Decision-making is the key to moving forward and in doing so the greatest obstacle is procrastination.
The idea that decisions are vital to our success is based on two foundational points:
1. All is not decided; that what we do or don’t do does make a difference; to decide and act is to actually change how things will be.
2. The Universe is logical; decisions mould reality because dominoes fall a certain way and, if I choose to push a particular one over, then the consequences are – by and large – predictable.
We live in a world governed by laws and consequently there are patterns we can observe. However, most of us, most of the time do not consciously think of these laws.
In the same way fish don’t feel wet, so we live within law.
Our forward movement is governed by how well we understand ‘laws’ that govern the universe. With this realisation comes responsibility. Consequently, we have the power to change things. In this way, we can view such responsibility as a positive to make the desired changes in our life.
Laws are applied easily to many facets of life but unerringly become difficult to apply to our success, character, relationships or spirituality. Partly this is a result of ‘when stuff goes wrong, we look out of the window in order to blame’ (Jim Collins).
The power of decision is the number one key to success. Not necessarily number one in importance but choice is the beginning point. Without, a decision no change will follow.
Decision is the hinge between hearing and doing, between knowing and living, between theory and practice.
Many decisions don’t need to be re-made every day because they have become habits. We are, by nature, habitual. Our habits create the essence of who we are. We like to find security through a consistent way of living. However, according to Toffler, when our experience meets change, we can become indecisive.
Decisions are the embryo of new habits and the graveyard of old ones. The objective therefore, is to birth correct habits.
Momentum can be difficult to achieve but is essential.
Decisions — lead to Habits — lead to Momentum
We can be on the right road, even be facing the right way but unless we are moving we are simply a sitting duck waiting to be hit by one of life’s ‘dramas’.
Decisions are like launching a NASA space shuttle and the huge power needed at ‘lift-off’ until momentum is achieved.
At liftoff, when the shuttle is fully fueled. It weighs about 2.0 million kilograms (without cargo which it can hold a maximum of 29,500 kilograms). The two solid rocket boosters carry the entire weight of the external fuel tank and the orbiter, each solid rocket booster weighing in at about 589,569.16 kilograms. The solid rocket boosters both take the space shuttle to an altitude of 45 kilometers or 45,000 meters into the sky in about 120 seconds (two minutes) before they burn out. As they are falling, they sprout three parachutes, and then land in the ocean for recovery. The solid rocket boosters provide 71.4 percent of the thrust (1,496,598.64 kilograms) at lift-off while the orbiter’s other three main engines provide the meager 28.6 percent thrust. (599,477.9 kilograms)
The overall power of a space shuttle at takeoff is about 12 GW or 12 billion watts of power. That is about 16
Daily, focused, deliberate habits can deliver our own ‘lift-off’ moment and consequently momentum.
We don’t have to wait for momentum to come to us. We can move to it – there are things we can do, actions we can take, attitudes we can foster that will add energy to our lives.
Great decisions require deliberation and, if we fail, learning to love feedback on how we can avoid the same mistake again – welcome a learning experience.
We need to avoid ‘I could have but I didn’t’ moments. This inner awareness of unrealised potential bolsters our ego’s and for a while convinces us that we’re doing OK. Yet, the thought, the idea, the desire is worth nothing if it is not converted into doing by the power of decision.
Identifying the existence and scope of Procrastination
Procrastination is ‘when you put off things that you should be focusing on right now’. (Mind Tools)
Life can be a bunch of conversations with yourself but none of your conversational buddies win the argument!
The first step is to recognize when and why we procrastinate.
From knowing where we are, we can then better plan and manage a suite of tools (sourced from Mind Tools but are not intellectual properties) that can support us in moving to a more decisive position.
1. Recognize that you are Procrastinating
First priorities need to be identified. Putting off an unimportant task isn’t procrastination, it’s probably good prioritization.
2. Work out why you are Procrastinating
Reasons for procrastination can include the following – you:
o favour doing something that is more enjoyable or that you’re more comfortable doing.
o don’t understand the difference between urgent tasks and important tasks, and jump straight into getting on with urgent tasks that aren’t actually important.
o Are driven by the person whose demands are loudest
o feel overwhelmed by the task.
o are waiting for the “right” mood or the “right” time to tackle the important task at hand
o fear of failure or success
o Underdeveloped decision making skills
o Have poor organizational skills
Activity logs are useful tools for auditing the way that we use time. They can also help track the changes in energy, alertness and effectiveness throughout the day. By analysing an activity log we can identify and eliminate time-wasting tasks. We need to carry out the important tasks during times we’re most alert.
Decision-Making Tool Selection
Whilst implementing a range of tools we must also ensure the appropriate structures are in place. This may be a reward, an accountability partner, identifying the negative consequences of not taking the appropriate action.
As we discover appropriate tools, plan to break the process down into smaller achievable steps that will deliver early wins necessary for momentum.
Personal time management skills are essential. As these skills are developed, workload is controlled and stress of work overload is alleviated. Key to effective time management is an important shift in focus:
Concentrate on results, not on being busy – on the things that matter the most. This can be expressed as the Pareto Principle, The 80:20 Rule. 20% of our time delivers 80% of the results.
The Action Priority Matrix (Also, the Impact Feasibility Matrix)
The Action Priority Matrix is a simple and helps select the activities to prioritize. Consequently, we can avoid feeling overwhelming by a list of tasks that we simply are not able to achieve. Quick wins are therefore very important to achieve a high impact with the least effort in the short term – establishing momentum.
The key to efficiency, To-Do Lists are prioritized lists of all the tasks that you need to carry out. They list everything that you have to do, with the most important tasks at the top of the list, and the least important tasks at the bottom.
It is a simple step that can have a significant impact soon in the decision making process and therefore achieves the desired momentum early. It enables the capture all of the tasks to complete in one place. By prioritizing work and therefore the order in which things will be completed, we can identify what requires immediate attention.
In preparing a To-Do List most important jobs are listed first. It is important that any large number of unimportant jobs does not lead to stress.
The Urgent / Important Matrix – Using Time Effectively, Not Just Efficiently
Being behind to meet a deadline leads to stress and anxiety – effective time management is an absolute necessity.
The key is to distinguishing between what is important and what is urgent.
We need to distinguish:
o Important activities have an outcome that leads to the achievement of your goals.
o Urgent activities demand immediate attention, and are usually associated with the achievement of someone else’s goals, or with an uncomfortable problem or situation that needs to be resolved.
Urgent activities are often the ones we concentrate on. They demand attention because the consequences of not dealing with them are immediate.
When completing tasks, setting a goal to do ONE thing that you do not want to do early in the day, can be lead to achieving important goals that are ‘uncomfortable’.
An Action Plan is a simple list of all of the tasks that need to be carried out to achieve an objective. It differs from a To-Do-list in that it focuses on the achievement of a single goal.
Whenever we need to achieve something significant, an Action Plan can help establish momentum. It can help identify the things needed to be done, to achieve that thing. Consequently, help can be directed where it is needed and progress can be monitored.
To draw up an Action Plan, tasks needed to achieve the goal need to be listed, in the order that they need to be completed.
If you think you’ll be trying to achieve a similar goal again, revise your Action Plan after the work is complete, by changing anything that could have gone better.
Decision Making Techniques
The following list of techniques help in making the best decisions possible with the information available. Likely consequences of decisions can be mapped out, the importance of individual factors can be identified, and the best courses of action can be chosen.
a) Pareto Analysis: Choosing what to change
b) Paired Comparison Analysis : Working out the relative importance of different options
c) Grid Analysis: Making a choice taking into account many factors
d) PMI: Weighing the pros and cons of a decision
e) Force Field Analysis: Analyzing the pressures for and against change
f) Six Thinking Hats: Looking at a decision from different perspectives
g) Starbursting: Understanding options better by brainstorming questions
h) Stepladder Technique: Making better group decisions
i) Cost / Benefit Analysis: Seeing whether a decision makes financial sense
j) Cash Flow Forecasting with Spreadsheets: Analyzing whether an idea is financially viable
k) Decision Trees: Choosing by valuing different options
Other tools include:
o Goal Setting
o Effective Scheduling
o Gantt Charts
o Critical Path Analysis and PERT Charts
o Estimating Time Accurately
o Risk Impact / Probability Chart