One day, I’d like to be the sort of person who can make a decision as quick as blinking. I’m getting there; these days, I can choose what I want for lunch in around five to ten minutes – a process that, in the past, lasted anywhere from half an hour until dinner time the next day.
The ability to make a decision seems to depend on the time available. When it comes to lunch, there’s a finite time frame that handily dictates the speed at which a decision must be made; when it comes to life choices, the time frame is unknown, which leads to decisions being put off until next week. Or next month. Or sometime next June.
What are you like when it comes to making decisions? Would you care to join me on this beginner’s guide to making quick decisions in under a month?
You may think that a decision made in a month doesn’t quite fall into the category of ‘quick’, but it really depends on the decision itself. And when it comes to making changes in how you go about things in life, it generally pays to do it gradually. For instance, I weaned myself off sugar in tea by reducing my spoonful one grain at a time. This habit has lasted. On the other hand, my snap decision to take up running is a distant memory of stupid workout tops rolling up when I tried to put them on and sore knees.
So, grain-by-grain it is.
Week 1: Want vs. Need
We have ridiculous amounts of disposable income compared with our grandparents and this is making it easy to forget that a lot of the things we think we need are just things we really want. Enough clothes to go without doing the laundry for an entire month? That’s a want. Really fast internet? That’s a want. (It’s a want I want a lot, though.) The latest mobile phone with all of the shiny things? That’s a want.
So this decision you’re making: is it a want or a need? It’s a big question, which is why you need to take a week over it. Your wants and needs are different from everyone else’s, too. For instance, the really fast internet I mentioned above is just a want for me and the Chef, but it could be a need for you if you work from home or are on your way to becoming a YouTube superstar. (Or is everyone on periscope now?)
Tip: Don’t allow yourself to be distracted. In the last month, I’ve gone from thinking I need a set of 1930s railway travel poster prints, to a paid theme for my new website, to a Mixmaster for Christmas, to an expensive book on pattern drafting. Out of the four, I was only meant to be considering the paid theme, but now I have a Mixmaster waiting until Christmas day and I’m currently researching which pattern drafting book I should get. At least I ruled out the travel posters early on, even if I do daydream about having them in my study from time to time.
Learn from my example: any distractions will blow out your decision-making time by several weeks. Focus!
Week 2: Reflect
So you’ve figured out your need is actually a need and it’s going to improve your life in some way. Excellent! There’s no need to rush into anything yet – we still have three weeks of the month to go. This is your time to reflect, to anticipate, to decide if it’s worth it. Here are a few points for consideration in this second week:
Do you already have something like it?
Every now and then, I convince myself I need a new sewing machine, since I try to make as many of my own clothes as possible and need appropriate tools for same. The fact is, my current sewing machine actually works OK, so this is actually a want masquerading as a need. Make sure this isn’t happening to you, too.
Is it going to cost more than it’s worth to you?
You may need this thing, but at what cost? Is it really worth choosing that fancy restaurant for lunch if you’re only a little bit peckish? Is $200 a month a price you’re willing to pay for faster internet? I believe it’s always worth making an investment if you’re going to end up with an item of highly quality and endurance, but only if it helps you in some way.
Can you ask someone for advice?
It’s always helpful to have someone else’s opinion, even if they end up pointing out all of the flaws in your reasoning or telling you a story of how they made the same decision and it was the worst thing ever. (Whenever I ask the Chef’s advice on such matters, his answer is always ‘Just buy it’. So he’s a wonderful enabler but not so great with the pros and cons.) This advice does not have to come from someone you know, of course: the internet is full of people with opinions who have written or shared reviews. Make use of this.
Tip: Be prepared for this advice to change everything. For example, I thought I’d settled on which pattern drafting book to buy until I read reviews that made me think twice. Having looked at different options and read further reviews, I may be back where I started, but at least I feel more informed.
This reflection week is all about being truthful. It’s also about tea, because nothing brings on a bout of reflection like a nice cuppa and a biscuit.
Week 3: Pause
There’s no point rushing into anything, is there? Take a week to stop thinking about your decision. Smell the roses, if that’s your thing (and they’re available to smell). Focus on work instead of endlessly searching for reviews and best prices in between your actual tasks. In short: forget you’re trying to make a decision and dedicate your thoughts towards choosing a sandwich filling for your lunch.
By the end of this week, you’ll know for sure if you still need to make this decision because it will be at the forefront of your mind. If it’s not, then good news! Your subconscious has done all the hard work for you and decided that you don’t need this thing after all. Take the rest of the month off.
Tip: Be ruthless this week. Any time you catch yourself thinking about your decision or heading to google for a bit more research, stop! This pause is intended to truly assess the strength and importance of this need.
Week 4: Time for Action
This is it. You’ve done some serious thinking; you’ve drunk some serious cups of tea; you’ve had a week to pause and you’ve decided that yes, you do need this thing. It is not a want, it makes sense financially, and you’re still keen on it after your week of pausing. So do it! And leave off making any decisions for the next month – you’ve already worked hard enough.
Tip: Once you’ve decided to act, act! Don’t be like me and hold back in anticipation of regret. Throw yourself into it and reward yourself for a job well done: a quick decision made before the month was out.
What are your tips for making decisions? Can you do it on the fly, or do you need time to consider? I’d love to learn more about this tricky art myself, so please share your thoughts in the comments.