How do you feel about making decisions? These decisions could be personal, or professional. For your team, for you or you family. But do you struggle to make decisions, feel uncomfortable or put decisions off?
Many of us are familiar with decision fatigue. We make hundreds of decisions every day from what to wear, when to have lunch, to what we cook for dinner. These are essential decisions.
But then we layer on the decisions for our work. When have we finished a task? Is this good enough? Have I covered everything I need to?
Then we layer on the decisions for our team. Is this in scope? Can we go ahead and share this? Can I sign this off? Is this within budget? What’s the budget? Is this fit for purpose?
Every decision removes some of the precious resource in our decision-making bucket. It takes proper downtime and recharging to refill this bucket of decision-making power. Without this precious resource, we act on default, either procrastinating or making a no-change decision.
And as you move up the organizational tree, with more responsibilities (and more kickback when stuff goes wrong), you get more and more decisions passed your way.
As a leader and manager, if you aren’t able to make quick, decisive and informed decisions you don’t just hold up progress, you negatively impact morale in your team.
How do you become a confident, swift decision maker?
Decision fatigue crushes will-power.
Great leaders understand how to balance emotion, reason, impulse and information and make decisions that positively impact themselves, their employees, their customers and stakeholders, and their organizations. Making good decisions is difficult, especially in stressful situations which involve change, uncertainty, anxiety, stress or upsetting others. Here are some top tips to help move forward with decision making, with purpose, on a daily basis:
- Make decision-making a daily habit: something you schedule and make time for.
- Create a decisions-to-be-made list (like a to-do list). Add to this whenever a decision lands on your desk or your inbox, but don’t immediately make the decision.
- Schedule time in your calendar each day. If you have a queue of decisions to make, schedule them for early in the day when your decision-making resource is as full as it can be (making decisions later in the day, really is more difficult). Then work through them one at a time until you are finding it more difficult.
- Prioritise particularly difficult decisions first. But if you find yourself making decisions about which decision to tackle first (which we want to limit as it further drains that decision making resource), just start at the top of the decisions-to-be-made list.
- Give yourself an end-time for the decision time-block, and then reward yourself with a break before moving on to a completely different task.
- When presented with a new decision ask:
- Can I make this decision immediately? If yes, do so and disseminate. If possible delegate the dissemination to someone else. Whenever possible don’t conflate decision-making with the task of dissemination. These are different tasks. Add the dissemination onto your todo list if necessary, but make sure the todo list includes the decision outcome so you aren’t tempted to revisit the question.
- If you need more information to make the decision create parameters to identify what information is essential and when to cease your information-gathering process.
- Identify the uncertainty in the decision. Decision fatigue kicks in because we don’t know with 100% certainty that something will work out. Accept this – it is part of the process. And instead ask yourself: is this uncertainty that needs resolving or can it be accommodated in a risk assessment? Accept some uncertainty and proceed when appropriate.
- Put decisions that need careful review onto your decision-making list to tackle during a morning decision-making time (see step one above).
- Understand your emotions behind your decision making. Accept the emotions and allow them to guide you without controlling you.
- Listen to your intuition but don’t let it talk you out of something important. Do not over-think important decisions because you may talk yourself into something that goes against your instincts and experience.
- Practice. Decision making with confidence is a skill to be practiced and developed. And like any other skill this takes time and building up stamina. Don’t expect to be able to spend 5 hours a day making big decisions if you currently struggle to make 3 decisions over the period of an hour. Build up to it. But by spending time every day working on understanding what decisions you are making, when you are procrastinating and when you are moving forward, decision making will get easier.
- Get enough sleep and take breaks. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you will know I’m a big fan of time-off and time-out. This is incredibly important with decision making. When we are tired out, our ability to make decisions with confidence and ease plummets. We either make poor decisions or stick with the status quo (often the default, but it is still a decision, and may be the poorer choice). As a leader our progress and our team’s belief in us rests on our ability to make swift, decisive, informed decisions. So get that sleep, and make sure you make decisions on a glass-half-full day.
I’d love to know how your decision making is going and if you need some help getting unstuck. So drop me a message if you are having decision-making confidence problems.