Decide; Work Smarter and Lead, book notes and summary

Decide; Work Smarter, Reduce your Stress, and Lead by example. author: Steve McClatchy

Link to book:

Steve McClatchy has taken time management and priorities to a different level.  He presents the material in his book in a unique way with stories and illustrations that really make the points he is conveying.  This is one of the best books I have read this year so far.  I highly highly recommend this book.

The book starts out with the first Chapter titled: Two forms of human motivations: Gain and Prevent pain. Either gain or prevent pain pushes you toward completing every decision and activity you pursue.  And although it could be a combination of both, one is always in the majority.  You have 51 percent or more of one of those motivations driving you to do that specific task. The most important difference between the two is the results they produce.

Tasks that you are driven toward by Gain produce more significant positive results in your life and your business than tasks that are driven toward by prevent pain.

  • Gain tasks are focusing on something you want.  You are figuring out how to produce results that you desire in your life.
  • Prevent pain tasks such as paying the bills and doing laundry.  Cleaning laundry isn’t something we desire out of life.  We do it to prevent pain of not having any clothes to wear.

Prevent Pains Tasks are:  (Have To’s; One thing they all have in common:  if neglected, someone else will eventually bring it to your attention)

  • Have to do’s.  Sure you can choose not to do them, but you will have face the consequences of not doing them.
  • Simply prompt us to do what we have to do.
  • No matter where you are in life and the responsibilities you have or don’t have, you can always fill up your day with prevent pain tasks.  There is always something to repair, maintain, clean, feed, keep up with, pay for, care for.  The reason that prevent pain tasks go on an on is that they never actually go away; they just eventually repeat. EX:  You don’t really cross off doing dishes off your to do list; you just move it to the bottom because the next night, you will have to wash them again.
  • Tasks such as putting gas in your car, checking email, doing laundry, going grocery shopping, never end, they are never finished.
  • Prevent Pain tasks come with varying degrees of urgency.  You have to complete them, such as assignment for work, according to deadlines.
  • Others such as housecleaning, have a little more flexibility in terms of timeline, its your responsibility to get them done some time or deal with the consequences of failing to complete them.
  • There is nothing special about prevent pain tasks.  Making good grades in school, doing the laundry, meeting the minimum expectations at work, all of these things will not differentiate you from anyone else.  The only way you can differentiate yourself is doing Gain Tasks.

Gain Tasks (Are never urgent)

  • Urgency is a great human motivator.  But when it comes to results, urgency alone can’t deliver.  It is not a great criterion for deciding what is most important or what will produce the most significant results in your life.
  • Gain Tasks can always wait.  There are no deadlines or reports due for it.  You don’t owe it to anyone.
  • Your only motivation to do a Gain Task is to improve your life in some way. It is never an urgent situation.
  • You don’t have to do Gain Tasks.
  • Motivation to complete a Gain task comes from the opportunity to gain improvement and results in your life, not from fear of the consequences that may arise if you don’t do it. No one will ever ask you about it or follow-up on it.  Theres only one reason why you would do it: because you want to, not because you have to.
  • Nothing bad will happen, but nothing good will ever happen either if you don’t complete gain tasks.
  • You wont move toward that goal or enjoy improvement. Your life will stay the same for as long as you let it.
  • The reason to complete a Gain Task is because you desire the results that task will bring.
  • Whenever we are motivated by a Gain, we are thinking about the results our time and effort will bring us in our lives, in our relationships, and in our business.
  • You cant delegate a Gain task to anyone else.
  • The nature of a Gain task or goal is only you can do it.  No one else can do it for you.
  • You cant delegate your goals and dreams to another person.

Examples of Prevent Pain:

  • Laundry
  • Taking out the trash
  • emails
  • following up on voice mails
  • Paying bills
  • daily personal grooming
  • grocery shopping
  • fixing broken things
  • caring for pets

Examples of Gain Tasks:

  • Pursuing an advanced degree
  • Getting a certificate in something
  • Writing a book
  • buying an income property
  • closing a big deal
  • Consumption goals:  Short term reward for the hard work you have done.  (vacation, night out, a concert, major purchase such as purse or watch)
  • Creation Goals: When you reach these goals your life will be better.
  • Creation goals have a lasting, longer term impact and you will remember them as being significant.
  • Although fun and uplifting, consumption goals have a more fleeting impact.

Prevent pain tasks versus Gain tasks:  Prevent Pain tasks are maintenance where Gain tasks are for improvement.

The best way to combat burnout and stress and achieve a feeling that your life is balance between what you ahem to do and what makes you feel alive is to continuously seek improvement in some area of your life.

The author goes on to explain that your to do list should be prioritized by A, B, C tasks.

  • A tasks:  Goals, Leadership, Improvement
  • B tasks: Important maintenance responsibilities (a report, paying bills, taking inventory)
  • C tasks: Maintenance: dishes, laundry, grooming


  • Your brain is hardwired to prioritize survival over improvement. Prevent Pain over Gain.  You brain is not necessarily a mechanism designed for success, fulfillment, happiness, and growth, it is a mechanism designed for survival.
  • It will always at attend to what you need for protection and survival first. To take risks and make choices that lead to Gain, you have to override your brains natural instinct.

Procrastination and Motivation: 

  • Motivation exists when there is a distance between where you are and where you want to be.
  • Two categories of motivation are fear and desire. We fear the pain of consequences of not doing something we have to.  We desire the results brought out by gain and improvement in our lives.
  • Energy and motivation to do prevent pain tasks come from pursing gain tasks.
  • Procrastination is how we use fear to do something we don’t want to do.
  • Problems with procrastination:  Lower quality products are produced, we have less control and convenience over it, stress comes from it.
  • Procrastination is not as much as of a time management problem as it is a decision-making problem. 

Nothing about prevent pain tasks sets us apart from anyone else. The results you get everyday are not determined by the “have to” tasks. 

Everything we do everyday can be broken down into three categories: Habits, To Do items, and calendar events. 

Habits:  Mostly influence parts of our life such as hygiene, health, eating, repeat spending, relaxing chores, emails, and rote tasks.  We doth have to write them down, because we wont forget to do them.

To do Lists: maintenance tasks that you don’t want to forget. Updating a file, sending out an email, checking in with a client, going to dry cleaners, grocery shopping, paying a bill.

Calendar: For things that are time specific: events, appointments, and anything you gave to be on time for, whether its business or personal.

Use your calendar for Gain:

  • Anything on your calendar you will defend and protect.  You wont skip.
  • Use your calendar to give your goals the attention they deserve.

Without the strong self-identity that comes from pursuing gain, your ego will try to compensate by cementing with and comparing you to people around you.

To live without goals is to love without passion for anything, and that will only lead to burn out.  Working toward creation is what ends the burnout and the competition.

Your work too hard to just prevent pain everyday.

This is a little bit of a unique book summary, but I hope you see the points the author is conveying.  I included the major points of emphasis that I really liked throughout the book.

Summary of the summary and notes: 

  • Identify where you spend most of your time.  Preventing Pain or Creating Gain.
  • Be sure to create Creation Goals and Tasks and be sure they are on your calendar.  The important stuff goes on your calendar and that should include your Gain Tasks.
  • Make better decisions and don’t procrastinate
  • Your brain will go into survival mode before it goes into improvement mode.  Change this natural tendency.

To your success and your future.







One response to “Decide; Work Smarter and Lead, book notes and summary”

  1. Why your decision making is keeping you stuck | Self-Development Addict Avatar

    […] I wrote a summary of this book you can check out here. […]

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