It’s Go Time. Be More Decisive at Work.

Being more decisive at workAlmost everyone has suffered “analysis paralysis” at some point in their lives – that moment when you spend too much time examining the possibilities and options of action and nothing is accomplished.

While most people have no problems making mundane decisions like where to eat, what to wear, or when to do chores, for many, the idea of being responsible for a decision that could end badly is a crippling fear. The fear can be even stronger when you start a new job. It’s easy to feel out of place and scared of making a wrong decision. In reality, going out of your way to avoid decisions can hold back your career more than you think.

Hesitations Bring Complications
Becoming decisive at work can help you prove yourself and demonstrate to leadership that you are an important asset. When you avoid or fail to make a decision, you’re missing out on a learning opportunity. Even if you make the wrong choice, you have still learned something new – and that’s what experience is all about.

Being indecisive is still a decision because you’ve chosen not to decide. You may feel like it’s being aggressive or too assertive to make a decision, but that’s only if you don’t learn from the experiences. Then it becomes stubbornness.

Pulitzer Prize winning writer for the New York Times, Anne O’Hare McCormick said, “The percentage of mistakes in quick decisions is no greater than in long-drawn-out [uncertainty], and the effect of decisiveness itself ‘makes things go’ and creates confidence.”

Cultivate Courage
You may not be the Cowardly Lion on his way to Oz singing “If I only had the nerve,” but growing confidence and courage make a big difference when trying to make decisions. One way to help build bravery is to constantly try new things. You don’t have to work on being decisive outside of work either. Ask your manager if it’s possible to get different assignments that you’ve always wanted to try. Your work might have some groups or clubs that will let you try some new activities you’ve never done before.

When trying new things at work, start small, make it happen, and then expand on your success. When you see how things outside of your comfort zone are done, you can connect them to challenges with your job, which can help give you the confidence to make decisions when the need arises.

Practice Makes Perfect
Making decisions is a skill and needs to be practiced on a regular basis. It’s like a muscle in that the more you practice and the more you work at it, the stronger it gets. Next time you find yourself with a decision to make, time yourself and see how long it takes for it to get resolved. Next time, try to beat that time.

You can also practice by giving yourself deadlines. Depending on how difficult decisions are for you and how serious the decision is, you could give yourself three minutes to three days. Practice keeping to your time limits and avoid falling back into your normal routine. You don’t have to do this alone. Ask your boss and co-workers for advice, and get them to help you stay accountable, encourage you to keep going, and applaud your progress.

In the end, it’s better to be boldly decisive and risk being wrong than to agonize at length and not be able to make a decision. What are some tricks you’ve used to be more decisive?


  1. Latienda

    This article speaks to my ability to take charge of my career. A tip that I have used to make better decisions is to write down my tasks and analyze how much time I have to not make decisions. I have been actively experiementing with how I best receive and act on the tasks and goals I have to complete. I have found that when I look at a spread of time over 7 days I mentally calculate how much effort needs to be expended.
    Your second point, “cultivate courage”, has been my mantra for the past 3 years. I realize that I can hone my skills and abilities in many subject areas by trying new things. For example, I knew I loved theatre and want to deepen my ability to listen and collaborate on teams so I started to volunteer for production gigs and amazingly 6-8 months later I started to get paid for it. Again thanks for sharing!

    1. Jared Cole

      Thank you so much for the kind words, Latienda. I understand how you feel. Being an analytical introvert, I’m very active in my local improv community so that I can constantly be out of my comfort zone and forcing myself to think and react to new and different ideas. I’m glad you found value in this post. Keep in touch!

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