In college I would get flyers or mail with interesting opportunities but be unsure if that’s where I should invest my already stretched time. I’d read a flyer, find it difficult to decide and then drop it on my desk so I wouldn’t forget I needed to do something about it. Needless to say, this lead to a desk piled with papers and a mind full of unmade decisions. I was stressed all the time and never had the energy at the end of a long day to sort through the piles of papers that held yet more work for me. This would last for weeks or months until the stress gave me enough reason to summon my courage and clean up my desk and overflow piles. I would pick up those same interesting opportunities and note with relief that the due date had passed so I could trash them without mental energy.
Not to decide is to decide
We can’t get around it. We can’t put off decisions for a magical time “later” when we’ll suddenly have more time. I still think I’ll have more time later even though I always have less time now than I did before! When we delay a decision, we are in fact deciding not to act. Not to decide is to decide – or is it? My college habit of postponing decisions took up an enormous amount of energy and mental space but returned no productivity whatsoever. Not to decide is much worse than deciding not to. If I was so relieved that the opportunity had passed then it probably wasn’t very important in the first place. What if I had had the courage to say “no” when I first got the opportunity? What freedom and peace of mind – not to mention a cleaner desk – I would have experienced!
Deciding to Reduce
Did you think of something you’d rather cut out of your life after reading my last post? Did you decide to reduce the effort you put into it and accept it as an area where you’ll perform below industry standard? Or did you put off deciding?
Front load your “no”
Decisions take energy, but deciding not to decide wastes precious brain space until the question is resolved. Our subconscious will continue to work on the problem when we’re trying to focus on something else. The more unmade decisions we carry around, the harder it is to get anything done. Don’t let my words sit in the back of your head. Decide to decide, even if it is to decide not to. Don’t let that low performance area of family life that you don’t like and wish you could remove sit around and make you feel guilty. Decide. Can you cut it? Can you reduce it to a minimum acceptable level? Can you front load your “no” and be at peace with your lower level rather than carry around guilt that you don’t measure up and more guilt that you haven’t decided whether it’s okay not to measure up?
The Next Action Trick
If you can’t decide to reduce or cut – it’s just too much or you’re too afraid that it’s something you shouldn’t cut, then take a moment to think about what you might do if you were to improve in that area. You don’t have to do it now, just think what would be the very next step necessary to move in the right direction. Could you act on it right now? If not, then you need to burrow down one more level. You might need to find a tool, or ask a person, or find a number, or look inside a box – yes, I’ve made Next Action tasks like “look inside sewing box” because I’m too overwhelmed by the guilt of neglecting to act on “decide what sewing needs to be done.” And I still procrastinate! So this call is for us all:
Pick one bothersome area and decide to reduce, cut or think of a next action. Enjoy the peace that comes from deciding. You get extra credit if you decide NOT TO and take it off your to do list and guilty-conscious mental list for good!
I’d love to hear what you decided not to do today! You should be able to see your comment right away and not have to wait for moderation. Please try it so I can see if I set it up right.