Adopting a Rational Approach to Decision Making

Decision making is an important aspect of time management. For example, when planning your day, you will need to be decisive and not procrastinate over each and every activity. Having decided what is important, you then need to progress these tasks quickly and efficiently, and adopting a rational approach to decision making will be a key factor in your ability to do this.

The following decision making technique can prove useful

1) Define and clarify the issue.
2) Does it need to be dealt with?
3) Gather all the facts and understand their causes.
4) Think about or brainstorm possible options and solutions.
5) Consider and compare the pros and cons of each option.
6) Select the best option.
7) Explain your decision to those involved and affected.
8) Follow up to ensure proper and effective implementation.

If you want to improve your decision making, you will need to identify the types of job you put off and the reasons and excuses you give yourself. Many people admit to putting off jobs because: they find the job daunting or unpleasant or they hope that the job will somehow go away or they just don’t know where to start. They may justify this procrastination by finding routine tasks to do instead. Alternatively, they may wait until the pressure is really on before starting to take appropriate action.

Putting off jobs we dislike doing is a common trait. Unfortunately, most jobs that are put off don’t go away – they remain waiting to be done, and they tend to stay at the back of our minds, often causing feelings of guilt and acting as a distraction.

Putting off jobs has another disadvantage in that it tends to lead to an ever increasing number of jobs that remain outstanding. This growing list becomes increasingly daunting and it then becomes more and more difficult to make a start on any of them.

Whilst the batching of activities by type, is generally an effective time management strategy, unpleasant tasks is the one category for which this doesn’t hold true. They are far better tackled as soon as possible, as this is the most effective and efficient approach to unpleasant jobs.

Remember the maxim, “the only way to do something is to do it.”

Overcoming procrastination involves first coming to terms with the fact that you have a real problem, which will require you to change how you feel about certain types of job. There follows a variety of ways of overcoming procrastination:

Do the worst job first
Doing the worst job first, involves making the worst task the one thing that you commit to completing that day, irrespective of other considerations. This prevents a task from becoming an ongoing source of anxiety, which can make you less productive until it is completed.

Break daunting tasks down into smaller ones
This can be the only way to tackle long-term tasks where the end seems to be out of sight. Breaking a task into smaller chunks will allow you to achieve some small successes, which should give you the motivation necessary to see the job through. Making a series of smaller commitments is much easier than making a single large one. Ideally each sub-task should have its own deadline.

This gives you a series of short-term targets to aim for and enables you to correct any slippage as it occurs, rather than struggling to make up all of the accumulated lost time at the end of the project.

Make a public commitment to do the job
Making a public commitment can be done in a number of ways, you could make your intentions public by circulating copies to your co-workers. Alternatively, you could display your schedule discreetly at your workstation, where it will be visible to others.

Plan the evening before
Planning the following day’s activities, the night before is effective because it avoids this potential distraction at the start of the day. By identifying a task to get on with first thing in the morning, you will create the opportunity to achieve something positive at the start of the day which will give you the incentive to continue in the same way.

There are valid reasons for deferring decisions. For example, if not all of the pertinent information is available. However, when all relevant information has been assembled, hesitation only wastes time and opportunity.

Various techniques can help you to make decisions. For example, a list of pros and cons against each option often helps to clarify the best course of action. Best is a good word here you should make a conscious effort to accept that your role necessitates you making decisions and that you are not always going to make the right one.

Managers should learn to play the percentage game, this means accepting that a certain proportion of decisions will turn out to have been incorrect; perhaps 10 or 20%.

However, as an effective manager the vast majority will turn out to have been the right decisions and therefore the fear of making the wrong choice should not hold you back.

There are a variety of techniques that can contribute to more effective decision-making. Breaking a decision into smaller components enables the decision to be arrived at incrementally.

Listing the pros and cons associated with each option results in a balance sheet, which compares the alternatives objectively. Alternatively, an incentive can be created by the promise of a reward once the decision has been made.

Our Thinking Skills eBooks will help you to become more creative and innovative whether you need to make more time for creative thinking, some general inspiration or specific tips and techniques. Download these free eBooks, checklists and templates for your PC, Mac, laptop, tablet, Kindle, eBook reader or Smartphone.

Key Points

  • Decision making is an important aspect of time management.
  • Identify the types of job you put off and why this happens.
  • People who procrastinate may seek refuge in routine tasks.
  • Putting off jobs we dislike doing is a common trait.
  • This leads to an ever-increasing number of jobs that remain outstanding.
  • Unpleasant tasks are best tackled as soon as possible.
  • Avoid procrastination once you have all the relevant information.
  • A list of pros and cons often helps to clarify the best course of action.
  • Accept that a proportion of your decisions will turn out to have been incorrect.

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