Need help getting off the fence?

Indecision has been the theme of this past weekend. It reminded me of the French proverb, “Between two stools one sits on the ground”. It also reminded me of the Turkish proverb, “He became an infidel hesitating between two mosques”. I couldn’t decide which one to use …

The effect of indecision on us and those we manage or interact with can be immense. This was powerfully expressed by William James when he wrote, “There is no more miserable human being than one in whom nothing is habitual” (The Principles of Psychology, 1892)

So, if you want to improve your decision making or think you have a tendancy to procrastinate (and if you can’t decide, then perhaps you have!), here are some tips that will help you:

1. Give yourself enough time to obtain and consider all the information. If you don’t give yourself enough time to do this you are more likely to make a poor quality decision, or miss the opportunity to make a decision. Train or bus, bus or train … – spend too much time thinking about it too close to the time, and you’ll probably miss them both.

2. Don’t think that there is a right and a wrong option (or options). By thinking in terms of ‘right and wrong’ we can put pressure on ourselves – unnecessarily. Usually there are pros and cons to each option, and one may be better than the other or others, but they are not generally right and wrong. If something is that obvious that one really is right and the others are wrong, it’s usually fairly obvious to us.

3. Take time out to consider what you need to achieve. When we are managing projects or teams, it is easy to get involved in day to day matters and not take time out to think more long term. By considering your vision, your aims, your objectives you have then got something to consider decisions against – and it makes them a whole lot easier to take.

4. Don’t worry about the decision. If you have considered all the information available and made a rational decision, you have done your best. And if it turns out not to be the best decision due to additional information becoming available, it was still the best decision when you made it. And you may well be able to implement an amended decision – most decisions are not final.

5. Avoid perfectionism. Easier said than done! Often in early life we have been programmed by our parents and carers to be perfect – they do it with the best of intentions but it can become unhelpful for us later in life. In Transactional Analysis (TA) the theory suggests that we have 5 possible behaviour drivers – one of these is “Be perfect”. You don’t have to be perfect or make perfect decisions. If this is a particular issue for you, tell yourself that you are good enough as you are – this is the antidote to “Being Perfect”. And if you use these tips, your decisions will be good enough.

6. Communicate clearly with yourself. You have thoughts and feelings. When considering all the information and options, you need to be objective and rational. And when we are considering which way to turn, we have internal discussions.  Those internal conversations need to be clear and not clouded by fear of making the wrong decision, or other negative emotions. Writing down your thought processes can help to ensure you have the most productive internal discussions possible.

7. Follow your intuition. Be in contact with and use your feelings – this is sometimes referred to as being Emotionally Intelligent (EI). Those of us who do not use our Emotional Intelligence will generally make less effective decisions than those of us who do.  Our brains are wired to make us emotional beings, and the experts suggest we experience more than 450 emotions each day – how much notice do you currently take of that information? If it feels right, it probably will be right.

8. Cut your teeth on small decisions. Try out these techniques on small decisions. This will help you work out what works for you and what may not work – and what might need more practice. By using the process in less important scenarios, it will be easier to use the process in more potentially difficult situations.

Have a go. See what works for you. Or do you have any other tips that have worked for you?


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