Prioritizing When You're Stuck

Normalize having a bias towards action.

After yesterday's post, a reader sent me this question:

"Any advice on how to prioritize when you're stuck between two difficult options?"

There are hundreds of frameworks you can use to improve decision-making and prioritization. I can't suggest one due to lack of context:

  • Is this a big and risky decision, or a recurring challenge?
  • Is this about your operations? Offerings? Client relationship?
  • What are the goals and desired outcomes you want to produce?

But the consultant took the time to write me, so I want to help. No matter how you answer those questions, there is one piece of truth every consultant should keep in mind: Action forces prioritization.

Steven D. Levitt, the author of "Freakonomics", ran a fantastic study a few years ago (link): He asked people who were on the fence about something to flip a virtual coin on a website. If someone got heads, the site instructed them to go ahead and make a change. If tails, they should keep the status quo.

To make sure participants were truly undecided, they answered a series of questions to clarify costs, unintended consequences, and hidden preferences. Only if they still couldn’t make up their mind they would flip the coin. Over a year, more than 20,000 virtual coins were flipped.

The results? For important decisions (such as quitting a job or ending a relationship), those who make a change (regardless of the outcome of the coin toss) report being substantially happier two months and six months later.

Although there is some criticism regarding this research's methods, the conclusion is clear: We may be excessively cautious when facing big choices.

As James Clear says:

"If you're stuck deciding between multiple options, force yourself to act. You can only act on one thing at a time, which means you will have to make something the top priority. Even if you pick wrong, you'll learn something."

Normalize having a bias towards action. Most of our suffering and business problems are not caused by bad decisions, but by our inability to postpone or delay them.

Make more and faster decisions, and your consulting practice will thank you.

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