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Stop Dithering: Become A Better Decision-Maker

Stop Dithering: Become A Better Decision-Maker
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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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    Published on July 27, 2021

    15 Smart Video Conferencing Etiquette Tips to Follow

    15 Smart Video Conferencing Etiquette Tips to Follow
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    During the pandemic, video conferencing replaced in-person meetings and has now become the standard option for business meetings. Over the past 17 months, most workers have gotten past the video conferencing learning curve with Zoom or Microsoft Teams (or their platform of choice).

    But just as with in-person meetings, attention can wax and wane. Some say we’re just not used to staring at ourselves so much on the screen. Instead of fixating on that, try employing smart video conferencing etiquette, or you may risk indiscretions that will flag you as a slacker.

    Put the Pro in Professional

    After more than a year of fine-tuning, here are the new rules of video conferencing etiquette.

    1. Mute Your Mobile and Other Devices

    The first video conference etiquette you need to know is muting your other devices. Just as in the pre-COVID days, someone’s obnoxious ring tone blaring Taylor Swift’s newest single in the middle of a meeting is also an annoyance if it happens during a Zoom meeting and so is the inevitable fumbling to turn off the sound. Even the apologies to the group get tiresome.

    Also, when notifications are activated on the computer that you’re using for the meeting, the incoming message takes over the audio and you’ll miss out on snippets of the conversation. Be sure to eliminate this possible faux pas.

    2. Dress the Part

    While working from home, you may have fallen into the habit of slipping on your comfiest T-shirt each day. Hey, no judgments! But before you log on to your video conference, try to make an effort with your appearance.

    Depending on your company culture and the importance of your meeting, consider dressing the part of the professional whom you wish to project. It will help you feel more self-assured, and others will likely take you more seriously.

    For women, wear light make-up, put on earrings, and make sure your blouse is crisply pressed. For men, show up freshly shaved. Wearing a crisp collared shirt in a solid color will usually suffice.

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    Pro Tip: Stay away from wearing white or black, unless those colors look great on you. Consider wearing light blue or brown instead.

    3. Stage Your Workspace

    Have you noticed the backdrops of experts interviewed on news shows? Bookshelves and photographs are carefully curated, and no busy-patterned furniture or artwork is in sight.

    Take note of what appears behind you when you choose the location of your video conferences. Piles of junk mail on the table or stacks of folded laundry on the couch will convey more about your personal life than you care to share. Make sure you remove clutter from the camera’s eye, and present a tidy, orderly workspace to your colleagues, coworkers, and bosses.

    4. Put Some Thought Into Lighting and Perspective

    Be aware that in a video conference, your computer camera can actually make you look up to ten pounds heavier depending on where you sit. But you can easily drop those added pounds by moving back from the screen to diminish the wide-angle distortion.

    Frame your head on the screen by tilting the screen up or down. Also, it’s best to not place yourself in front of a window or bright light, which makes you appear in shadow. Instead, face the light source, moving it (or yourself) until you have a flattering amount of illumination. You can also purchase some small spotlights that allow you to add light as needed.

    Pro Tip: If your lights add too much redness to your skin, consider counter-balancing with a green filter.

    Remember That Half of Life Is Showing Up

    5. Arrive on Time

    In the old days of in-person meetings, it was nearly impossible to slip in late into a meeting unnoticed. In today’s video conferences, logging in late still shows poor form. Instead, strive to arrive five minutes early and get yourself settled.

    Once the meeting is underway, the host may be less attentive about late arrivals waiting to be let in. Diverting the host’s attention away from the meeting with a tardy entry request is the ultimate giveaway that you didn’t honor the schedule. If you don’t want a black mark against you, log in on time.

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    6. Turn on Your Video

    Few people like to see their face on the screen, but buck up and turn on your camera in video conferences. In most cases, it’s better to be a face on a screen than a name in a blank square. Your statements will be more memorable when other meeting attendees can see you.

    If you need to turn off the video, either because of a poor connection, some commotion in the room, or a need for a quick break, give a short explanation via the chat feature. Then, go back on video as soon as you’re able.

    Pro Tip: Keep your explanation for your departure pithy. “Sorry! Doorbell rang. Back in five” says it all. Be sure to honor what you say in chat and really do return in five minutes.

    7. Plan Ahead Before Sharing Your Screen

    Don’t be one of those people who makes everyone else wait as you click through folders in search of a document. That’s just poor video conferencing etiquette. If you know you’ll need to share a document or video on your screen, prepare by pulling it out of its folder and onto your desktop. Also, clean up the files and folders on your desktop to reduce clutter and facilitate easy access. Close other programs like chat, calendar notifications, and email. Disable pop-up notifications to ensure there’ll be no unforeseen distractions.

    Be sure to remind the host before the meeting that you’ll need them to activate the screen-sharing function. Show courtesy once you’re finished by hitting “stop share” to return to the screen with participants.

    Attend to the Pesky Details

    8. Make Sure That Meetings Remain Right-Sized

    With the easy accessibility of video conferencing, it can be tempting to extend the meeting invitation beyond the core group and include everyone peripherally involved in a project. But just as with in-person meetings, the more people involved, the more unwieldy the meeting becomes.

    Use good judgment when asking others to sit through a video conference so that you don’t needlessly take up others’ time and so that participants can be fully engaged.

    9. Remember to “Unmute” Before You Speak

    Most of us are likely able to count on one hand the number of video conferences when someone didn’t have to be reminded, “You’re on mute!” Forgetting to unmute before speaking has become one of the most common missteps in video conferencing.[1]

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    Show everyone your impeccable video-conferencing poise by managing your mute feature with flawless control.

    10. Stay on Point to Keep the Meeting Length in Check

    As with in-person meetings, an agenda with assigned time limits for discussions remains necessary to keep a meeting focused. Data shows, however, that video conferencing can actually reduce meeting time.[2] Reasons include the elimination of commuting time and the ability to screen share and annotate to keep everyone on task.

    Additionally, side conversations are virtually impossible with video conferencing now that you can no longer have back-and-forth exchanges with the person beside you.

    Pro Tip: If you’re running the meeting, let attendees know in advance the protocol for the chat feature. Is it okay for them to “chat among themselves” or not? (See point 11, as well.)

    Talking Has a Time and a Place

    11. Chat Appropriately

    Just like side conversations or texting in an in-person meeting, the use of the chat feature during a video conference can be disrespectful unless it’s directed to all participants. Hence, it’s good video conferencing etiquette to mind your use of the chat.

    At the start of the meeting, you may want to ask the host if it’s alright for participants to use the chat feature. This allows them to disable it if they choose. Used appropriately, it can be a helpful tool to clarify or amplify an earlier point once the conversation has moved on or to let the group know that you need to sign off early (and why).

    12. Use the “Raise Hand” Feature to Avoid Interruptions

    The slight lag in many video conferences can result in speaking over another person if you attempt to jump into a conversation. To avoid this awkward interruption, indicate when you have something to add to the discussion with the raise-your-hand feature that signals the host you would like to speak. This effective meeting management device makes video conferencing run more smoothly, especially with a large group, but it must be activated and monitored by the host.

    Pro Tip: For meetings of six to ten people, sometimes the old-fashioned raising of your physical hand may be the best option. But it’s up to the meeting host. Ask them what they would prefer, and follow that.

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    13. Don’t Record the Session or Take Photos Without Prior Permission

    In this case, not sharing is caring. The “sharing culture” made popular through social media has little place in video conferencing. Before recording a meeting or capturing a screenshot of the participants, always ask for consent in advance from the full roster of attendees. Knowing that a video conference will be photographed or recorded could have a bearing on what others are willing to discuss.

    Manage Yourself

    14. Minimize Distractions

    While de-activating audio and video features can keep distractions from affecting the other participants, you will need to manage noise and disruptions on your end to give your full attention to the meeting.

    Move out of high-traffic zones in your home, keep your door closed, and ask family members to be considerate.

    15. Save Snacking for Later

    Save snacking for later—or earlier. Eating while on video conference is a no-no. Munching in front of the group while close to the camera—as you are when video conferencing—subjects the participants to an up-close and (too) personal view of your food consumption process.

    However, it’s perfectly fine to sip quietly from a glass of water or cup of coffee or tea. If the meeting threatens to last for more than two hours, you may want to ask the host in advance to schedule a five-minute break at the halfway point.

    Final Thoughts

    Even though bosses are now beginning to ask workers to spend some of their workdays on-site, up to 80 percent will permit employees to work remotely at least part of the time, which means more video conferencing in your future.[3] Mastering these video conferencing etiquette tips will help you dial in—as well as dial back—your participation and demonstrate your unwavering level of engagement to the team.

    Featured photo credit: Chris Montgomery via unsplash.com

    Reference

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