You are faced with tons of decisions every day. Sometimes, you need to think quickly and make an immediate call, while other times, it’s more prudent to push the pause button and give the matter more thoughtful consideration.
However, the best option in any given situation isn’t always crystal clear, and may vary depending on issues like the community or work culture or even your mood. Before you make the wrong call, consider these eight questions to help you figure out when it’s best to make a decision on the fly and when you should take your time.
First, you have to know yourself, says Sarah Faulkner, principal of Faulkner Strategic Consulting. Some people might be extroverts who tend to think and act quickly, while others may be more introverted and prefer to gather information and think through their options before issuing their verdict. Having a good sense of your own style can also help you see if you’ve fallen into a decision-making rut, she says.
Look at your track record. Perhaps you have a history of making decisions one way and have found that you made a few cringe-worthy missteps by acting too quickly, or missed some key opportunities by taking a slower approach, or fell victim to “analysis paralysis.” If your approach isn’t working for you, it may be time to switch it up, says Patrick Mulvey, CEO and managing director of the Center for Strategy Execution.
“That way, you kind of force yourself in a way to make more prudent decisions by giving yourself a time, or not giving yourself too much time,” he says.
It’s not a bad thing to be emotional, especially about something that’s important to you, but strong emotion can skew your judgment and decision-making skills, says John Manning, president of MAP Consulting. Being enthusiastic might not have much impact, but negative emotions like anger, fear, or anxiety can have a negative impact and often signal that it’s best to take some time and let a cooler head prevail.
“From our experience, a lot of the worst decisions managers, leaders, and entrepreneurs make is when they’re angry or upset,” he says.
Sometimes, your experience and comfort with the subject matter let you know immediately how to approach a challenge or decision, Manning says. If your experience tells you the right course of action, and your track record backs up the fact that your intuition is reliable, that’s an indicator that you’re on the right course, he says.
Another consideration is whether your decision needs buy-in from other people, Manning says. In that case, you’ll likely want to take more time and get feedback from others before you move forward. It’s easier to get people to support a decision, program, or initiative if they feel as though they’ve had some say in how it moves forward and what its outcome is.
Faulkner advises considering the environment in which you’re making the decision. If you’re routinely the slow thinker in a culture that values quick decision making, you could be putting yourself at a disadvantage. Similarly, if you’re in a group that admires preparation and detail-oriented analysis, you’re not doing yourself any favors when you regularly fly by the seat of your pants.
You also need to weigh the risk in any given situation. Low-risk situations may not need more time and resources. But risk cuts both ways–you may risk missing an opportunity or giving the wrong impression if you take too long to make your decision or find that you’ve made the wrong call if you try to rush it, Faulkner says. Looking at the benefits and drawbacks of each approach can lead you in the right direction.
Manning also advises looking at how vital the decision is to the bigger picture. If it relates to one of your “vital few,” those core issues that drive your most important results, such as core strategies, planning, or team performance, then it’s usually a good idea to make more thoughtful decisions. Such issues are often multifaceted, and you’ll need to consider several aspects before making a call, he says.