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4 Simple Methods for Quicker Decision-Making for Procrastinators and the Indecisive

4 Simple Methods for Quicker Decision-Making for Procrastinators and the Indecisive

Life is full of choice, and whilst it is understandable that we fret over life’s major pathways—Should I go to university? Should I change career sector this late on? When should we start a family?—we are also now fretting over the smaller things in life. Why? Well, simply because we have so many options available to us. The humble weekly grocery shop has turned into an epic adventure, with dozens of brands on offer for every item. On average, we make thousands of decisions a day.

When options are overwhelming though, you can’t help but feel pressured into making the right choice. No wonder then that deciding what to wear today, whether to have another biscuit, or what to cook for the family occasion is bringing us out in a cold sweat! If this relates to you, then it is time to regain control and start making snappier decisions.

So, what are the benefits of making quicker decisions more simply? Firstly, you will stop wasting time on the choices that aren’t so important or critical, and secondly, the more you practice making quick decisions, the better you’ll become (and hopefully therefore more comfortable when making the large decisions).

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Stop sweating it when it comes to making small decisions. Here are four simple tricks you could employ to help blinker the options and make life that little bit simpler.

1. Stick to what you know

I am normally one for branching out and am a big believer that we need to push our comfort zones and try new experiences. However, there is a time and place for that, especially if you’re having a mental burn out making small decisions that are unimportant but have tens of options.

For example, when it comes to options that revolve around non-important choices, such as what coffee to drink or what brand of makeup to buy, then it’s OK to stick with what you know. For the everyday choices, I find that I tend to stick to what I know and am familiar with—I listen to the same radio station each morning, stick to the same brand of hair colorant, buy the same brand of washing detergent, etc.

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2. Choose from a short list of three

Looking at my friends and family and close acquaintances, I would say that most people are indecisive. I think. Or perhaps they aren’t. Oh, I am not so sure now.

When we struggle to make decisions such as what to have for dinner or what to wear to that party at the weekend, how do we possibly make decisions such as what to call our kids or whether we should relocate for work?

When it comes to the smaller decisions and the ones that don’t really matter, quickly narrow your options down to three, then choose one from those short listed. This also works well if you and your partner or friend are being as indecisive as each other over trivial matters, such as where to eat out or what film to watch. It also can be done jointly, so one of you chooses the short list of three and then the other chooses the final option. Quick and simple.

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3. Limit decision-making time

Most indecisive folk will know that they are indecisive, so before you even think about making a decision, set a time limit on it. For example, you have to choose what to buy your mum for her 60th birthday. While this is an important decision (although get it wrong and you’ll feel the smugness of your siblings because their present was better), it isn’t a huge, irreversible decision (just make sure you keep the receipt). Set yourself a time limit, say an hour, to decide what to get her and don’t go over it.

This tactic can also work on larger, more critical decisions too, such as where to get married or what stocks to invest in, in order to help you stop procrastinating and help you to narrow down your options. Set yourself a time limit that is reasonable, say 24 hours or even a week.

4. Go with what you know will be best for you

If you are really struggling to make a decision, let alone the right one, then perhaps it is best not to just narrow down your options, but instead think about which option will be the best outcome for you.

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For example, let’s take the classic situation of being unsure what to eat at a restaurant. Ever been that indecisive friend who is holding up the ordering process because every time it comes round to your turn, you politely tell the waiter to “Come back to me at the end, I am still deciding”? Then you proceed to ask everyone else what they are eating in the hope that you can poach an idea. Well, if this is you, then maybe your best tactic is going for what is best for you, i.e., not the double cheeseburger with extra cheese and bacon with an extra side of fries, but instead the grilled chicken salad.

And this tactic can even be stretched to making more involved decisions, such as which car to buy. Yes, the gas guzzling, bright red, convertible, two-seater sports car may be in the running of options, but when you have a family is it going to be the best option? Think, “Which option is the best outcome for me?” Rather than just, “What do I want?”

Go on, flex that decision-making muscle!

Featured photo credit: openclips via pixabay.com

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Alice Dartnell

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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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