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Stop Dithering: Become A Better Decision-Maker

Stop Dithering: Become A Better Decision-Maker
Decision

    Ever encountered a project where only one decision needs to be made before you can finish the project? It may only take you a few hours to finish the project once that decision is made, but invariably, it’s the decision that takes forever to make. It’s because decision-making is as much a skill as riding a bike: it’s something that you learn and improve on as you practice.

    I think my first introduction to the concept of improving my own decision-making abilities was in The 4-Hour Workweek — one of the exercises Timothy Ferriss recommends is making snap decisions. But the issue of decision-making is being considered on a much wider level than just productivity gurus. Yesterday, the New York Times posted a column from John Tierney on their website titled “The Price of Dithering.” The reason that writers from Ferriss to Tierney are focusing so much on the topic of decision-making is the fact that dithering really can be quite expensive. An inability to move on to the next project can have massive opportunity costs, in addition to the financial upkeep needed to keep other folks ready to spring into action once a decision has been made. Avoiding these price tags is a matter of improving your ability to quickly make decisions and move on.

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    Snap Judgments

    When I talk about improving your decision-making skills, I’m talking about quantity rather than quality. Having the discernment to make the best decision in every situation is a skill that each of us spends our entire life working on. Instead, the quick fix is reducing the time that it takes us to reach our conclusion — while still coming to the same decision we would if we spent hours on an issue.

    The first step to handling big decisions quickly is dealing with small ones immediately. Most of us have too little time to spend even an extra half hour trying to pick out an outfit to wear to the office. As long as your proposed outfit is within the guidelines of your office’s dress code, put it on and get on to the next decision. Some of these small decisions can even be eliminated entirely. Effectively, you just need to make a blanket decision to cover a variety of situations — like if you are planning an investment strategy. Sitting down once a year and choosing where your money is going saves you from having to decide every time you get a little spare change.

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    Advise

    Whenever I struggle with a decision, I ask for advice. An expert opinion can often simplify a decision, after all. However, I’ve found that getting too much advice can be a double-edged sword — sure, information can help you make a better decision, but some advice can be faulty and sorting through the unhelpful information can extend the decision-making process. I’ve heard a variation on the classic example from just about every graphic designer I’ve ever met: a client is at some important decision-making stage and is looking at a design. The client asks for some time to consider and proceeds to ask for advice from his girlfriend/secretary/trash collector/whoever and that advisor just flat out doesn’t like the design. The problem is that none of those advisors has any experience with graphic design. They haven’t been in on the developmental meetings, they don’t know the logic that led the client and the designer to a particular design, and, therefore, they probably don’t have the necessary knowledge to help you make the best decision.

    My advise to decision-makers is simple. For any decision, limit yourself to one or two advisors who happen to be experts in their field. You should, of course, discuss the matter with those individuals who your decision affects (your spouse if you’re considering taking a job in another state, your employees if you’re moving your company to another state, etc.) but don’t necessarily consider them experts.

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    Confidence

    When you first start thinking about making a large purchase — television, car, whatever — odds are that you start out with a specific brand or model in mind. But then you start doing research, looking at other options and generally dithering about your decision. The whole process can take months, and, when you finally make up your mind, there is a fair chance that you went back to your initial choice.

    I’ve had plenty of problems with ignoring those initial inclinations myself. It comes down to the fact that many of us simply don’t have a whole heck of a lot of confidence in our own abilities to make decisions. And I’m the first to admit that my decisions are not nearly perfect. There have been plenty that I want to take back. The easiest way, however, to speed up the process of making decisions is to realize that you will make the best decision you can, based on the information you have available. Delaying isn’t guaranteed to give you the time to learn more and you may already have all the information you need.

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    Look at it this way: you’re not going to intentionally make a poor decision. Keeping the fact that you’re going to do your best in your mind may be able to provide you with a bit more confidence. That’s the optimist’s option, of course. For those of us who lean to the pessimistic side of things, thinking about worse case scenarios can be equally effective. It’s rare that we make a decision that cannot be repaired if something goes wrong. Sure, it might take a little work or money, but most decisions really aren’t life and death. I remember thinking that choosing a college would determine who I would be for the rest of my life. But college students certainly aren’t stuck with that decision: while I liked my school just fine, I had a classmate who transferred three times and a few who dropped out entirely.

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    Last Updated on March 29, 2021

    5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

    5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

    When I left university I took a job immediately, I had been lucky as I had spent a year earning almost nothing as an intern so I was offered a role. On my first day I found that I had not been allocated a desk, there was no one to greet me so I was left for some hours ignored. I happened to snipe about this to another employee at the coffee machine two things happened. The first was that the person I had complained to was my new manager’s wife, and the second was, in his own words, ‘that he would come down on me like a ton of bricks if I crossed him…’

    What a great start to a job! I had moved to a new city, and had been at work for less than a morning when I had my first run in with the first style of bad manager. I didn’t stay long enough to find out what Mr Agressive would do next. Bad managers are a major issue. Research from Approved Index shows that more than four in ten employees (42%) state that they have previously quit a job because of a bad manager.

    The Dream Type Of Manager

    My best manager was a total opposite. A man who had been the head of the UK tax system and was working his retirement running a company I was a very junior and green employee for. I made a stupid mistake, one which cost a lot of time and money and I felt I was going to be sacked without doubt.

    I was nervous, beating myself up about what I had done, what would happen. At the end of the day I was called to his office, he had made me wait and I had spent that day talking to other employees, trying to understand where I had gone wrong. It had been a simple mistyped line of code which sent a massive print job out totally wrong. I learn how I should have done it and I fretted.

    My boss asked me to step into his office, he asked me to sit down. “Do you know what you did?” I babbled, yes, I had been stupid, I had not double-checked or asked for advice when I was doing something I had not really understood. It was totally my fault. He paused. “Will you do that again?” Of course I told him I would not, I would always double check, ask for help and not try to be so clever when I was not!

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    “Okay…”

    That was it. I paused and asked, should I clear my desk. He smiled. “You have learnt a valuable lesson, I can be sure that you will never make a mistake like that again. Why would I want to get rid of an employee who knows that?”

    I stayed with that company for many years, the way I was treated was a real object lesson in good management. Sadly, far too many poor managers exist out there.

    The Complete Catalogue of Bad Managers

    The Bully

    My first boss fitted into the classic bully class. This is so often the ‘old school’ management by power style. I encountered this style again in the retail sector where one manager felt the only way to get the best from staff was to bawl and yell.

    However, like so many bullies you will often find that this can be someone who either knows no better or is under stress and they are themselves running scared of the situation they have found themselves in.

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    The Invisible Boss

    This can either present itself as management from afar (usually the golf course or ‘important meetings) or just a boss who is too busy being important to deal with their staff.

    It can feel refreshing as you will often have almost total freedom with your manager taking little or no interest in your activities, however you will soon find that you also lack the support that a good manager will provide. Without direction you may feel you are doing well just to find that you are not delivering against expectations you were not told about and suddenly it is all your fault.

    The Micro Manager

    The frustration of having a manager who feels the need to be involved in everything you do. The polar opposite to the Invisible Boss you will feel that there is no trust in your work as they will want to meddle in everything you do.

    Dealing with the micro-manager can be difficult. Often their management style comes from their own insecurity. You can try confronting them, tell them that you can do your job however in many cases this will not succeed and can in fact make things worse.

    The Over Promoted Boss

    The Over promoted boss categorises someone who has no idea. They have found themselves in a management position through service, family or some corporate mystery. They are people who are not only highly unqualified to be managers they will generally be unable to do even your job.

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    You can find yourself persistently frustrated by the situation you are in, however it can seem impossible to get out without handing over your resignation.

    The Credit Stealer

    The credit stealer is the boss who will never publically acknowledge the work you do. You will put in the extra hours working on a project and you know that, in the ‘big meeting’ it will be your credit stealing boss who will take all of the credit!

    Again it is demoralising, you see all of the credit for your labour being stolen and this can often lead to good employees looking for new careers.

    3 Essential Ways to Work (Cope) with Bad Managers

    Whatever type of bad boss you have there are certain things that you can do to ensure that you get the recognition and protection you require to not only remain sane but to also build your career.

    1. Keep evidence

    Whether it is incidents with the bully or examples of projects you have completed with the credit stealer you will always be well served to keep notes and supporting evidence for projects you are working on.

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    Buy your own notebook and ensure that you are always making notes, it becomes a habit and a very useful one as you have a constant reminder as well as somewhere to explore ideas.

    Importantly, if you do have to go to HR or stand-up for yourself you will have clear records! Also, don’t always trust that corporate servers or emails will always be available or not tampered with. Keep your own content.

    2. Hold regular meetings

    Ensure that you make time for regular meetings with your boss. This is especially useful for the over-promoted or the invisible boss to allow you to ‘manage upwards’. Take charge where you can to set your objectives and use these meetings to set clear objectives and document the status of your work.

    3. Stand your ground, but be ready to jump…

    Remember that you don’t have to put up with poor management. If you have issues you should face them with your boss, maybe they do not know that they are coming across in a bad way.

    However, be ready to recognise if the situation is not going to change. If that is the case, keep your head down and get working on polishing your CV! If it isn’t working, there will be something better out there for you!

    Good luck!

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