One of the most crucial roles played by any entrepreneur is that of decision maker; as the founder and leader of an organization, you’ll have the power to make final decisions at all levels, whether it’s hiring that new intern or changing the strategic course of the business. There’s an art to making decisions, and though there will rarely be an objectively “right” or “wrong” decision in front of you, how you approach decisions can have a massive impact on your end results.
When new entrepreneurs begin making these important decisions, they sometimes fall victim to the immense pressure associated with them, procrastinating rather than finalizing any one course of action. This path can be self-destructive, so it’s important to proactively recognize it, and correct it so you can become a better decision maker.
Diagnosing the Problem
The first step is recognizing if you’re a decision procrastinator in the first place. All of us are procrastinators in some capacity; you’ve likely delayed the completion of various assignments in your education or work history, or have put off making a phone call until the last minute. There are a handful of motivations usually at play here, such as opting for immediate gratification or waiting to see if something changes. And in some cases, procrastination can actually be a good thing (more on that in the next section).
However, you know you have a problem if you find yourself delaying decisions regularly for any of the following reasons:
· You’re anxious about the outcome.
· You don’t want to be held accountable.
· You simply don’t know what to do.
The operative phrase here is “regularly.” You’ll likely encounter these scenarios intermittently even if you’re a solid decision maker, but it’s only a problem if it’s recurring or severe.
When Procrastination is Useful
Sometimes, procrastination really can be a useful tool. For example, if you don’t have all the information about the options in front of you, you may delay your decision until you’ve gathered more data. If the decision is a particularly significant one, and it doesn’t demand an answer right away, you may ruminate on your thoughts to produce a better conclusion.
If multiple variables could influence your target outcome, you may wait to see if those variables emerge or change. These are examples of procrastination as an assisting force, rather than a means of avoidance; this is the critical distinction that separates beneficial procrastination strategies from harmful ones.
If you find that you’re consistently relying on harmful or destructive procrastination strategies in your decision making, there are some strategies that can help you overcome that tendency:
· Imagine the worst-case scenario. Many times, we procrastinate a final decision because of the unknown variables involved; taking risks can be scary, and if we aren’t sure how our options could play out, we may be tempted to avoid choosing any options at all. This strategy forces you to imagine the worst-case scenario, on each side of the decision tree. What’s the worst that could possibly happen? This thought experiment should make you more comfortable with the potential outcomes at all sides, easing your anxiety about the uncertainty.
· Give advice to a friend. It’s hard to make a decision if you don’t know what you really want, but making decisions in business isn’t about picking what you want as much as it is picking what’s best for the business. If your emotions are getting in the way of your logic, frame the decision as if it’s a friend making it, and give advice to that friend; this will help you separate yourself from the problem and give more grounded, practical, logic-driven advice (to yourself).
· Break the decision down. If the decision is too monumental or you’re worried about how it might affect different areas of your business, try to break the decision down into smaller components. For example, if you can’t decide which vendor to go with for one of your most important supplies, first decide on what your most important supply priorities are; is it more important to have consistent quality or a consistent shipping schedule? These micro-decisions can help you finalize a broader decision that encompasses them.
· Do what you can, then go with your gut. If all else fails, finish up your research; gather as much information as you can on the decision, talk to the people around you, then commit to finalize a decision. If, with all the information in front of you, you still feel torn, then close your eyes and go with your gut. Your instincts may lead you in the right direction — and even if they don’t, if the decision was this close, you can’t mess up too badly.
Many of your decisions as an entrepreneur will likely be complicated and difficult to make. However, you need to be willing to work through your decisions directly and resolutely if you want to be successful. These strategies can help you overcome your tendencies to procrastinate making a final decision, leading you to better, faster, and firmer decision making strategies.
For more content like this, be sure to check out my podcast, The Entrepreneur Cast!