3 Steps to Simplify Decision Making
The topic of a recent keynote address I gave at a healthcare conference was “Change The Way You Think,” something I believe we can all do.During the question & answer section of the presentation, the topic of how to simplify decision making came up. An audience member asked about what to do, when a previously made decision is apparently not a good decision. She was wondering, if a decision can be overturned or reversed.
I asked the audience what business they believed to be in. Naturally, many responses were:
“We are in the healthcare business.”
I agreed. They are in the healthcare business.
“Yes, you are in the healthcare industry AND you are in the business of making decisions!”
Regardless of the industry, we are in the business of making decisions – ALL of us! We make a lot of decisions every day. But how do we make good decisions? Decision making drains our energy, because it takes a lot of brain power to make complex decisions. We have decision fatigue. Minimizing your need to make decisions is desirable.
Here is how you can simplify decision making:
1. Whose decision is this to make?
Often people worry about having to make decisions that are not for them to make. Is it a decision that can be made by one person, or do multiple people have to be involved in the process? Asking this question isolates who is responsible for making the decision, regardless.
2. What is the right time for decision making?
Often my clients are struggling with this question. Timing of decision making is important. Some decisions need to ripen. More research is needed. Or some people haven’t provided their perspective and given input to be weighed.
Here is where most go astray in the process:
No decisions are made! Not making a decision by default is never a good decision. It drains energy and often goes to the bottom of the pile of priorities. These decisions get dragged along in to-do lists or get moved along in meeting after meeting.
The better way to move forward when a decision isn’t ripe yet is to decide not to decide, a process called Dynamic Inactivity.
Dynamic Inactivity is the conscious choice to not decide yet. By deciding not to decide you might make a good decision.
What a concept!
I can decide to not decide?
Yes, you can.
By actively deciding not to decide, one frees up brain power and energy to focus on what is truly most important at the moment. And focus leads to success.
Everyone wants to succeed, but no one wants to make decisions, because we all want to be liked and respected. But some decisions will not make you popular.
“I cannot give you the formula for success, but I can give you the formula for failure, which is: Try to please everybody.”
– Herbert Swope
We cannot please everyone. It’s impossible, but we keep trying and therefore twist and turn our thoughts to come up with the best possible outcome.
There is nothing wrong with wanting the best possible outcome for all, on the contrary.
However, not making a decision is a decision as well, just not a conscious and intentional one. Think about this, by not deciding, the outcome is by definition unintentional. Who wants that?
“As a matter of fact the worst decision one can make is to not make a decision at all.” – Daniela Bryan
Not deciding is different from deciding not to decide, yet!
So, what are the three simple steps to decision making I promised?
There are only three options to decide anything. Really? Only three?
These three simple options apply to any decision to be made, regardless, if decision is to open an email, schedule an event, attend a meeting or if Greece stays or leaves the European Union. Here they are:
Step 1 – Yes
Step 2 – No
Step 3 – Yes, but. A form of modification.
Let’s try it:
Do I want to open the email? Yes, no, or I’ll open it tomorrow.
Do I want to act on the content of the email? Yes, no, or someone else needs to deal with this one.
Do I want to schedule this event on my calendar? Yes, no, or I need to plan my trip first.
Do I want to attend this meeting? Yes, it is important to my work, no, I am not needed there, or can I send someone else on my behalf?
Does Greece want to stay or leave the European Union. Of course, this question is infinitely more complex, but it boils down to the same three answers: Yes, no, yes, but with concessions…
Every decision boils down to these three responses. It might seem like an oversimplification. In my experience, simplifying the context makes the decision making so much easier. Given that we have so many decisions to make every day, wouldn’t you rather go for easy than complex? We are very good at complicating things. It’s time to simplify.
Try it right now. Ask yourself, what decision am I putting off right this minute?