Regardless of your profession, you make a multitude of decisions every day. From whether to hold the meeting in the morning or afternoon, to wear the black suit or the blue one, to hire one job candidate over another, the number of daily decisions is almost endless. No wonder so many people feel overwhelmed with decisions. Even the most confident decision maker occasionally suffers from a brief bout of decidophobia. That's when procrastination sets in.
When it's time to make those tough calls regarding your career, your business and your future, indecision as you thoughtfully review your options is normal. Unfortunately, some business people go beyond thoughtful contemplation and let their fears and insecurities take over, causing them to put off making any kind of decision at all. What they fail to realize, though, is that not making a decision or not taking action actually are passive decisions that typically have negative consequences.
Indecision is a silent enemy that steals many opportunities. You cannot decide what to say to an employee or co-worker who has lost a relative, so you say nothing, losing the opportunity to provide support. You put off deciding if you can afford to go to a conference, so you leave the information on your desk; the next time you read the flyer, you learn that the event has already passed. Your lack of decision-making caused you to miss an opportunity to meet with your colleagues and learn about your industry.
Proactive decision-making is vital to your career, because the sooner you make every decision, the more productive you'll be. You'll rid yourself of the distracting inner question of "what should I do?" and will be able to more fully concentrate on the tasks at hand.
The most adept decision makers use several different decision-making strategies on a daily basis. Master these four decision-making techniques today, so you can make the best decisions for your company and yourself.
1. Light-Speed Decision Making
Just as the name implies, "light speed decision making" means making quick decisions on the spot. This technique works best for smaller decisions, such as what time to conduct a meeting, rather than for major decisions like whether or not to lay off an entire department. The premise behind this strategy is that the quicker you make a decision on the spot, the more organized you'll be. According to Deborah Silverberg, a professional organizer, the clutter that sits on our desks is the result of indecision. People pick up the same memo or read the same e-mail over and over, never deciding what to do with it, which ultimately causes them to have stacks of paper on their desk and an overflowing inbox.
As you begin to make non-crucial decisions quickly, realize that practice makes perfect. To start, make five decisions quickly every day as an exercise. As the clutter on your desk dissipates and you begin to have more time each day, you can tackle more important decisions with this technique.
2. This or That
Sometimes people don't make decisions because they have so much to do and can't prioritize their tasks. So instead of making a decision to do a particular task, they procrastinate by taking a coffee break, organizing their desk, or working on another project that is not as important. During these instances, the "this or that" strategy is a great tool to employ to help you decide what to do next.
Step one: Write down everything you want to complete or make a decision about today.
Step two: Ask yourself what you want to do first. Whatever item you must absolutely complete today should be your top priority. List all the other items underneath.
Step three: Look at the first item on your list and ask if "this" (item one) is more urgent than "that" (item two). If so, it stays where it is. If not, it changes places with the second item. Continue this process with the second and third items, then the third and fourth items, and so on to the end of your list.
For example if you had ten calls to make, a desk to clean, a report to write, meetings to schedule, and a walk to take, you would put the most pressing item first. In this example, that would be the report to write because it has to be finished by 5pm today. As you ask whether the next item (this) is more important than the preceding item (that), you determine the second task to be scheduling the meetings. Next is the walk because it invigorates you; then next come the calls because they keep getting put off; and finally the desk gets clean. If you don't make the calls or clean your desk until the next day, that is okay because the consequences of each are few and you can accept them.
3. Heavy on the Intuition
In other situations, the best decision-making tool is to take a deep breath, close your eyes, and ask yourself what feels like the best decision. This is called the "trust your gut" method of decision-making. For example, if you are packing for a business trip, you may ask yourself, "Should I bring my business suit or casual attire?" When this happens, do not consider every possible scenario. Instead, take a deep breath, ask yourself what feels true, mad then pack the suit in your suitcase or not-and forget about it. Rather than waste time by running through every possible outcome in your mind, you make the decision, get the task done quickly, and do what feels good for that particular situation.
4. Cost vs. Gain + Values x Possibilities
For your most important decisions, the "cost vs. gain" method is invaluable. It is similar to listing "pros" and "cons" in that it allows you to logically see the best decision for your situation.
Step one: On a piece of paper write down the situation that calls for a decision.
Step two: Draw four columns on the remainder of the page. Title the first column "cost," the second column "gain," the third column "values," and the final column "possibilities"
Step three: In the "cost" column, write down the price you pay for deciding a particular way. Consider all costs, including financial costs, time costs, relationship costs, and emotional costs.
Step four: In the "gain" column, write down everything you will gain from this choice, considering financial, emotional, physical, time, relationship, and any other gains.
Step five: In the "values" column, write down which of your values this decision honors and note any values that will be in conflict with the decision.
Step six: In the "possibilities" column, write down what you could do to minimize your costs, increase your gains, and resolve any conflict with your values. The possibilities column helps you come up with creative ways to help you make your decision easier.
So, for example, as you decide whether to visit a client in another state, you would weigh the costs of the airfare, meals, etc, against what you would gain can improved relationship). Then you would determine if this decision supports or goes against your values. If you value building client relationships, then the decision to go appears wise. As you investigate your possibilities, you learn that you can use frequent flyer miles to offset the costs. Now the costs are minimized, the gains are worthwhile, and the decision to go is in alignment with your values. Any other decision would be foolish.
When you make quick and confident decisions you eliminate second-guessing yourself, and you ultimately get more done. Use the decision-making strategy that is best for you and the situation so you can resolve open issues and stick with your decisions once and for all. The more you use these methods, the better you'll make sound decisions that increase your productivity and enhance your career.
Caterina Rando is a success speaker, master certified coach and author. For more information, visit www.caterinar.com, call 800.966.3603 or e-mail her at cpr@caterinarcom.…