Ten Minutes to Faster Decisions – Part 1

Posted by Heather Villa, CMA, MBA, MSM on November 03, 2010 in: Time Management Strategies, Tips in 10

Most of my readers are business owners, entrepreneurs, freelancers, and coaches. Each one of those roles requires frequent, on-the-fly decisions to be made throughout the day. You want to be able to encounter a choice, decide intelligently, and act in the right way.

But it’s easier said than done! Choices aren’t always clear, which fogs up our ability to decide intelligently, and then that delays our ability to act (at all, let alone act in the right way).

In this article of Tips In Ten and in the next one, I want to talk about how to make faster decisions and I’ll give you some tools to do that better. One “tool” is a series of mindsets that you need to adopt if you’re going to make faster decisions and then I’m going to give you 2 tools to transform decision making into a fast, accurate path to success. I’ll give you two tools (plus examples) in this issue and one more tool (plus examples) in the next article.

And I should also say this as a type of disclaimer before we get too far into the issue: The length of time you take to make decisions should correlate to the importance of the decision. So if you take ten minutes to sell all of your belongings and move to Antarctica, I don’t want you emailing me later to complain. Let’s say that, in general, many of your business decisions can be made in less time than you’re normally taking, and that you can probably make a lot of them in ten minutes or less.

Tool #1: A mindset for better decision-making skills

The first “mindset” tool isn’t a “do-this-in-10-minutes” thing. It’s something you need to embed as a way of thinking and when you do that, the use of the 2 other tools will take ten minutes (or so).

I would define decisions as our personal commitment to act after weighing a choice. Because of that decisions don’t always get made because we either can’t easily weigh a choice or because we are reluctant to act. So, the first “tool” I want to introduce you to is a mindset of decisiveness. Commit to make decisions with the following qualities:

  • Quickly: It is possible to make decisions quickly. To do so means that you trust yourself and you are willing to act on the best information you have available to you at the moment. Make it a time-limited to-do on your schedule when it comes time to decide on something. Don’t just add into your schedule “think about topic for my Chamber of Commerce speech”; instead, make your to-do something like: “Decide on a topic for my Chamber of Commerce speech” and limit it to ten minutes. That’s a huge difference and you will notice the difference.
  • Fairly Accurate: We live in an age where accuracy seems important. But it really isn’t as important as we think it is. The decisions you make don’t need to be 100% perfect and they don’t need to be based on the full picture. This is where the sayings “analysis paralysis” and “a good plan today is better than a perfect plan tomorrow.” Instead, the decisions you make need to be based on sound information and should be generally in the right direction but don’t have to be perfect. You won’t be far off course if you are off course at all, and most things we do can be easily adjusted. Adopt this quality and you’ll find it freeing to make far more decisions quickly.
  • Actionable: Decisions get cloudy when we forget to assign an action. We think about things. Then we think about them some more. But we don’t always act and that makes the decision unclear and it feels like it’s never complete. Solve this by assigning an action to every decision you make.
  • Mitigation: Even though we don’t have to be perfect doesn’t mean that we can ignore the consequences. Instead of trying to come up with a perfect plan, you’ll make faster decisions if you develop a good plan and recognize and mitigate potential consequences.
  • Trust intuition/Don’t fear failure: Your intuition is an underappreciated muscle that needs to be developed and trusted. It won’t always be right but if you accept that some failures will happen and you follow your intuition anyway, you’ll discover that it is right more often than it is wrong.
  • No regrets: Regret will slow you down and the fear of regret will keep you from making and acting on decisions. Once you’ve made your decision, blaze ahead, accept the consequences, and work hard.

That is the fast decision-making mindset you need to adopt. Once you’ve adopted it, you’ll find that your decisions will be made much faster. But to make them even faster, I’ll show you 2 more tools to use:

Tool #2: Restate the problem or decision

This seems overly simple but you will be surprised at how powerful it is. When you have a decision to make, sit down and restate it in 3 or 4 ways. It might feel redundant and when you’re done you’ll wonder why you made a list of what amounts to synonyms, but your decision-making muscle will appreciate it.

By restating your problem or decision in different ways, you are unlocking yourself from one way of thinking. You are forcing yourself to reframe the problem from a different perspective and one or more of those restated phrases might be enough to inspire a solution.

I’m going to give you 2 examples: One in which the decision is already clear and one in which you have a problem and you know you have some thinking to do but the decisions themselves aren’t clear yet.

Example 1 (a clear decision): Let’s say that you find yourself with some spare time in your work schedule and you have a choice to make between two options: You might write your initial decision like this: “Should I take on more clients or spend my extra time writing a book to be published?”

From here, you would restate your problem in a few ways. For example, you might restate your problem like this:

“Should I increase my client base or should I write an ebook?”
“Should I hire out more of my coaching time to existing clients or should I focus instead on passive income?”
“Should I work indepth with a segment of my clients or should I develop another product or service to sell?”

Do you see the value of doing this? You are breaking your thinking, which was either more new clients or a book, and instead considering other possibilities. In cases like this, where I know the distinct choices in a decision, I will not even bother writing them out in a sentence as I’ve done here. Instead, I’ll write each choice into a column (so I’d have 2 columns here, but I have done this with more complex choices and had 5 or 6 columns because there were 5 or 6 choices in the decision). Then, I write down synonyms and related ideas for every choice. At the end, I’ve got a whole bunch of potential ideas and can start making my choice having fully explored the options.

You can do that if you want, and it’s a useful way to organize your thoughts, but you don’t have to. It works just as well to use sentences as I’ve done in the initial example.

Example 2 (unclear decision): Sometimes a decision isn’t as clear as two (or 3 or 4 or 5 or 6) choices. Sometimes you have some decisions to make but it’s in the form of a problem or single issue to be resolved. This method still works.
For example, let’s say that you want to meet more leads and you’ve been thinking about offering a seminar. But how do you get people to your seminar? What should your seminar be on? So you would start by writing: “I want to get more leads by offering a seminar at a local community center”. But then you can restate it in a few ways, generalizing or switching out some of the words for others:

“I want to meet more people by offering a hands-on workshop at a local gathering place.”
“I want to network with potential customers by being at a meeting in a nearby business event.”
“I want to connect with people who might eventually buy from me by delivering a speech at a trade show.”

Suddenly, one problem, which contained a few decisions, becomes clearer while new opportunities surface. You might consider different locations (like a trade show or a business networking event) and you might consider different methods of communicating rather than a seminar.

This method will help to crystallize a decision and make it even clearer. And often, you might end up with more decisions than you first realized. That’s not a problem because doing this will help you to mitigate any problems and erase any regret that you might feel in the future. And, in the next article of Tips In Ten, I’ll give you an additional tool to make decisions even faster.

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