Do you know we make eye-watering 35,000 decisions each day? These range from the more mundane choices we make about what to have for our breakfast to, for example, the more fundamental decision about whether to accept the offer of a new job and anything in between. It’s no wonder that sometimes we pause or put off choices.
However, women seem to cope with critical, life-saving decision making better than men. “A far too common perception is that when women are stressed, they become emotional and fall apart – Dr Therese Huston, author of ‘How Women Decide: What’s True, What’s Not, and What Strategies Spark the Best Choices’, explains to Forbes– but when men are stressed, they remain calm and clear-headed“. On the contrary, she explains, “rather than falling apart, women bring unique strengths to decision-making. They tend to become risk-alert under stress and go for the smaller wins that are more guaranteed. Indeed, the strength a woman brings to decision-making is their analytical perseverance and perspicacity“.
It’s also clear that, in midlife, women leaders are pushing through the barriers often wrongly associated with age. Research shows that making good decisions requires experience and emotional skill, both of which improve with age. In fact, we have had so much more practice at making them by the time we reach midlife, that we make decisions more readily and they tend to lead to more successful outcomes.
So why do we procrastinate so much in our everyday? What is holding us back and stopping us from making choices and moreover, what can we do about it? According to Dr Fuschia Sirois, professor of psychology at the University of Sheffield: “people engage in this irrational cycle of chronic procrastination because of an inability to manage negative moods around a task.” It may be due to something inherently unpleasant about the task itself (eg. having to clean a dirty bathroom or organizing a long, boring spreadsheet for your boss). But it might also result from deeper feelings related to the task, such as self-doubt, low self-esteem, anxiety or insecurity.
The art of decision making
“Decisions vary along two dimensions: control and performance – explains Phil Rosenzweig on Harvard Business Review-. The first considers how much we can influence the terms of the decision and the outcome. The second dimension addresses the way we measure success”. If you are struggling to master the art of decision making, here are some clever strategies that might help you make the best choice possible every day.
Don’t let your emotions and your bias play a part in your decision making
Think through how emotional you are feeling about things and try to put these emotions to one-side. Also, work hard to overcome your assumptions and any bias, which will be playing a part in your thinking. Sometimes we make decisions which are heavily influenced by what we think we are supposed to do, or we are influenced by what someone else has done or what they tell us to do. Try hard to avoid this.
Use a pros and cons list
Work through each of the advantages and disadvantages of your current situation and try to make your decision based on the evidence you have gained. You can also ask others for their input in your ‘pros and cons’ list.
Determine what is the most important factor
This is so important in decision making. Please consider why you are doing something and make your intention based on that. Think about your most important drivers and your values and how they are playing a part in this decision. Do the right thing!
Reverse your thinking
Consider what will happen if you don’t make this decision. Thinking about what the consequence will be of not doing something often helps you to get into action and make your decision. Also, you can try and imagine a friend telling you the same problem and consider what you would say to them. Reverse the situation, what would your advice be to your friend?
Create a scoring or ranking system and stick to it
Once you have an objective formula for making your decision, somehow this makes it easier. You can award points for certain aspects of the information you have and rank your information according to the points and the criteria. There is, of course, still an element of subjectivity, but if you ask others to join you in your scoring or ranking, this may help.
Have a ‘Plan B’
Have a back-up option so that if your first decision doesn’t work, you can try a different route to get to the same solution.
Make a decision – Just do it!
If you’re getting stuck in a rut of procrastination, get into the habit of making smaller decisions every day to become confident in your ability once more. Its sometimes about getting started again rather than stalling! This in turn leads to self-satisfaction and even if it’s not the best decision you’ve ever made, it might just be good enough for today!
And finally, remember the great advice from Michelle Obama, who said: “don’t ever make decisions based on fear. Make decisions based on hope and possibility. Make decisions based on what should happen, not what shouldn’t”.