Hopefully my own graduation to the next stage (Sage after Sixty?) gives me a degree of credibility on your excellent site, Fab After Fifty. Of course it’s a good time to be experienced and worldly wise. We all have the chance to be fitter, healthier and smarter than the generations before us. But we still need some guidelines to make those important decisions which will make all the difference. Here are my ten best tips:
1. Write it down
Most of us make lists. However lively we are feeling, it is just so easy to forget things, and our ‘to do’ lists keep us on track. It is the same with making decisions. Deciding is a process and a journey. It can’t all happen instantly. We need to remind ourselves about our goals and targets, and the options in front of us. It is really helpful to do the planning and reward/risk calculations on paper.
2. Assume you have made the decision – and it has all worked out well
We are all conditioned to looking up the hill, starting at the beginning, answering question 1. It is how we were brought up. But often it helps to start at the end and work backwards. Instead of gazing up the mountain from the foothills, tell yourself you have already made it to the summit. What would it feel like to enjoy the view from the top? Sometimes the decision is easier if you think yourself into imagining what success would feel like.
3. Work out how long you have to make the decision
In decision making we all have to be time lords and ladies. There is a world of difference between having to make a decision very quickly (say in 60 seconds or less), and having 60 hours or even 60 days to do it. Don’t rush yourself if there’s no need. Don’t leave it to the last minute either.
4. Make a start NOW
I have always coped with a log jam of work by setting out all the tasks I have to perform (yes, that list again!), and if they are mostly on the computer, at least creating the documents, giving them titles, and writing a few lines to get each job under way. It is so much easier to complete a project than start it from scratch.
5. Don’t just rely on logic
Our education tells us that we have to work logically and rationally. People who are more logical, analytical and objective are often called ‘left-brained’, while a person who is more intuitive, thoughtful and subjective is held to be ‘right-brained’. Please understand that in decision making you have to be both. There’s no substitute for thinking through any challenge or decision, but don’t expect that finely tuned brain of yours to make the decision for you. We spend a lifetime fashioning our subconscious by adding more experiences, insights and feelings. Give all that amazing capability a chance to work by sleeping on a decision. You will be amazed at the extra clarity you get.
Opportunities are more important than problems
6. Remember that an opportunity is more important than ten problems
As a nation, as a civilisation we have all become obsessed with problems. Don’t be obsessed. Solving problems is important, but it is plumbing. Identifying opportunities and realising them, is the path of progress, innovation and growth. Become an opportunity junkie.
7. But if you are faced by a big problem, start by tackling an easier one
Here’s another practical way of harnessing basic psychology. Imagine you are stuck on a difficult crossword clue. Forget it for a minute, and find a simpler clue that you can easily solve. That will lubricate your brain, and you will be in far better shape to tackle 15 across – quite apart from having an extra letter! Try it out with problems. The easy one will help you deal with the tough one.
8. Stop putting things off
Procrastination is a habit like being an owl not a lark, or late rather than early. But it can become a problem. We all tend to start with the jobs we like, but it can lead to putting low priority tasks ahead of important ones. Why not break the task into bits and at least get going.
9. Get a taste for tough decisions
Make one big decision, and you will be in shape to do it again, and again. Make another list, and enjoy the satisfaction of at least ticking some of them off.
10. Become a radical in meetings
None of us can avoid going to meetings (let’s call it a 60 minute decision, because that is what it is supposed to be for). But how frustrating they can be. Meetings can be the enemy of progress. Make sure the ones you attend are productive.
David Wethey is the author of Decide: Better Ways of Making Better Decisions
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