Decisions of all sizes are tough. Should you start a new course that grows your career or invest in a side-hustle? What about working more or prioritising time off? And should your company expand or build up its cash reserves?
The word decision derives from the Latin verb dēcīdere which means "to cut off." Picking A means passing up on B. Opt for B, and the door closes on C. And so on. Each lost opportunity hurts, but you can act faster by considering the size of the decision at hand.
Lifting weights or taking a rest day. Eating chocolate cake or opting for salad. Getting up before 6:00 a.m. to work on a side-hustle or sleeping in to recharge for a big meeting.
The Impact Of A Mentor
If you take more than five seconds to decide, you're probably overthinking it. Better to wrestle with the thousand-dollar-an-hour problems than ten-dollar-an-hour ones. The only exception is a craving. Wait ten minutes until the craving passes, and then decide if you still want it.
For smaller decisions, try reducing your options to avoid overload. I once met a successful suit tailor who told he me:
"I always present clients with three options. Any more, and they get overwhelmed."
Small means the consequences are reversible. You can always walk off chocolate cake or go to the gym tomorrow. Just remember small decisions made repeatedly grow into bigger ones. Skip the gym today if you want. Skip training for three months, and you’ll become unfit.
Use small decisions to reduce the consequences of big ones. It might cost tens of thousands of dollars to create and ship a new product. So why not seek feedback early and often from would-be customers or clients?
Consider Dropbox and Airbnb. Each company released minimum viable versions of their products and got feedback from early customers. The team at Dropbox released a three-minute explainer video in 2007, which went viral and helped the company raise $48 million. Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia of Airbnb put pictures of their loft online and rented to attendees of a 2007 San Francisco conference.
Both decisions were less risky than investing thousands and years into a new idea.
Quitting a job. Starting a business. Ending a relationship. Bigger decisions require more time, feedback from others and self-reflection. They’re much harder to reverse too.
If you leave a well-paying job, returning will probably be difficult if your venture doesn't pan out. Similarly, let's say you spend the company's marketing budget for the year on a single campaign. How will you find new customers if it flops?
In both cases, procrastination is healthy. Use this time to balance a gut check by consulting information from different sources.
Bill Gates invests millions every year on behalf of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Before acting, he reads thousands of pages on diverse topics including philanthropy, healthcare and green energy. Warren Buffet will happily spend hours holed up in his office reading financial reports before deciding whether or not to buy or invest in a company.
If you're making decisions on behalf of a team, a decision log is a great productivity tool. Record the question at hand, what you decided to do and why. Add a section for the pros and cons of this decision so you can review reasoning later on. Record who decided what and when.
Documenting reasons will foster clear thinking and reflection on behalf of your team. This process helps with developing a mental framework for bigger decisions.
I also like decision logs because you can share them with others. They might not agree with your choice, but they can't complain about being left in the dark.
Whether your decision is small or big, commit to your final choice. Later on, reflect on whether it was a good or bad choice and use that information to reach a decision with more precision next time.