Article: "Decisions, Decisions! Just Make One Already!"
You've gathered all the information, you've researched
alternatives, you've priced it, and now you can't decide.
The project sits in its manila folder and gathers dust.
Another "half-done" project bites the dust.
Indecision is a big time bandit. Look at your desk and
your e-mail in-box. Many of the piles represent decisions
you haven't made yet. At some point, you stopped asking
yourself, "What's next?" Eventually, the only thing left to
do is DECIDE.
For example, you've got the conference schedule, you
know the price, have the hotel information and flight
schedules... but you can't decide whether to go. Or
you've passed those travel lounges many times and
thought how nice it would be to have a membership.
you've compared different programs and researched cost
differentials. Not knowing exactly how many times you'd
be traveling in the coming year, and not wanting to pay for
visits you didn't use, the file just sat. And you continued
to look wistfully at the lounges as you head to the
Examples abound of professionals who don't demonstrate
forward progress in their careers or daily activities,
because they stopped making decisions or were afraid to
make one at all. Star performers know when to make a
decision. I look at the rejection letters I received from
other publishers, knowing that several publishers turned
down The Bridges of Madison County because no editor
would go out on a limb and back it. Ha! IBM couldn't
find a quorum that would back the idea that later became
the Xerox machine.
Why? In the old days, risk-averse workers knew that
they'd never get in trouble for avoiding a tough decision.
In fact, it might even have been the fastest ticket to a
promotion, because it's one sure way to keep the dirt off
your feet. But these days, if you can't make a decision,
you're out of the action. Any decision that is likely to serve
you and your company better than no decision. But
people avoid making a decision by saying things like, "I'm
waiting to get more information." Or "I need more input
The truth is you're not willing to look the situation in the
eye and make a decision, right or wrong. So you put off
acknowledging what you already know and acting on it.
The project stalls and gets added to the pile of wasted
time. You might wait until your boss or co-worker asks
you about it and you are literally forced to make a
decision. But because you've already made the decision
in your mind, the delay in making it official can mean
staying up all night, making more mistakes, or spending
more money. Then you give me the old, "I work better
under pressure" comment.
Let's call a spade a spade. You're stalling and wasting
time. Before you put ANYTHING down, ask yourself,
"What is the very next step required to see forward motion
on this task?" Finally, the answer is going to be "make a
decision." At that point, take a deep breath, face the
music, and choose. It is only then that you are free.
Productive. No leftovers, nothing "half-done."
Sometimes, you want to make a decision, but you can't,
because you've made a bad decision that prevents you
from making the new one. For example, when I was
"green" and first starting out as a professional speaker, I
signed on with CareerTrack to present public seminars
around the country. After a couple years of doing that, I
felt I had learned all I could from the experience. I
realized that as long as I kept allowing them to book me, I
was actually blocking myself from marketing my own
services, working on my promotional and seminar
materials, and taking engagements with private clients.
They kept me in a comfort zone where I couldn't make the
decisions I needed to.
Realizing your current situation is never going to get you
where you want to go is the key to getting where you
belong. Since CareerTrack booked about six months out,
and after a life-changing experience (missing my daughter
Meagan's first steps) forced me out of that comfort zone, I
told them no more after I complete what I've already
agreed to. Then I was free to make better decisions.
Instantly I found myself doing the things I had to do to get
work, and in six weeks I had created new client
In Spencer S. Johnson's book Yes or No, The Guide to
Better Decisions, he presents a simple but awesome idea:
"In order to make a better decision, we must first stop a
bad decision. This creates room for the better decision.
Like a woman dating a loser. She knows he will never
bring her happiness, but she fears being alone, because
maybe no one better will come along. She knows she
should dump him, but Friday night comes along...he
calls... you know the rest." As long as the loser is around,
she won't be open for a better opportunity.
What decisions have you made in the past that, if you
eliminate, would make room for better decisions now?
(c) Copyright 2003 Laura Stack, MBA, CSP. All rights
reserved. Portions of this newsletter may be reprinted in
your organization or association newsletter, provided the
following credit line is present:
"Laura M. Stack, MBA, CSP, is "The Productivity PRO,"(r)
helping people leave the office earlier, with less stress, and
more to show for it. She presents keynotes and seminars
on time management, information overload, and personal
productivity. Contact her at 303-471-7401 or