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10 Tips to Make Decisions Quickly Like a Ninja

10 Tips to Make Decisions Quickly Like a Ninja

How are you in decision making? Do you spend a long time thinking over every single decision, because you are afraid of making the wrong choice? Do you feel a need to analyze every single option before you come to a conclusion?

If so, congratulations — you “suffer” from analysis paralysis. Analysis paralysis is the state of over-thinking about a decision, to the point where a choice never gets made, thereby creating a paralyzed state of inaction.

As much as I’ve no problems making major life decisions quickly and precisely (I took less than a few months to realize my life purpose, a month to realize my boyfriend (now husband) is the one for me, and less than two months to decide to quit my day job to start my business), I used to suck at simple, daily decisions. From buying an external hard disk, to choosing the color to get for my new lip gloss, to deciding what to have for lunch or dinner, these were the little decisions which could leave me stumped for a good 15 minutes.

Needless to say, such indecisiveness would drain me of my time and energy. I would feel panicky over having to pick the “right” option and would get “stuck” with decision making. What should rightfully be simple decisions would explode into complicated messes as I would hunt down all options and mull over them obsessively — hence making it near impossible to arrive at any decision.

This was in the past though. Today, I’m prompt with both small and large decisions. This guide shares 10 key tips that I applied to break out of analysis paralysis. Tips #1, #3, #5, #6, and #7 have been particularly crucial for me.

Tip #1. Differentiate Between Big and Small Decisions

Firstly, differentiate between big and small decisions. Then, give them the attention they deserve based on their importance.

A big part of my analysis paralysis in the past came from treating all decisions as if they were life altering when really, they weren’t. While my meticulousness helped with life decisions like finding my soulmate and discovering my life path, it was very draining with other decisions because I would invest much time and energy in them even though they didn’t warrant the effort.

Are you stumped by a decision right now? Ask yourself:

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  1. How important is this decision?
  2. Will the outcome of this decision make a difference a year from now?
  3. What’s the worst thing that can happen from this?

Give a decision only the time and effort that it deserves, based on its importance.

If the decision isn’t going to make any major difference to your life in a year’s time and there are no serious consequences that will come out of it (e.g., picking the wrong color for your post-it notes), then it is a small decision. Chill and let go. Spend as little time and effort as you can to nail it.

If a decision will create major impact in your life even after a year and there are serious implications from making the wrong choice (e.g., marrying someone you no longer feel right about), then that’s a big decision. Set aside proper time to think over it; delay if necessary. I have a guide “How To Make Life’s Hardest Decisions” to break out of these dilemmas.

For anything in between, give it some level of thought, but don’t let it drag for too long.

Tip #2. Identify Your Top Objective(s)

Before entering into the decision making process, identify your top objective(s) for this decision. Then, use that to guide you in your decision making. This will help you to arrive at a valid decision quicker.

For example, many people often want to collaborate with me in my business. From promoting their products, to promoting their campaigns, having me create a course for their portal, to creating a new offering together, these are examples of pitches I get every week.

My criteria for this decision is simple: exposure for my blog. Will I gain any exposure for Personal Excellence from this engagement? is the question I ask myself. If the answer is “no” and they are simply trying to get free exposure with minimal/no contribution on their end, then it’s usually a “no”. In knowing my end objective, it helps me to be quick and decisive since I can immediately assess the option that’ll help me to realize my end goal.

Tip #3. Perfection is not the key; “Moderately okay” is

Unless it’s a life-altering decision, perfection isn’t the key. Your role is to pick a moderately okay decision in a fair amount of time, then move forward after that.

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Why do I say that? That’s because every option has its pros and cons, and it’s very hard to be in a situation where the perfect choice is available right there and right then. While you can work through and hunt down the perfect choice, it comes at a high cost. The 80/20 rule applies, where you need to invest 80% of effort just to achieve that incremental 20% improvement in your final decision.

Now, if the decision is a life-altering one, then it’s worth to invest time and effort to get the perfect pick. However, if the decision isn’t going to make a big difference in your life a year or two from now (see Tip #1), then it doesn’t matter whether you make a lousy, a not-so-lousy, or an awesome choice — the difference between the options will never create any far-reaching consequences. Even if you pump in hours of hard work to arrive at a top-notch solution, it will never result in a significant difference in your life.

This doesn’t mean that you should just pick a random option for all decisions: after all, negative effects can accumulate over time to create a huge negative impact. However, it does mean that you should go the 80/20 way and go with a moderately okay selection and not hunt down a “perfect” choice.

Tip #4. Eliminate the Bad Options

Next, eliminate the bad options. Having a flood of options can clutter up the decision making process, so eliminate the bad ones right away to make it easier to assess. Refer to your objectives for making this decision (see Tip #2), identify the options that will definitely not meet your objectives, and get rid of them.

The ones that are left should be the considerably good ones, which then allows you to make a more pinpointed assessment.

Tip #5. Pick One and Go — Don’t Look Back After That

If you are stumped by the options and you are not sure which one to pick… then just pick one and go. Don’t look back after that.

While this may seem reckless, it actually isn’t. The reason why you have shortlisted these options is because they are reasonably good. If it’s really crappy, you would have eliminated them as per Tip #4! Now, no matter which option you pick, you will miss out on the benefits exclusive to the other options, since each option probably has its unique pros and cons.

Hence, rather than agonize over which one to choose, it’s more important that you select one quickly and make the best out of it. In doing so, you will create your perfect outcome — simply because you made the commitment to make the best out of it.

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Tip #6. Let Go of Your Childhood Stories Surrounding Decision Making

Part of the reason for my past analysis paralysis is because my dad would always tell me to be prudent and to only buy the things I need (he still does that actually). Even though I grew up frugal, my dad still chides me over any new things I buy because he perceives them as wastage. “钱很难赚,不要乱乱花” is what he always says (translated from Mandarin means, “It’s hard to earn money; don’t spend it carelessly.”).

Hence, I became irrationally resistant to bad choices. Is this the best option? I would always ask myself. Is there a better option? What if I don’t like this later on? What if there are hidden cons to this option? What if a better option comes up later? That would mean that I’ve made a bad decision! 

Eventually, I realized that I was living under the shadow of my childhood stories. For example, every decision has its pros and cons, and it’s unrealistic to think that I have made a bad decision just because there are one or two things I don’t like about it. Even if I have truly made a bad decision, it’s silly to beat myself up over it since everyone makes bad decisions at one point or another. It’s more important that I learn from my mistakes and focus on the positive side of each situation, rather than focus on the bad side.

If you constantly freeze in the face of decisions, and your paralysis seems to have a life of its own, then it’s possible that there’s a childhood story driving you to act this way. What is your childhood story for decision making? How can you let go of it?

More on childhood stories and how to let go of them: What Childhood Stories Are You Reenacting in Your Life Today?

Tip #7. Set a Hard Time Limit

Set a hard time limit for your decision. Your time limit should be based on the importance of the decision (refer to Tip #1). Since time is relative and every decision is different, there is no hard and fast rule on the limit. Personally, I limit myself to more than two minutes for small decisions and no more than a few days to weeks for mid-level decisions. For big decisions, technically I allow myself to take as long as needed, though I always come to a conclusion within a couple of months.

Tip #8. Delegate the Decision to Someone Else

This tip is a little sneaky since you are effectively removing yourself from the decision-making process and shifting the decision-making responsibility to someone else. However, it works if you trust the opinion of that person and you’re okay with not handling the decision.

I recently put this at work in my business. A few months ago, I hired a permanent admin assistant — sort of like my right hand person — to take care of my admin work. This includes making administrative decisions on my behalf, after which I’ll review and approve or amend where needed. By doing so, I never get too involved in the admin work, which prevents me from going into analysis paralysis mode in my admin decisions.

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Tip #9. Get the Opinion of Someone You Trust and Go with It

The second to last tip is to get the opinion of someone you trust and go along with it. This is slightly different from Tip #8 in that you still take ownership of the decision even though you’re basing it on someone else’s opinion.

I often do this when I’m shopping and can’t make up my mind. Usually I narrow it down to two options, after which I’ll consult my friend whom I’m shopping with and/or seek the advice of the store assistant. If their recommendation makes sense, I’ll go along with it; if not, I’ll pick the one I prefer. Either way, getting their opinion accelerates my decision-making process since I get more inputs to help me decide what I really want.

Tip #10. Channel Your Energy into Other Things

If you are still in analysis paralysis mode despite the nine tips, it’s possible that you simply have extra energy that’s not being channeled into more meaningful areas!

For example, I notice that I sometimes obsess about things simply because I have the bandwidth to do so. I’ll ask myself: Are there more important things I can do now than hyper-analyze this decision? What more important tasks can I divert my time and energy to? How can I get started? Be it writing a new article, replying important emails, working on a new course, or creating a new video, I’ll then get to those things right away rather than obsess further on the decision.

Interestingly, as I do that, the decision becomes smaller in magnitude and I’m able to come to a conclusion after a short while.

So if your analysis paralysis is coming from having too much excess energy, then channel that energy into other tasks. Find more important tasks to devote yourself to. You’ll be much more productive this way; you’ll also find yourself getting clarity in your decision as you spend time away from it.

Read the original article in full: Stop Analysis Paralysis: How to Be Fast and Decisive in Decision Making | Personal Excellence

Featured photo credit: LendingMemo via flickr.com

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Celestine Chua

Life Coach, Blogger

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Last Updated on April 23, 2019

How to Set Stretch Goals and Keep Your Team Motivated

How to Set Stretch Goals and Keep Your Team Motivated

Stretch goals are a lot like physical fitness. When you adopt a physical sport such as running, continual practice leads to increased stamina, growth and progress.

While commitment to the sport improves performance, true growth happens when you are stretched beyond your comfort zone. I know this from personal experience.

For years, I was an avid runner. I ran with a variety of running groups in the Washington, D.C., area and in Columbus, Ohio, where I lived prior to moving to the nation’s capital in 2011.

While I was initially fearful about slacking off on my exercise habit when I moved to D.C., running enthusiasts in the area provided continual motivation, inspiring me to lace up my shoes day after day. Much to my surprise, many of the area’s running stores (including Pacers and Potomac River Running) boasted running groups that met in the mornings and evenings. So, it was relatively easy for a newcomer like me to connect with like-minded peers.

I was never a particularly fast runner, but I enjoyed the afterglow of the sport: being completely drained but feeling a sense of accomplishment; setting and reaching goals; buying and wearing out new tennis shoes. The sound of throngs of feet pounding the pavement in semi-unison is still enough to bring tears to my eyes. Yes, I sometimes tear up at the start of races.

Of all the groups I ran with, the Pacers Store group that met on Monday nights in Logan Circle boasted the fastest runners. I met up with the group week after week only to be the slowest runner. It was difficult to muster the courage to get up every week and meet the group knowing what was waiting for me: sweating and watching the backs of fellow runners.

Each time I joined the group, I was stretching myself without even realizing it. Instead of feeling like I was transitioning into a better running, for a long time I felt I was torturing myself.

Then something remarkable happened. I went for a run with a different set of runners and noticed my time had improved. I was running at a faster pace and doing so with ease. What was once uncomfortable for me I now handled with ease.

The reason I was becoming a better runner was because I was taking myself out of my comfort zone and challenging myself physically and mentally. This example illustrates the process of growth.

Fortunately, we can create situations that stretch us in our personal and professional lives.

What Is a Stretch Goal?

A stretch goal – as authors Sim B. Sitkin, C. Chet Miller and Kelly E. See detail an article “The Stretch Goal Paradox” in Harvard Business Review[1] – is something that is extremely difficult and novel. It is something that not everyone does, and it’s sometimes considered impossible.

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In general, you establish stretch goals by doing things that are difficult or temporarily challenging.

For instance, when I was first promoted to a senior communications management role, I knew I needed to beef up my relationships with media personalities. I set a goal to once a month book a day of media interviews in New York City – which is home to many media outlets, including SiriusXM radio, CNN, NBC News, HuffPost, VIBE.

This was a huge goal because it meant not only identifying the right people to meet with but convincing them to meet with me and my team. While I didn’t end up meeting the goal of doing a full day of media interviews in New York City, I met more people than I would have met had I not established the goal and instead stayed in the comfort of my D.C. office.

It is important to note that just because you establish a stretch goal doesn’t mean you’ll achieve the goal each time. However, the process of trying is guaranteed to provide some level of growth.

The Importance of Creating Stretch Goals

The beginning of the year is a perfect time to assess where you are excelling and where there is room for you to grow. I typically start the year by creating a yearlong strategic plan for myself.

I think about the things that are necessary to do and things that would be cool to do. I assess the people I should know and think through how to meet them. Then I ask myself if the goals are realistic and what would need to happen for me to achieve them.

Over time, I have learned that there are five things I can do to set stretch goals:

1. Get Outside of Your Head

If I exist within the confines of my imagination, I imperil my own growth and creativity.

If I examine my accomplishments and celebrate them in isolation of others’ accomplishments, my vantage point is limited.

I want to be comfortable with what I accomplish, but I also want to be motivated by watching others. In some respects, stretching is about expanding your network of friends, associates and mentors. These are the people who will propel or slow your growth and development.

Since two are better than one, I always value being able to share my progress with others, seek feedback and then map a plan for success.

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2. Focus on a Couple Areas at a Time

When setting goals, it is important to focus on a couple of areas at a time. Most of us are only able to focus on a few things at a time, and if you feel you are unable to tackle all that is before you, you may simply disengage.

I see this in so many areas of life:

When people get in debt, if they believe the debt is insurmountable, they refuse to look at incoming bills for fear of facing down the debt. Unfortunately, many businesses go awry when setting stretch goals.

In “The Stretch Goal Paradox,” Sitkin, Miller and See note:

“Our research suggests that though the use of stretch goals is quite common, successful use is not. And many executives set far too many stretch goals. In the past five years, for example, Tesla failed to meet more than 20 of founder Elon Musk’s ambitious projections and missed half of them by nearly a year, according to the Wall Street Journal.”

Goal-setting is like a marathon, not a sprint. It doesn’t all need to happen at the same time, and pacing is extremely important if you want to get to the finish line. It is better to focus on a couple goals at a time, master them and then move on to the next thing.

3. Set Aside Time Each Year to Focus on Goal-Setting

When I was a managing director for communications for the Advancement Project, I spent the first part of every year facilitating a communications planning meeting.

The planning meeting began with the team members assessing the goals the team had established in the preceding year, and whether those goals were realistic or not. If we failed to meet certain goals, we broke down why that happened. From there, we brainstormed about possibilities for the current year.

For instance, one year we set a goal of pitching and getting 24 opinion essays published. This was audacious because no one on the eight-person team had the luxury of focusing exclusively on editing and pitching opinion essays to publications around the world. We would need to focus on pitching in between the rest of our work.

We hit this goal within the first eight months of the year. Remarkably, in total, we ended up getting 40 opinion essays published that year, which was an indication that our original goal was too low. We upped the goal to 41 the next year, and amazingly, we hit 42 published opinion essays or guest columns.

From this experience, we not only learned what was feasible, we also learned the power of focus.

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When we focused as a team on getting the commentary on our issues out in the public domain, we were successful. The key in all of this is that there was a ton of discussion around which goal we’d pursue and why.

Equally important, as a manager, I didn’t set the goals alone; the team members and I established the goals collaboratively. This ensured buy-in from each individual.

4. Use the S.M.A.R.T. Goal Model to Set Realistic Goals

S.M.A.R.T.

is a synonym for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound. For the sake of this article, the realistic portion of the acronym is most important.

While you want to set audacious goals, you want to ensure that they are realistic as well. No one is served by setting a goal that is impossible to accomplish.

Failing to meet goals can be demoralizing for teams, so it’s important to be sober-eyed about what is possible. Additionally, the purpose of setting goals is to advance and grow, not depress morale.

For instance, my team would have been discouraged had I begun the year asking it to pitch and place 40 opinion essays if we didn’t already have a track record of placing close to two dozen essays.

By using the S.M.A.R.T. formula, we were able to achieve all that we set out to do.

5. Break the Goal up into Small Digestible Parts

I am a recovering perfectionist. As a writer, being a perfectionist can be counterproductive because I can fail to start if I don’t see a clear pathway to victory.

The same is true with goal-setting. That’s why I join Lifehack’s fellow contributor Deb Knobelman, Ph.D., in noting that it is critically important to break goals into bite-sized chunks.

When I had a goal of doing daylong media meetings in New York City, I had to think through all the barriers to achieving that goal and all the steps required to meet the goal.

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One step was identifying which reporters, producers and hosts to engage. Another step was writing a pitch or meeting invitation that would capture their attention. Another step was thinking through the program areas I wanted to highlight and the new angles I could offer to different reporters.

Since reporters want to cover stories that no one else has written, I needed to come up with fresh angles for each of the reporters I was engaging. An additional step was thinking through who from my team I’d take with me to the various meetings.

I was clear that, as a talking head, as public relations reps are sometimes called, I needed the right spokesperson in order to land repeated meetings with different outlets.

A final step was thinking through what I needed to bring to each meeting and which reports, videos and testimonials would buttress our claims and be of interest to media figures.

As I walked through what was needed to bring my goal of doing daylong meetings to reality, I realized that not only was the idea within reach, but I was excited to tackle the challenge.

From that point until now, I have learned to break down goals into smaller parts and tackle the smaller parts on the path to knocking the goal out of the park.

The Bottom Line

These are my recommendations for setting stretch goals, and there are a ton of other resources to support you in the workplace and in your community.

For instance, LinkedIn’s Lynda.com platform has a wonderful suite of leadership development videos, including ones on establishing stretch goals. This is a paid resource but may be worth the investment if you lead a team or want to invest in tools for your own growth and development.

Featured photo credit: Avatar of user Isaac Smith Isaac Smith @isaacmsmith Isaac Smith via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Harvard Business Review: The Stretch Goal Paradox

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