Effective decision-making for leaders
One of the things I’ve struggled the most in my career has been indecision. At work I have to fight my perfectionism. Without supervision it can paralyze me.
Well managed perfectionism can be a superpower. I know it has given me patience, high bar for quality and at times an obsessive attention for detail.
However when unmanaged perfectionism can drive me to spend hours in tasks that have no impact. I have spent too many hours gathering more research that I can process. I have gone through piles and piles of raw data just to avoid what would amount to a rounding error. I have fallen into analysis paralysis in the pursuit of the perfect solution.
Perfectionism is particularly pernicious because it’s a vice that looks like a virtue. It’s the child of two parents: fear and narcissism
—David Perell, The Ultimate Guide to Writing Online
Being wrong comes with a cost, and depending on your role the price could be high. I know I always err on the side of overthinking decisions that affect humans.
But the decisions I regret the most are those I took too long to make.
How many time have I been tweaking an email response for so long my reply is irrelevant before I click send. The time to influence a decision has already passed, or the goalpost has moved.
There is an opportunity cost to not making a decision. After recognizing the opportunities missed, I have learnt to balance the risk of making a premature decision against a decision that comes too late.
Some things that have helped me:
- Make an effort to recognize the moment when I’m falling into the trap of overthinking a decision.
- Determine how much time I should spend analyzing vs acting.
- Set a time limit or a deadline. If the task is urgent, I give myself a few minutes or hours. If, on the other hand, the tasks is important but not urgent I might give myself a week.
- Recognize there is value in taking action, even if the results are sub-optimal. For one I can now act on the very next thing (which could be a second approach to the same problem even.)
- When the time comes to make a decision act without further thought. This is one of the hardest steps for me, but also one of the most effective.
My next decision will be to end this post without a wrap up. There. Done.