Thinking ’til it hurts?

You won't have to agonize over decisions if you know how to make them

Ah, those good ole college days. Remember exam time? There were always those few students who continued to work frantically after the professor called, “Time’s up.” As you handed in your test paper, you couldn’t help but chuckle to yourself and shake your head. “If they haven’t figured out the answers by now, they’re not going to,” you reasoned. “A few extra minutes (or hours) aren’t going to make any difference.”

Today maybe coming up with answers isn’t quite the laughing matter it was back then. If you’re like most people, on more than one occasion you’ve put off making a decision until you’ve had more time to think it through even though you knew you had sufficiently pondered the situation.

That was the case for Jerry Hart II. Last spring, after three years as a recruiter at an IT executive recruiting firm in New York City, he made the decision to leave his job. Widespread changes in company policy and internal politics had created a work environment with which Hart was growing increasingly frustrated, coupled with the fact that he was ready to move on.

The decision was especially difficult for him, because he loved what he did-and the people he worked with. “I was afraid of not knowing how long it would take to find a new job that I liked as much,” says Hart, 27. It took him several weeks to gain the courage to finally leave. Today, he is an IT consultant with a major financial institution.

The hesitation that Hart exhibited isn’t at all uncommon. In fact, most of us tend to put off making difficult judgments. “Making decisions can be a terrifying experience,” says Odette Pollar, a productivity expert and author of Take Back Your Life: Smart Ways to Simplify Daily Living (Conari Press, $12.95). But the scariest part isn’t the decision itself. “It’s the agony associated with making a choice and risking a mistake, a bad outcome or loss of other opportunities,” she says.

Making up your mind may be difficult at times, but it can be done. Pollar offers some tips to help you make those necessary decisions:

  • Don’t stall. It rarely improves the quality of any decision. Recognize the greater unpleasantness-stress, loss of time, money and sleep-that delaying can cause. Make decisions promptly.
  • Don’t be too hasty. You don’t want to go against your gut feelings just to say you’ve made a decision. Give yourself time to process your emotions-then lay them aside so you can think rationally.
  • Don’t agonize over minor decisions. Failing to resolve small problems ensures that they will turn into larger ones later.
  • Gather research in a timely fashion. Some decisions have time constraints. Any extra time spent outside of that allotted period can result in your missing a window of opportunity. For example, if you want to buy a car you saw advertised for sale during the next week only, you’ll want to get the information about that car before the sale ends so you have time to analyze it and come to a
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