It is important to be decisive, but obstacles and potential problems can paralyze our thoughts and actions. When we have a strong desire to be right or a strong desire to avoid being wrong, we may delay decisions. Indecision and perfectionism are often dance partners.
When I deliver presentations on decision-making, we discuss the four stages of decision-making: framing the situation, gathering information and intelligence, reaching conclusions, and reviewing and evaluating the process and the product.
Spend about 25% of your time on each stage. There is a time for deliberation, and there is a time for action. Being decisive is one of the keys to unlock the grip of procrastination.
If analysis paralysis is the problem, set a deadline for gathering the best information available and then unleash the courage to make the best decision possible. There is a terrible diminishing return on perfectionism.
To be more decisive, consider Pareto’s Principle, or the 80-20 rule: for many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. Many natural phenomena have been shown empirically to exhibit such a distribution. So, recognize the few critical activities that will have the greatest impact, and focus your attention on doing those things first.
If you are still worried that something may go wrong, be sure to clearly focus on what you want to accomplish, write down the potential obstacles or difficulties you may face, think of a variety of possible solutions, and select the ones that seem to have the best chance. This type of positive planning will keep procrastination at bay.
Sometimes we think about the worst things that can happen and we stall. Do some planning to prevent the worst from happening and make the decision. You’ll be all right.