Ondrej Markus

Entrepreneur in ed-tech, building the future of education as a founder and CEO at Playful.

I write about the future of education, designing learning games, and running a startup.

I'm a generalist, introvert, gamer, and optimizing to be useful.

stickman sitting at a desk

Prime your mind for better decisions

How to be your best self when making life-changing decisions.

Prime your mind for better decisions

When you are about to make a big decision, it deserves your highest state of mind.

I have been priming my state of mind for the last two weeks because I’m considering a big change in my life.

So, today, I will show you how I prime my state of mind before making life-changing decisions.

Switching modes: Strategic vs. Tactical

Before I show you how I prepare for high-level planning, I need to explain the difference between the two perspectives I switch between in life: Strategic and Tactical.

Strategic mode: In the clouds

This is a high-level planning and reflection mode. It’s about the big picture of life.

Higher perspective

Higher perspective

The purpose of the Strategic mode is to help me see things from a higher perspective, figure out what I want, and make intelligent decisions on how to best get it.

Tactical mode: In the dirt

This is a low-level execution mode. It’s about the everyday tasks of life.

Everyday messiness

Everyday messiness

The purpose of the tactical mode is to help me finish important work while enjoying the process as much as possible.

I try to switch between these two modes at the right time to leverage their strengths while minimizing their weaknesses.

This is how I do it:

Switch your mode intentionally

Both of these modes have their role, but they do a poor job in each other’s territory. You want to know which one you are in and play by its rules until you decide to switch gears.

Why is that?

If you try to be in the Strategic mode every day, you will get stuck in the big questions of life and get nothing done. You will wonder about the meaning of life instead of finishing the project that’s due tomorrow.

The Tactical mode is useful for everyday life because it helps you focus and get your work done. It’s effective. But it’s also dangerous to stay in there for too long. Because if you never pause to reflect and check if what you’re doing is aligned with your needs and values, you will end up somewhere you hate being.

My approach to balancing this is to work in cycles I call sprints. Every sprint is one cycle of:

Strategy phase (planning) + Tactical phase (execution)

The Strategic phase lasts from one day to up to a week depending on how big of a change am I considering.

And the tactical phase then goes on for the next month or more, until it’s time to pull my head up from the dirt and go back to the strategic drawing board in the clouds, where I can see things more clearly.

Everyday messiness

Everyday messiness

These two work together in a continuous rhythm. On a bigger timeline, it could look like this:

Strategy-Tactical Rhythm

Strategy-Tactical Rhythm

While I’m in the everyday struggle, things get fast and messy and I embrace it. There is no way around it because unexpected problems will get in the way and I have to deal with them on the spot. That’s 99% of the life experience.

But when I need to switch into the Strategic mode, I want my mind in the clearest, most rested, and focused state possible.


Because I don’t want to make a life-changing decision like…

… when my state of mind isn’t as clear as possible.

I want to do as much as I can to ensure I’m on top of my game when making big life-changing decisions.

How to prime your state of mind

Now, we get to the priming part.

I was in Tactical mode for the last three months. I mostly focused on publishing two articles every week without worrying too much about the bigger picture.

It worked. I was on schedule with every article. (Finished 26 articles including this one.)

Today is the last day of that three-month period. So I slowed down over the last two weeks to get ready for a big Strategic phase. And I did my best to get my mind into the best state possible.

This is what I did:

Getting to a high-energy state

Energy defines my mood. When I’m low on energy, I usually feel down and demotivated. When high on energy, I’m optimistic and up to any challenge.

So my mood and motivation come down to my energy management.

Getting calm and focused

Next to being high on energy, I also need to feel calm and undistracted by my circumstances.

My point is…

Your life is your ultimate performance. So why not prepare for the key moments like an athlete would for a competition?

Prime your state of mind to be your best self whenever making important decisions in life.