for certain things.
You can make them about anything like work, private life, spending money or social interactions.
You’ll find examples later in the article, but a well-known one among girls is the ‘don’t sleep with someone until after 3 dates/months’, or ‘I don’t kiss on the first date’.
I think the idea was made popular by Gretchen Rubin in her book: the happiness project*. She calls them her personal commandments.
Why you need personal policies
There are so many reasons why personal policies can be amazing for your life. Let me tell you a couple of them and explain.
Personal policies create space between you and the person you’re saying no to.
By saying it is a personal policy of yours to not attend kid’s birthday parties, you take the personal aspect out of it. It’s not that you don’t want to go to their kids birthday party, you don’t go to any at all. Nothing personal about that.
You have a built-in support system.
While it may take some time to build your personal policies and implement them in your life, after that it’s smooth sailing. You don’t have to think about those decisions anymore because you’ve already decided what to do about them.
They take away some grey areas and room for hesitation and doubt.
Some situations which may have been a grey area, have just become extremely clear.
Let’s say you have a personal policy that you don’t drink during the week. Your friend has invited you to go out for dinner, and you have accepted.
The waiter asks if you would like a glass of wine, and you hesitate. You can always handle a glass of wine without a problem. You won’t feel it tomorrow, and the restaurant is close enough to your home that you didn’t drive here. You do enjoy the taste of wine.
Should you do it?
If your personal policy is that you don’t drink during the week, you simply don’t drink during the week. You pass on the wine and order a soda instead.
Help you create & maintain your dream life faster and easier.
Personal policies can be excellent to keep you on track for your goals.
Let’s take the wine example again. You have just saved yourself a couple of dollars because of that personal policy. You can also have a personal policy to not buy candy or to keep your phone on ‘don’t disturb’ for at least 2 hours a day while you work. This way, you can achieve your goals much quicker, regardless of what they are.
If you have behaviour that keeps you away from your dream life, try a personal policy. Don’t make it a mission to ban bad behaviour out of your life, but try the if/then method, which is proven to be much more efficient.
If the sun shines, then you must go for a walk for at least 15 minutes. If I have to wait for someone to come pick me up, then I will vacuum the house/do the dishes. If it is less than 1 mile, I will walk. I save 25% of my income. This is a simple way to reduce your bad habits and work towards your dream life at the same time.
Set boundaries for yourself
As a child, boundaries were set for you, and most of the time this worked out great. But the older you got, the fewer boundaries were set for you. You gained freedom, but sometimes 100% freedom isn’t all that good either.
Sometimes, it’s good to have boundaries. That’s why personal policies can help us set boundaries for ourselves. Such as no snacking 1.5 hours before dinner. During the week I am in bed by 10.
How to set personal policies
- Think of activities/situations that make you feel good
- Think of activities/situations that make you feel bad
- Think of situations with people who leave you feeling bad
- Do you notice a theme here? Are there any policies you can attach to these situations and activities you’ve identified?
Remember that personal policies can also be very positive, like ‘always accept an invitation for icecream’.
Examples of personal policies
- For any roadtrip longer than 2 hours, I buy an extra treat
- When in doubt, I always choose the option that makes me happiest.
- I only drink alcohol on special occasions
- When my alarm goes off, I get out of bed
- I don’t accept free things ‘just because they’re free’.
- Whenever I work, I put my phone in another room.
- Treat others like you want to be treated
I think personal policies can greatly improve the quality of our lives if set right. It might take a while for you to set your own policies, and you will probably create new ones as life continues. That’s fine and normal. They can make it easier for you to pursue your goals, or simply make you feel better about saying yes or no to certain situations. I hope this has made you think a little, and let me know what your personal policies are in the comments! What ‘commandments’ do you live by?
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