Advertising
Advertising

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.

    Advertising

    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.

    Advertising

    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.

    Advertising

    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.

    Advertising

    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.

    More by this author

    50 Businesses You Can Start In Your Spare Time 8 Replacements for Google Notebook 5 Sites Where You Can Sell Your Photos 7 Tools to Find Someone Online 19 Entrepreneurship Websites Worth Checking Out

    Trending in Work

    1 7 Powerful Steps to Achieve Career Success 2 The Savvy Employees Guide to Asking for a Raise 3 How to Master the Art of Stress Free Work 4 23 Things to Keep in Mind When Preparing for an Interview 5 20 Critical Skills to Add to Resume (For All Types of Jobs)

    Read Next

    Advertising
    Advertising
    Advertising

    Last Updated on December 3, 2019

    7 Powerful Steps to Achieve Career Success

    7 Powerful Steps to Achieve Career Success

    I often hear people say, “I want to be successful but don’t know where to start” or “I’ve achieved career success yet I’m not happy.” And then I ask, “what does career success mean to you?” And many have a hard time articulating their response with much conviction.

    It’s common that people lack clarity, focus, and direction. And when you layer on thoughts and actions that are misaligned with your values, this only adds to your misdirected quest to achieve your career success.

    A word of caution. It’s going to take some time for you to think about and work on your own path for career success. You need to set aside time and be intentional about the steps you take to achieve career success. In my opinion, this step-by-step guide is apart of your life philosophy.

    1. Define Career Success for Yourself

    Pause. Give yourself time and space for self-reflection.

    What does career success mean to you?

    This is about defining your career success:

    • Not what you think you ‘should’ do
    • Not what people may think of you
    • Not adjusting to friends and family’s judgements
    • Not taking actions based on societal or community norms

    “A flower does not think of competing to the flower next to it. It just blooms” – Zen Shin

    When you strip away all your external influences and manage your inner critic, what are you left with? You need to define career success that best suits your life situation.

    There’s no fixed answer. Everyone is different. Your answer will evolve and be impacted by life events. Here are a few examples of career success:

    Advertising

    • Work-life balance
    • Opportunities for growth and advancement
    • Feeling valued that my contributions had an impact

    Now even as you reflect on the examples above, the descriptions are not specific enough. You’ve got to take it deeper:

    • What do you mean by work-life balance?
    • What do you consider to be opportunities for growth and advancement?
    • How do you like to be recognized for your work? How do you know if your contributions have had an impact?

    Let’s take a look at some potential responses to the questions above:

    • I want more time with my family, and less stress at work
    • I want increased responsibilities, to manage a team, a higher income, and the prestige of working at a certain level in the company
    • I’d like my immediate leader to send me a thank-you note or take me out for coffee to genuinely express her or his gratitude. I’ll know I’ve made an impact if I get feedback from my coworkers, leaders and other stakeholders.

    Further questions to reflect on to help narrow the focus for the above responses:

    • What are some opportunities that can help you get traction on getting more time with your family? And decrease your stress at work?
    • What’s most important for you in the next 12 months?
    • What’s the significance of receiving others’ feedback?

    Now, I’m only scratching the surface with these examples. It takes time to do the inner work and build a solid foundation.

    Start this exercise by first asking what career success means to you and then ask yourself meaningful questions to help you dig deeper.

    What types of themes emerge from your responses? What keywords or phrases keep coming up for you?

    2. Know Your Values

    Values are the principles and beliefs that guide your decisions, behaviors and actions. When you’re not aligned with your values and act in a way that conflicts with your beliefs, it’ll feel like life is a struggle.

    There are simple value exercises that can help you quickly determine your core values. This one designed by Carnegie Mellon University can help you discover your top 5 values.[1]

    Once you have your top 5 values keep them visible. Your brain needs reminders that these are your top values. Here are some ways to make them stick:

    Advertising

    • Write them on cue cards or notes and post it in your office
    • Take a picture of your values and use it as a screensaver on your phone
    • Put the words on your fridge
    • Add the words on your vision board

    Where will your value words be placed in your physical environment so that you have a constant reminder of them?

    3. Define Your Short-Term and Long-Term Goals

    When writing your short-term and long term life goals, use the SMART framework – Specific Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound. Treat this as a brainstorming exercise. Your potential and possibilities are limitless.

    How you define short-term and long-term is entirely up to you. Short-term can be 30 days, 90 days, or 6 months. Maybe long-term goals are 4 months, 1 year, or 10 years.

    Here are a few self-reflection questions to help you write your goals:[2]

    • What would you want to do today if you had the power to make it the way you want?
    • If no hurdles are in the way, what would you like to achieve?
    • If you have the freedom to do whatever you want, what would it be?
    • What type of impact do you want to have on people?
    • Who are the people you most admire? What is it about them or what they have that you’d want for your life or career?
    • What activities energize you? What’s one activity you most love?

    Remember to revisit your core values as you refine yours goals:

    • Are your goals in or out of alignment with your core values?
    • What adjustments do you need to make to your goals? Maybe some of your goals can be deleted because they no longer align with your values.
    • How attainable are your goals? Breakdown your goals into digestible pieces.
    • Do your short-term goals move you towards attaining your long-term goals?

    Get very clear and specific about your goals. Think about an archer – a person who shoots with a bow and arrows at a target. This person is laser focused on the target – the center of the bullseye. The target is your goal.

    By focusing on one goal at a time and having that goal visible, you can behave and act in ways that will move you closer to your goal.

    4. Determine Your Top Talents

    What did you love doing as a kid? What made these moments fun? What did you have a knack for? What did you most cherish about these times? What are the common themes?

    What work feels effortless? What work do you do that doesn’t seem like work? Think about work you can lose track of time doing and you don’t even feel tired of it.[3]

    Advertising

    What are your desires? Try it out. Experiment. Take action and start. How can you incorporate more of this type of work into your daily life?

    What themes emerge from your responses? How do your responses compare to your responses from the values exercise and your goals?

    What do you notice?

    5. Identify ‘Feeling’ Words You Want to Experience

    Do you have tendencies to use your head or heart to make decisions?

    I have a very strong tendency to make rational, practical, and fact-based decisions using my head. It’s very rare for me to make decisions using my emotions. I was forced to learn how to make more intuitive decisions by listening to my gut when I was struggling with pivotal life decisions. I was forced to feel and listen to my inner voice to make decisions that feel most natural to me. This was very unfamiliar to me, however, it expanded my identity.

    Review this list of Feeling Words. Use the same technique you use for the values exercise to narrow down how you want to feel.

    Keep these words visible too!

    Review your responses. What do you observe? What insights do you gain from these responses and those in the above steps?

    6. Be Willing to Sit with Discomfort

    Make career decisions aligned with your values, goals, talents and feelings. This is not for the faint hearted. It takes real work, courage and willingness to cut out the noise around you. You’ll need to sit with discomfort for a bit until you build up your muscle to hit the targets you want.

    Advertising

    Surround yourself with a supportive network to help you through these times.

    “These pains you feel are messengers. Listen to them” – Rumi

    7. Manage Your Own Career

    Not to be cynical, but no one can make you happy but yourself. If you don’t take control of your career and manage it like your own business – no one will.

    Discern between things that you can control and what you can’t control. For example, you may not be able to control who gets a promotion. However, you can control how you react to it and what you’ve learned about yourself in that situation.

    Summing Up

    For many who have gone through a career change or been impacted by life events, these steps may seem very basic. However, it’s sometimes the basics that we forget to do. The simple things and moments can edge us closer to our larger vision for ourselves.

    Staying present and appreciating what you have today can sometimes help you achieve your long-term goals. For example, if you’re always talking about not having enough time and wanting work-life balance, think about what was good in your work day? Maybe you took a walk outside with your co-workers. This could be a small step to help you reframe how you can attain work-life balance.

    Remember to take time for yourself. Hit pause, notice, observe and reflect to achieve career success by getting deliberate and intentional:

    1. Define Career Success for Yourself
    2. Know Your Values
    3. Define Your Short-Term and Long-Term Life and Goals
    4. Determine Your Top Talents
    5. Identify ‘Feeling’ Words You Want to Experience
    6. Be Willing to sit with Discomfort
    7. Manage Your Own Career

    “When you stop chasing the wrong things you give the right things a chance to catch you.” – Lolly Daskal

    Good luck and best wishes always!

    More Tips on Advancing Your Career

    Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

    Reference

    Read Next