Indecision has plagued me all my life. I had FOMO before FOMO was a thing: stressing out about what top to wear in my tweens, which classes to take in college, and now, what neighborhood to live in or whether or not to get a dog. Those are all innocuous enough, but when FOMO strikes at the office when I’m on deadline—about which photo or word choice to use, among other things—it becomes a practical problem.
If you’ve ever become gridlocked in your own brain, struggling to make a decision one way or another, you know how paralyzing it can be—and how it can mess with efficiency and time management on the job. I asked career expert and consultant Becki Saltzman, author of Living Curiously: How to Use Curiosity to be Remarkable and Do Good Stuff, for her best advice on how to make better, smarter, faster decisions at work.
Confirmation bias makes us want to believe that the evidence or facts we’re seeing support what we already think or know (election 2016, anyone?). When it comes to making a big or fast decision, though, staying open-minded will create a better outcome, says Saltzman. “When we remain curious about other opinions and perspectives, we’re not blindsided when we learn that what we believe is not always the case. Stepping out of our comfort zones is not only good for a curious and adventurous life—it genuinely helps the decision-making process.” If your problem isn’t taking too long to make decisions, but rather making decisions too quickly without looking at all the different aspects of a complex situation, you could end up regretting your choice.
Of course it makes sense that you’d want managers to weigh in on a big work decision, or that you might imagine what a professional mentor would do in your shoes, but remember that if it’s your decision to make, you should ultimately think for yourself—even if that means it’s unpopular or controversial in the moment. “All of our decision-making is influenced by the same persuasion principles: social proof, reciprocity, scarcity, likability, authority, and consistency,” says Saltzman. “In the case of social proof, the opinions of friends and peers sometimes carry too much weight, which can breed even more indecision.” Before you rely too much on others’ input, Saltzman suggests you weigh how well these people know the specific topic or situation—do they really know it better than you?—and their own track records of decision-making. Either way, it’s best to rely on your own expertise, knowledge, experience, and instincts if it’s your decision to make.
If your issue, like mine, is more often to overthink than oversimplify decision-making, you may want to think of this as your new mantra: Sometimes, “done” really is better than “good.” Sometimes I put off making a decision because I want to keep thinking or considering whether there are better options than the ones I’ve already thought of. But the deadline starts creeping up and I realize it’s just time to make a call—and often, the best idea or headline was one of the first ones I came up with, and I was just overanalyzing it. “For decisions that require swift action, there is very little positive side to indecision,” says Saltzman. “For complex decisions and decisions that require more thought, impulsivity is not optimal. The key is to be curious enough to evaluate the differences between impulsivity, anxiety-produced indecision, analysis paralysis, and proper analysis that wisely slows the decision process.” Either way, the more practice you get in making decisions, the better you’ll get at doing it—especially if you use these techniques.
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