There are lots of different kinds of decisions. A friend of mine was telling about her son who generally makes good decisions, but doesn’t always get around to making those decisions in a timely manner.
Other decisions are best slept on: whether to buy a car or wait another 6 months; whether adopt a puppy; where to go to college. They are important decisions, and there is nothing wrong (and a lot of “right”) in taking a few extra minutes to consider the alternatives, weigh the pros and cons, and make sure you’ve thought things through. As long as you get to a decision.
This can be obvious, like not deciding who to vote for before the polls close or not deciding which movie to see (and missing both of them).
It can also be more subtle. Like not getting around to asking a person out and then learning they started seeing someone else while you were dithering. Or putting off a decision to hire an individual until you’ve interviewed a few more candidates—and discovering you’ve lost your first choice to a competitor.
By refusing to make a decision, sometimes you are making a decision. Your procrastination (because that’s really what it is) is a decision to let someone else (or fate or circumstances) make the decision for you.
Procrastination is the avoidance of doing a task which needs to be accomplished. It is the practice of doing more pleasurable things in place of less pleasurable ones, or carrying out less urgent tasks instead of more urgent ones, thus putting off impending tasks to a later time.
Figuring out the “right” time to make a decision can be tricky. It can be difficult (and by “difficult” I mean “easy to fool oneself”) to tell whether you’re really waiting for important information to help mold your decision or just putting off deciding.
Maybe you really do need additional information, but sometimes we fool ourselves into thinking we need more information when we have enough to make a decision. Yes, it might be NICE to know more; but you will almost never have all the information in the world. Refusing to decide until you know everything (analysis paralysis) is generally worse than making a decision with incomplete information (the normal state of the world).
- Accept that the fate of the world probably does not rest on the outcome you select.
- Recognize that you will not always have all the information you might want—and that you can make a decision anyway.
- Understand that you’ll make good decisions and (hopefully not too often) less good decisions. The important thing is that when you make them you’re in control.
- Do not blame the universe for a decision you didn’t make. (Well, I guess it wasn’t meant to be.)
- Believe that thinking more is not always thinking better. At some point you have to decide.
- Give yourself a deadline. If you have trouble deciding, help yourself by assigning a decision point.
- Remember that you can’t always have it all. You can eat your cake or stare at it; it’s harder to stare at it once it’s in your tummy.
- Imagine the Worst Possible Outcome. If it doesn’t involve death, destruction, blood, or fire, you can probably make the decision without risking the apocalypse.
- Forgive yourself if you make a less than stellar decision and move on. We’re human. We all do things we might wish we’d done differently.
- Allow people to coach you. If you think you’re making decisions in a timely manner yet friends or colleagues keep suggesting you’re not, allow room for the possibility that you’re procrastinating.
So. Do you want steak or chicken for dinner tonight?