As a child I often used to take a long time to decide on anything, and the saying ‘I used to be indecisive, but now I am not so sure’ followed me around in my family. It meant my room was full of half finished projects because I could never decide on when, where or how to finish things, and I was never happy with assignments in school because I couldn’t decide if I had done what I should have done, and oh, it went on forever sometimes! Thankfully, at some point in my life that I don’t recall, that changed, and on the whole, I became able to make decisions in a timely manner. I’m not saying that I am now the perfect decision maker, because every now and then that childhood paralysis comes back to haunt me and I spend literally aeons deciding on something that is relatively insignificant, then get annoyed with myself for wasting time making a decision. I am saying I better recognise when decisions need to have time spent on them and when they do not.
The downfall of being indecisive can include lost opportunities, the fact that you might actually miss out on something good because you took too long to decide. You can also become trapped in the ultimate time wasting decision making process, taking a month to decide on something that you should have taken an hour to decide. And then there is the whole over-thinking trap, where you over-think whatever it is you are making a decision on and then over-complicate the whole process.
You know that saying ‘keep it simple stupid?’ Yeah, whoever though that up got it right. We tend to make things a lot more complicated than they need to be.
I’ve seen a lot of indecision lately whilst working with a few gorgeous clients that are in start-up stage of business, and having experienced it myself a few times in the process of developing my own business, I have a bit of an insight (some people like to call it an ‘aha moment’ but that is getting used a LOT lately) into what causes it that I would like to share with you. Here’s a few reasons I see and some suggestions to deal with them.
Lack of direction.
Sometimes, a lack of direction means that when an opportunity or challenge arises, people struggle to decide if that opportunity is what they want because they don’t know where they are heading. Something comes up for instance, and you don’t know whether to book into that workshop, or go to that trade event, or take on a new product, or hire that person, because you don’t know if that thing is going to lead you in the direction you want to head. I’ve said it before and I will say it again, planning is paramount in small business, and in your plan, you will develop a direction in the process. When you are making business decisions, they need to fit with your business and move you towards your goals. It’s very easy to get distracted by shiny, fun, new things that look and sound great, but don’t fit with your brand and what you are about, so always make decisions to suit your direction.
When things come up that you find difficult to assess and make a decision on, pull out your plan and assess it against your goals, plan and direction you created. (Don’t have a business plan yet? it’s never too early or late to create one, click here to learn how to do one for yourself.) With things you need to make a decision on, think about if they fit with your overall plan, are they going to help you reach your goal in some way, and does it fit with your brand (which is all about what you stand for)?
Lack of confidence.
At times, the fact is, if you make a decision, you need to back it and in some cases back yourself. It may be the case that you are struggling to decide on something small, but once that thing is decided, (a business name for example) then you actually have to get out there and start doing your thing and promoting yourself, and actually, that is really the problem for you. For some people, the thought of self promotion is scary, and so they hide behind a smaller decision and allow themselves to get stuck on it. It’s not the actual decision causing the problem, it is the fact that they see once they make that particular decision, there is nothing left for them to do but get on with what they are doing. Spending a few months or more deciding on a logo for your business is a senseless waste of time, logos are important, yes, but not that important that you need to spend that much time on it. I could talk about logo design all day with my background in print and design, but the truth is, as long as your logo is not offensive or ridiculously intricate to replicate, a consistent approach to your logo branding is more important than whether your grandmothers celtic design you are using for your logo is 100% accurate to family history or that kind of thing. Remember the keep it simple thing from earlier on? Yeah, that again.
So stand tall and make your decisions confidently and move forward now. Don’t hide behind a decision, I know it’s easy to do, I did it last year with a big business decision and I wasted a lot of time and brain space I did not need to waste, once I recognised it wasn’t the decision holding me back it was a confidence thing, I was able to shake that off and get into what I like to call ‘GSD Mode’. I talk about GSD mode often. It’s something I learned from my own mentor, and it has been a really important lesson for me in small business. Years ago, in spending time with her, I realised she was a bold decision maker, she made decisions and then just Got Stuff Done (OK, sometimes the S stands for a different word that is not Stuff…) and I quickly decided I would become more like that and set about to make that conscious decision to be in GSD mode as often as possible.
Lack of understanding.
Making decisions when you don’t have all the facts or you just don’t understand the facts is near on impossible. And the reality is, if you are trying to decide on something without knowing everything you need to know, you are not making an informed decision and it might hurt you later in some way. It might be which printing company to use to print your business cards, because $200 sounds reasonable for 1000 business cards in your uninformed opinion, right? Wrong. (and by the way, please do not pay that much, if you need help with getting good printing prices drop me a line, in a past life I was a professional print buyer that spent well over one million dollars a year (not mine, that would have been nice to have a million dollars though) on printing, so I have a bit of a clue about the economy of printing.) I digress however, (for a change) but my point is, if you are not sure of all the facts that will help you make a decision, ask someone who does know, or do your own research and arm yourself with all the information you need to make a decision.
Another thing I see a lot at the moment is people struggling to make decisions about things like creating a website, where there are multiple complicated facts to consider and an absolute plethora of people flogging information out there all saying that the way they say to do it is the right way. Truth is, in the case of this example, there are many different kinds of website, multiple ways to do them, and a million people willing to do it for you. Once again, the answer lays in asking around and making your own comparisons. And the other thing I would also point out is that if taking on a project like creating a website is going to take you months in researching and reading and asking around, perhaps would it be better to find an expert and pay them to do the work for you?
Putting things off is something we all do if we are faced with something we really don’t like to do and/or are really not good at. If you look into any of the currently popular time management training programs that talk about core genius, they say that the things that you are not good at AND you don’t enjoy doing are the first things in your business you should be outsourcing. Often when people are faced with decisions that will lead them to doing something in their business they find really hard or don’t like to do, they will deliberately put that decision off. So procrastination is not your friend in this situation, you need to find a way to just get on with the task at hand and if that requires you to make a decisions you are finding really hard, get someone else to do it for you.
Being overwhelmed is a common theme with small business owners, and whilst we all need to strive towards a business model that is completely and utterly manageable, if not enjoyable, sometimes you need to put the hard yards in to get to that happy place and that can be overwhelming at times. We are not really taught time management in the education system, and many people come into adult life without a clue how to deal with the daily time demands of life, let alone the demands of running their own business. If you have what feels like a thousand decisions to make in a day, the sheer volume will make it incredibly hard to make even the smallest decisions. At that point, whether to buy a purple stapler or a green one, or what price to charge for a new products or service can seem all too much for some. Deal with your overwhelm, read my 5 tips to deal with overwhelm here, and get a grip on your days so that as things arise that require a decision to be made.
Not all decisions are big ones though, do you get bogged down on little ones? If you struggle to decide between a cappuccino and a flat white, I am very little help to you. I am one of those weird people that don’t like coffee. Well, that’s actually a guess, I have never tasted it, I don’t like the smell. But my weirdness aside, honestly, just decide already, think about if whatever you decide now will affect you in 24 hours time, or a weeks time, and if the answer is no, you are just wasting time and headspace deciding on that small thing. So make a decision now to be decisive, practice on the small things (eg. flat white vs cappuccino) so that your confidence in your ability to decide things builds into being useful to you in your business rather that paralyzing.
If you are stuck on something in your business, drop me a line for a few no-strings-attached ideas to help you get ‘unstuck’