Learning to say “no” and prioritizing along with the other strategies discussed last week in Decisions, Decisions, Decisions – Part 1 will go a long way in helping streamline decision making. But they only take you so far. Decisions making their way through those particular strategies will still eventually overwhelm simply because of the sheer volume of choices our culture makes available to us daily.
For this reason, taking decision making to a deeper level becomes invaluable. Additional defense strategies can get at our character and who we are as individuals (what defines us) rather than just how we do things or the techniques we use. With that, below are 10 additional strategies to put in your decision-making arsenal.
- Beware of perfectionism. Barb Raveling indicated frustration over making decisions because she wants to make perfect decisions, so she often puts off making any decisions. As a perfectionist myself, I understand Barb’s frustration. Voltaire said, “The perfect is the enemy of the good.” In other words, good is often effective enough to get the job done. Insisting on perfection sometimes impairs progress.
- Avoid second guessing yourself. As Mark Allman so aptly said, “Trust that you have done your best and not look back.” Make the best decision with the information available and move forward. Constantly second guessing yourself leads to stagnation.
- Take emotions out of decision making. Emotions function like gauges on a car. They indicate a need to fill up, replenish and repair. However, they cannot actually drive the car. Decisions based on emotion often lead to regret and embarrassment.
- Develop positive habits. Loren Pinilis notes that, “Once a decision gets to be a habit, it takes less of our mental resources. It doesn’t drain us.” An example might be exercising. When my husband wants to run in the evenings, he comes home, changes and heads out right away. He knows that putting it off decreases the chance it will happen. He’s developed this positive habit to ensure he gets mid-week runs in regularly.
- Embrace the process. Decision making is a part of life. While some people are better at it than others and some people enjoy it more than others, everyone has to make decisions. For this reason, learn to make the best decisions possible. By combination of trial and error and learning from others, strive to generally become better at making decisions.
- Consider the impact of personality. Some people are naturally better decision makers than others, and some people enjoy and can tolerate making a larger number of decisions. As Tim Van Milligan pointed out, personality can have a big impact on an individual’s approach to decision making. For me, a melancholy introvert, I keep decisions to a minimum since I can easily get overwhelmed. I also spend a lot of time planning, so as to minimize on-the-spot decision making. My husband, on the other hand, is an extrovert who actually has almost an even amount of each personality type and is able to pull from each as the situation dictates. He is not only much better at making decisions, but he is able to handle a much larger number of decisions without breaking down.
- Realize that not deciding is sometimes appropriate. All too often, we force decisions. I know I have made a decision before I should have many times and then faced regret and unwelcomed consequences. From these experiences, I have learned to listen to my internal gauge. If I don’t have to make a decision yet and if I am completely unsure of the direction I should take, I simply wait. The Bible actually says we receive a blessing when we wait for Him to help us (Isaiah 30:18).
- Let your calling guide you. In response to Why Covey’s Big Rocks Illustration Is Wrong, Jason Vana articulates this point well. He said that “when we understand our purpose and calling in life, it’s easier to say no to the things that just aren’t important, or that try to steal time away from our calling. I’ve heard it said that you can’t say no to anything until you’ve first said yes to something greater.” He also noted that saying “no” isn’t always easy, but that when he looks at the purpose of his life and sees something that doesn’t fit, he can then “say no with confidence.”
- Establish your values. In the grip of a big decision is not the time to decide moral views. Establish convictions and values before you need them, hopefully basing them on the Truth of God’s Word. They can help guide decisions of any size.
- Stick with what works. When a process or procedure works well, consider leaving it alone. This is an especially helpful approach when multiple priorities and goals within priorities vie for your time and energy. This is not to say room for improvement ceases to exist, but sometimes good enough really can be okay.
With the increasingly rapid pace of our information culture, the need to make a lot of decisions doesn’t seem to be dissipating in any way. Having a solid arsenal helps sort, prioritize and eliminate decisions. For Christians, one more tool must be used with and above all others. God’s Word provides Truth that allows for clarity in decision making not found elsewhere. Be sure to consult God’s guidebook for life regularly.
- 5 Decision-Making Lessons for Leaders by Ron Edmondson
- How to Avoid the Biggest Mistake in Prioritization by Loren Pinilis at Life of a Steward
- When Should You Say No? by Chris Patton at Christian Faith at Work
- What Does the Bible Says About Decisions? a supplement found under Spiritual Fitness in the Victory! section of Struggle to Victory.
DISCUSSION: How do you feel right now about the number of decisions you have to make regularly? What do you plan to try to hopefully make that process more efficient?