I’m not sure about you, but one of the biggest obstacles to my productivity is indecision. When I’m not sure what to focus on, can’t sort out the right path, or feel confused between two or more options, I feel paralyzed.
Through much practice, I’ve found that quick decision making is not only possible but can be truly transformative. By tackling each problem head on, working through it efficiently, and then moving forward, I’ve been able to spend less time vacillating and more time doing.
Here are 4 tips that can help you do just that.
#1. Think about the ultimate objective.
One of the best things to do is to step back from the situation and look at the bigger picture or goal.
Let’s use an example.
Recently, there was a flurry of concern in the blogging community that an email service provider (ESP) was having major problems and was at risk of shutting down.
This is the provider I use to send weekly emails to my mailing list (you can join here!). They are a critical component of how I stay in touch with readers, so the stakes are high.
Second, I had pre-paid for a year of service, so that was on my mind, making me want to just stay with them.
Third, there was the added layer of all the time and effort involved in switching to another provider.
And last, there was the panic in the blogging community and the PLETHORA of alternatives to consider.
I was finding myself getting stressed with the risks of staying with an inferior provider, confused with the alternatives, and really not sure what to do next.
I finally took a step back and looked at the bigger picture.
First, what do I know to be true?
I know that the ESP has experienced some issues. It doesn’t appear that they have impacted me dramatically. This indicates that freaking out and jumping ship don’t really make sense.
I also know that there are quick and easy steps I can take to protect myself against risk. For example, I was able to download my email list from my ESP so that in case something sudden happens, I have a backup.
Second, what is the bigger picture or goal?
My goal is to have a reliable way to contact my email subscribers. In order to mitigate the risk of this being interrupted, I researched a few alternatives – only those that met my criteria – and saved those in a document so that if my ESP does shut down, I know which 1-2 options to migrate to.
As you can see, this took a messy, confusion situation into clear action steps that let me do the work and then move on to other projects.
#2. Stop thinking about it.
I know, it’s counterintuitive that we could come to a decision without thinking about it. But I’d highly suggest taking some time away from the thick of the situation to gain greater space (and clarity!)
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had a great idea come to mind when I’m in the shower, journalling, or meditating. There’s something about removing ourselves from the clutter and emotion of all the options that lets us gain more perspective.
Let’s look at another example.
Last year, I was looking to redesign my website and hired a website designer. Because of her current workload, I would have to wait close to 6 months for her to start on the project.
Two weeks before my website brief was due, I submitted it to my designer. I was feeling preeeeetty good about myself having everything ready to go ahead of schedule and couldn’t wait to see what she came back with.
To my dismay, she told me that her services did not include everything I had asked for and I’d have to shell out a few hundred dollars more to get everything I wanted.
A few things went through my mind. First, a lot of frustration as the project was already pricey and my blog wasn’t generating much income. Second, disappointment in myself for not better understanding the website packages. And third, panic, since I had already delayed my launch to September and didn’t know how I’d be able to do it myself if I didn’t use a designer.
What should I do?
Suck it up and pay for the full design? Find a new designer? Scrap the whole thing and lose the money?
Instead of freaking out, I stepped away from the issue for a few hours.
And out of the blue, a thought went through my mind: what if this was a good thing? What if this challenge was actually presenting an even better opportunity?
So I started thinking about it. I realized that I had only paid my designer a deposit for half the initial scope of work, and I could instead use that towards logo design, which I needed to have done anyways. I would be saving the balance of the initial scope of work PLUS the incremental fee for the work I wanted done. And I could find a pre-made theme online at a fraction of the cost and could do it myself.
By stepping away from things, I was able to come up with a brilliant solution that ended up working out perfectly.
#3. Go with your gut…
If you need to make a quick decision and don’t feel emotionally invested, one of the best ways is to trust your intuition and choose the option that feels most right.
I know, I know – I’m all about colour-coded comparison spreadsheets (like you can see here!) but we don’t always have time for that. It can also muddy the waters, as it causes us to examine every different side of the situation.
Instead, ask yourself: “If I had to choose ONE solution/option right now, which would it be?”
Once you’ve made the decision, pick it, and move on.
#4. …or let the data decide.
Depending on the situation, it may be best to have the data decide for you. This is particularly helpful if it’s a highly emotional situation or one with a ton of moving pieces and factors.
Start by listing out the criteria that matter most. Keep it to 3-5 if you can.
Next, evaluate each option against these criteria. You can assign it good/moderate/bad if that helps.
Take a step back and look at how each option performs. Whichever one performs best, move forward with it.
Do you struggle with decision making? Or do you find it easy to make a decision and move on? I’d love to know – leave me a comment below.