Everyone wants to be right all of the time. We don’t want to hear “I told you so,” when things don’t work out the way we or they thought. But there’s a cost to obsessing over blame and making the “best possible decision on the information available.” That cost is sanity. When we hesitate to make decisions, they pile up on us, adding pressure and confusion to our lives. They clutter our desks, they crowd our inboxes and they make it hard to concentrate on any one thing.
On the other hand, fast decisions organize and declutter our lives. We cut things that we might need, because we’re brutal about making the decision, even if we don’t always know it’ll work out. We say “no” to people, even if they don’t understand why. And we don’t worry that someone will second-guess something because we’re too busy to emotionalize the decision.
And as a bonus, deciding is how we learn best. Decisions help us to summarize and use our understanding, pushing it and challenging it until it becomes strong and pure.
Get in the Habit of Deciding
It takes discipline, which is why so few people do it. But if you want to get organized and productive, here are a few principles.
Put the burden on others by making a decision. Why should you have to carry the full burden of defending each decision to everyone around you, responding to their every, obscure critique? This works even better when you have people on the other side of your decision who will argue with you. If you threaten to kill something that needs to be killed, and they step up and save it by making it into something good, then great.
- Decide to approve the budget when others disagree. Let them make better arguments for its approval.
- Decide to fire that dude who isn’t performing. Let someone else go to bat for him if they want to help him succeed.
- Kill their pet project that is just taking up space. Let them step up on their own if they want it so badly.
Don’t always give reasons, but sometimes do.
- Give reasons when you trust those around you to be rational and focused on the right things. They’ll use your reasons to come up with better thinking.
- Don’t give reasons when you’re surrounded by troublemakers or people who are acting selfishly. They’ll waste your time and energy, introducing emotion and negativity to manipulate you. And those are never good reasons to reverse a decision.
Make a decision, and make it quickly. Seriously. Right now. What’s cluttering your desk or your mind? Even if you can’t know for sure how it’s gonna turn out, make a decision about it.
- Throw that report away.
- Put a reminder to hire that person by Friday if no new info comes in by then.
- Decide the one sentence you want to say and pick up the phone and call.
And when you’re not the decisionmaker, have a recommendation and opinion. This will build your decision-making powers, in research, logic and boldness. It will prepare you for leadership when the time comes.
Dealing with the Emotions of Others
While you’re at it, hold others accountable for their emotions and hidden motives. Don’t fall into the emotional trap, “Well, it’ll really make them mad, and it’s not that big of a deal for me, so I should make a different decision.” If it’s your decision, make it, and then let others worry about how sad it makes someone. Political correctness destroys decisiveness and leadership, so treat everyone equally, including when it’s time to hold them accountable. And don’t let them manipulate you emotionally; make them use words.
Why it Should be You Who Decides?
Many of us think that, to be a humble person, we always need to listen, gather more facts and leave the discussion open. And while there are times for consideration, especially with big decisions, the following is also true:
“Rely on your own opinion. It should be as good as anyone’s else. When once you reach a conclusion abide by it. Let there be no doubt, or wavering in your judgment. If you are uncertain about every decision you make, you will be subject to harassing doubts and fears which will render your judgment of little value. The man that decides according to what he thinks right and who learns from every mistake acquires a well balanced mind that gets the best results. He gains the confidence of others. He is known as the man that knows what he wants, and not as one that is as changeable as the weather. The man of today wants to do business with the man that he can depend upon. Uncertainties in the business world are meeting with more disfavor. Reliable firms want to do business with men of known qualities, with men of firmness, judgment and reliability.” –Theron Q. Dumont
To put it another way: believe and remember that you’re qualified. Is there any reason someone else should be making the decision when you’re in the middle of it? Unless someone else is both qualified and able (emotionally) to make the decision, this one’s on you.
If you’re the one with authority, make the decision you think is right; don’t go with consensus. This is taking responsibility. Don’t put yourself in the position where you thought something would be best, went with what someone else said (to be safe and gain consensus), but found out you made the wrong decision. Own it. And if you’re making “bad” decisions, and someone has the power to take it away from you, let them use that power. But you focus on what you think is right.
Get Organized and Get Momentum
You want to see your life become more organized? Do you miss having free time and time to just enjoy the blue sky and the people around you? You don’t need alcohol or drugs. Just learn to make faster decisions and get work done quicker. If you do, you’ll be able to get more done, be more present (less distracted) and enjoy life and the people around you.
And if you have thoughts on this, discuss them with me in Slack.