Deadlines For Decisions

In our house, the worst question you can ask anyone is:

“What would you like to eat?”

We will share memes about it, laugh about our own inabilities to make an actual choice and then, of course, opt for the usual favourites that are certain to bring a smile at the dinner table.

I’ve never really been very, naturally good at making choices. It has taken a conscious application of will to force myself into making decisions, because dithering about makes absolutely no sense and wastes a whole bunch of time I don’t really have to spend wandering the inroads of my mind over. Similarly, I’m so bloodymindedly aware of my own choice-making failings, that I’ve focused a tonne of my parenting on teaching my kid how to make choices, on her own, for herself and, without fear – this has made her a better decision maker than I am. But, back to the art of conscious decision making (It is an art, and not a natural talent. This is stuff I had to learn):

Learning to do this was tough, but important and, there are three principles I operate on nowadays, and apply to my own process of making choices. They are:

  1. If it’s a business decision, I need to make it within 24 hours. Anything else stresses me out, and makes a perceived problem or obstacle feel a whole bunch bigger than it actually is. Luckily, I don’t work for shareholders, a boss or anyone but myself, and the only criteria I need to impose upon these decisions are, usually: Can I do this? Do I need to do this? Do I want to do this?
  2. If it’s a personal decision, I give myself 48 hours, to mull over the possibilities, consequences and shout about how frustrating it is for me to have to make a decision. Yes, really. Ask my significant other – when I am frustrated, I shout. There’s also the frenetic texting phase, where I’ll find things out, try and figure things out and, then, well, I make a decision.
  3. How will this decision count in five years’ time? It can feel a little bit strange to think this way, but it’s been a source of both comfort and concern for me. Generally speaking, if I can imagine myself being comfortable with this choice, and its consequences, in five years’ time, then it’s a lot easier to make. It also helps to alleviate fears I may have, because fear-based thinking, and decision-making, is an absolutely stupid way of doing things (this is something it took me a long time to learn).

These are all very nice and wonderful to read, I realise, but they’re not always easy to apply. If you know me in person, you’ll know that I am, on the regular, clouded by emotion. Working my way towards not operating on that is hard for me – so flipping hard – but I try and do it, more and more. Often, I find I have to get the emotion out of the way (see: frenetic texting) and then I can think clearly beyond it. One thing I have realised is that I have to not make decisions when I feel compelled to frenetically text someone. It’s usually Jane.

Which brings me to the bonus #4 part of this brainvent post…find someone you can vent to. I’m lucky in that my vent space is equal parts business and friend, which is something I did not know I lacked a few years back, and yet I have discovered I needed more than I had ever suspected. She’s exceptionally good at conceptualising decisions and helping with point 3 above, which is both useful and helpful. She also supports me, in whichever end of the choice I end up travelling. I am exceptionally grateful for you, Janey Jane.

So, what’s my point? It’s this, really: 

I have, for as long as I could muster, used my own perceived inability to make decisions, as an excuse. It’s not a valid excuse or reason for me to continue feeling adrift when faced with decisions. Even the hardest ones can be tackled if I apply myself. Sometimes,  I do not want to, and that’s okay. But if there’s one thing that motivates me, it’s a deadline. That’s why I have deadlines for decisions now.