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How to Make Hard Decisions

Make hard decisions by looking at all the possible decision scenarios.

By
Stever Robbins
4-minute read
Episode #145

My book Get-it-Done Guy’s 9 Steps to Work Less and Do More is coming out in mid-September! I’m scrunching my brow with a look of extreme determination, and hunkering down to do all the prep work that will make it a best seller. Sadly, no one knows what will make it a best seller.

Get-It-Done Guy: The Musical?

In anticipation of the book’s success, I’m doing what every good business author does: writing a one-man musical based on the book. But it’s not easy. I’ve never written a musical. Or a normal play. Or a short story. And no one’s ever really written a musical about labeling file folders.

This adventure is fraught with decisions. Who is my character? What’s his motivation? Why does he need to label file folders in the first place? And who is the mysterious disembodied voice he keeps hearing? If he’s a modern businessperson, maybe his high-tech labels are blank because of sunspots. Oh! Maybe his file folders are blank because the disembodied voice is an evil spirit bent on destroying him. But then he couldn’t possibly be modern day. Maybe he’s an 8th century Persian Prince in disguise.

This is too hard. Maybe I’ll just sit here, and be grumpy. Then I’ll punish myself for not being able to make more progress by ordering a whole plate of liver—I like meetings more than I like liver—and make myself eat the whole thing. Waah!

Why Some Decisions Are Hard

This decision is hard because it’s actually several decisions, all of which are pretty open-ended, but they’re all tangled up. And even though they all start open-ended, making one decision affects the choices for other decisions, which are already decided. Now, I have to undecide those and start again.

Have you ever scheduled a ten-person meeting? Everyone says, “Oh, my schedule’s free.

"Anytime next week. Just tell me when.” R-i-i-g-h-t. Monday at 1 pm. “No, that’s pretzel day,” says our intern, “but 3 p.m. would work.” Melvin objects, “That’s the annual office alphabetizing competition. Let’s meet Tuesday.” Our facilities manager can’t meet Tuesday. That’s when the telephone sanitizing subgroup meets. Thursday? Our client is busy. Friday? Bernice and Melvin are taking a vacation day so they can do the 3-day lovebirds weekend at the local casino. Free chips and salsa. (Now that their romance is official, they’re making a couple’s website, http://www.BerniceAndMelvin.com. Isn’t that sweet.)

Complex decisions have many moving parts. There are so many unknowns that making one part of the decision causes other parts to get confusing. These decisions paralyze me.

How to Make Hard Decisions

Rather than being paralyzed by trying to make a hard decision, simply consider three complete scenarios and choose which scenario you like best.

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About the Author

Stever Robbins

Stever Robbins was the host of the podcast Get-it-Done Guy from 2007 to 2019. He is a graduate of W. Edward Deming’s Total Quality Management training program and a Certified Master Trainer Elite of NLP. He holds an MBA from the Harvard Business School and a BS in Computer Sciences from MIT.