Decisions, Decisions, Decisions – 4 tips to get you out of procrastination and into action.
There have been many times in my life where I’ve struggled to make a decision. I used to mull over every single possibility and find myself stuck in a sort of inertia until it felt like I would eventually implode. Yes, I’ve spent many an hour scrolling through Deliveroo trying to decide what on earth to have for dinner, only to call it quits and have toast made from the slightly stale bread in the cupboard… But my indecision wasn’t just confined to my personal life; it also cropped up at work. I would spend time and energy over thinking possible opportunities and directions, only to get to the end of the ‘decision dilemma’ to find I had lost hours, days and sometimes weeks lost in a whirlwind of ‘what ifs’- only paying half of my attention to the actual tasks I had at hand.
Luckily, decision making is a skill that can be improved. Whether you absorb a mentor’s advice, learn to trust your gut instinct, or look for wisdom in your network, the way you decide, and decide well, is something that you can and should work on, everyday.
So, how have I become a better decision maker? The following steps are the best advice I have, and whenever I find myself slipping into a pattern of indecision, I remind myself of these tips to get back on track.
QUIET YOUR MIND
It’s amazing how much energy we expend being lost in ‘thought’. One minute we are thinking one thing, the next we are off somewhere completely different, with a totally different perspective. If I’m honest, this is where most of my procrastination and indecision comes from – my overactive thinking. We can go from having an answer that feels right, to getting lost in thought and being overwhelmed with possibilities. Take the time to step back, and operate from a quiet state of mind, where it’s easier to feel your way into the answer. Check in and assess your mental well being – do you have 1000 thoughts flying around in every different direction? Has a tornado struck? Are you no longer in Kansas? Step back, focus and try to operate from a more balanced frequency. Meditate, go for a run, do whatever you’ve got to do to take your mind off what you are mulling over, until you can operate with more clarity.
ENHANCE YOUR EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE
Emotional intelligence is the ability to identify and manage your own emotions, as well as being aware of and resilient to the emotions of those around you. As you are reading an article on decision making, I’m going to assume that you already have a level of emotional self-awareness! Which is great news!
But, how does being emotionally aware help us make better decisions?
Well, if we cultivate our emotional intelligence, we are able to make decisions without letting unrelated emotions or situations influence the outcome. For instance, you’re on lunch and you get stuck in a queue for a half hour. By the time you get back to your desk, you’re hungry and frustrated – one annoying email away from a silent tantrum. Managing your emotions allows you to let these situations pass you by without impacting you.
By increasing your emotional intelligence, you’ll be able to make decisions without your every changing mood negatively affecting your process.
TAKE YOUR TIME (but doN’t Procrastinate)
We’ve all been there: there’s that one email in your inbox you don’t want to deal with because there are too many variables. It’s too difficult or it’s something you don’t want to think about right now. Instead, you tidy your desk, make a cup of tea, phone your mum, and without even trying it’s the end of the day, so you ignore the email until tomorrow…
If you’re leading a business or project, it may well be destructive if you constantly delay, especially when it comes to decision making. If productivity declines, it could damage your reputation, and no-one wants that! Taking some time to contemplate the outcomes of your decision is recommended, but don’t over think or procrastinate for too long.
Try thinking through the problem in a constructive way, rather than just ignoring it. I’m a big believer in writing lists; I write down all the things I have to do, all the outcomes I want to achieve, all the risks, challenges and potential questions. This way, I get all the information that’s swimming around in my brain out of my head and down onto something tangible, like paper. I then might ‘treat’ myself to a good ol’ tidy up of my desk, or a 15 minute walk around the block, and come back to the problem with a clear head, armed with a useful reference.
Don’t be afraid to ask
Utilise the expertise that’s around you. Chances are, there’s someone in your network that has experience with what you’re struggling with. They may have been in your situation before, or perhaps they’ve simply got a different point of view. Sometimes, just talking about a problem out loud can help you make more sense of it.