The Due Diligence of Decision-making

David AllenIf you had no trouble making decisions, you would probably have no trouble. You’d still have challenges, but problems would be in motion toward solutions, no “stuff” would lie around draining your psychic energy, and things to be done would be funneled into a process of completion as they show up instead of as they blow up.

There is obviously a strong connection between choice-making and productive, relaxed behavior. So, what’s the issue about making decisions? Why don’t you immediately and easily get off the dime with a pending choice and dispatch it? Several hindering factors could be at work:

  1. Decisions require thinking, which takes time and energy. Often you feel you have neither.
  2. You believe if you choose, you lose. Deciding means there’s something you must sacrifice. Likely you are spoiled—you’d love to pretend that you could really have it all. You may add way too much reading material to your piles, for instance, instead of limiting it on the front end.
  3. Bad choices get the blame. You can’t be blamed for going off course if you’re not yet on the course.
  4. You potentially create lurking monsters. If you got feedback from every decision instantly, you could probably handle it easier than having to make choices for which the consequences could be far-reaching and unexpected.

If thorough front-end decision-making is a key success behavior, and you can easily get sidetracked, can you train yourself to make them quicker, better, and more thoroughly across your life and work? Sure.

The most all-encompassing approach would be to do whatever you need to do to gain a greater sense of self-worth, giving you more confidence and reducing the fear of making mistakes. But perhaps the most significant short-term factor in ensuring consistent decision-making is increasing your discomfort with not doing it. If you raise the bar internally with how much ambiguity and lack of clarity you are willing to tolerate, you’ll find it much easier (necessary, actually) to just get on with it. We spend thousands of hours holding a focus for our clients to make hundreds of thousands of decisions that have been pending in their psyche and their world—from random papers on their desk to key issues distracting their consciousness. They would not have allowed those to linger had their comfort zone not tolerated them.

How do you raise your standards about indecision you’ll tolerate? Become conscious of the inventory of choices you haven’t made, but need to. Realize that executive time and energy must be committed to expedite the process, and discipline yourself to empty your inboxes regularly. Commit to bigger results that require an intelligent allocation of your limited resources. And practice, practice, practice… until you get so accustomed to the energy you experience with a clear deck internally, you just won’t allow the nagging lack of choice to linger.

It’s not always the actual work that is the hardest part of a job and success—it’s the decisions, compromises and choices that need to be made.
Barbara Abrams Mintzer

[Note: This essay appeared in David Allen’s Productive Living Newsletter. Subscribe for free here.]

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