How are you at making decisions? Perhaps you view yourself as a procrastinator, a bit indecisive – unsure whether you are making the right choices? Or maybe you see yourself as firm and decisive, not shy of making a judgement call and acting on it? Whichever way you are – one thing is true about decision-making – and that is that successful people do it differently.
What do I mean by this? You might just assume that successful people make good decisions. That’s why they’re successful, right? But it’s a little more complex than that. Success is not just about the decisions you make – it’s about the way you make them. Rather than seeing decisions as discrete choices to be made (or avoided) in the moment, successful people approach decision-making as a more methodical and disciplined process. Think of your decision-making like this:
For small decisions – have routines.
Life is full of mini decisions that you need to make every day. What should you have for breakfast, what should you wear, should you take an umbrella when you go out? Obviously these things aren’t that important – making a slightly poor decision to skip breakfast because you’re running late isn’t going to have any disastrous effect on your day or your life. But if you organise your time and your life, you can take the effort out of these small everyday choices and save your energy for the stuff that really matters. This is the way to avoid decision fatigue – a term coined by the social psychologist Roy F Baumeister. We have a finite amount of decision-making energy per day. If you put systems and routines in place – like having a key work capsule wardrobe or always having porridge and fruit for breakfast, you are saving yourself a few precious minutes of mental deliberation every day. And having a routine means you can ensure that your original choice is a good one. All you then have to do is sustain it – and make it a habit. The smart decision has already been made – you just need to keep on doing whatever it was you decided to do without having to make the effort to think about it.
For big decisions – have vision.
Bigger, more important decisions can be stressful. Should you take the new job, or move to a new city, have a baby now, or in 2 years’ time? These choices can have a massive impact on your life and your future – so make sure you have clarity of vision. If you have larger, long-term goals and an idea of how and why you want to achieve them, these can inform and shape your decision-making process. Identify what you want from life and stay focused on that aim. Define your priorities and always look for how the decisions you need to make overlap with your goals. This should make these momentous decisions seem to have more straightforward solutions. When you have a defined path, many of the important questions will answer themselves.
Keep the momentum.
See your big decisions as a string of connected choices, all leading you to achieving your goals. This will keep you moving forward with your decision-making, keeping the momentum and pushing you in the right direction. Decisions are not one-off bursts of energy — they’re not snapshots in time. You may have made a big decision but you might then doubt yourself and the wisdom of your choice – so you will need to maintain the energy and keep on making that decision in your head every day. All your subsequent choices need to support and sustain that decision. For example – If you decide to go for that promotion, then that should inform your next decisions – ie. should you put yourself up for that public speaking opportunity, go to that networking event, write that article for the in-house newsletter?
Decision-making, then, is not easy. But having systems, vision, momentum, and willpower will help you get better at the process. If you’d like some more tips on how to be more decisive and make smarter decisions – tune into this week’s podcast, episode #46, Decisions. And if you’re interested in finding out more about my Having it all coaching programme, please email me Caroline@babyproofyourlife.com