Make your mind up (5 ways to beat your indecision)

Chalkboard drawing - choose from now or later

I’m a Libran. And if you believe the astrologers (which I don’t) that means I make balanced decisions. Or some might say (e.g. my wife) that it takes me ages to make up my mind (which I also don’t believe). If that were true (which it isn’t) then according to a recent article in Business Insider, my perceived procrastination is making me unproductive (which I’m not). Hmm or maybe I protesteth too much? Either way, the article recommends some handy tips on avoiding indecision…

Take a moment to reflect on your own ability to make choices. Which ones can you make easily? And, more importantly, which ones render you like a proverbial rabbit caught in the (equally proverbial) headlights? Does it take you more than a minute to select a sandwich at Subway? Do you vacillate for more than a month to weigh up the pro’s and con’s of whether you should accept a new job offer? Cogitating for over a year on whether you should marry your prospective partner? Then the chances are that your are probably overthinking matters.

What’s more, if these choices cause you unnecessary consternation then it’s clear that you need to find some coping mechanisms to assist you in making your mind up. And thankfully, Business Insider have offered up 7 simple tips to aid those who are poleaxed by procrastination. I couldn’t decide whether I wanted to include all of them so ended up featuring just 5 🙂

1. From A Distance – Steve Jobs was a firm believer in the practice of ‘mindfulness meditation’. What’s that then, I hear you ask? Well, apparently, it’s where you learn to simply ‘watch’ your various thoughts pass through your mind, rather than getting caught up in them or trying to stop them from arising in the first place. Jobs explained it like this:

“If you just sit and observe, you will see how restless your mind is. If you try to calm it, it only makes things worse, but over time it does calm, and when it does, there’s room to hear more subtle things – that’s when your intuition starts to blossom and you start to see things more clearly and be in the present more. Your mind just slows down and you see a tremendous expanse in the moment.You see so much more than you could see before. It’s a discipline and you have to practice it”

Does it sound a bit like hippy trippy claptrap? Well maybe it comes across like that but if it worked for Mr Jobs then I’m willing to give it a try (not that I really need to though, you understand).

2. Write here, write now – on a Quora thread, writer Aman Anand says that the best way to organise your thoughts in order to enable you to make a decision, is to simply write them down on a piece of paper:

“if you keep those thoughts stuck in your head, not only can they make a mountain out of a molehill but they can also lead to you coming back to the same ideas continuously and thus over-analysing the same thing repeatedly”

Apparently, it has been suggested by psychologists that if you then subsequently throw away that piece of paper, you diminish the importance and impact of those thoughts. So, in the spirit of science, I used this technique on one of my previous examples: choosing a sandwich in Subway. I wrote down all the positives / negatives in my final selection process of whether to order a ‘Meatball Marinara’ or a ‘Chipotle Chicken Melt’ (whilst also giving due consideration to sides, beverage and cookie options). I then walked confidently into the establishment and strode up to the counter only to realise that I had forgotten which one had been my final choice. Ended up with Pulled Pork.

3. No-Think Zone – do you designate ‘no thinking’ times into your schedule? I do. I call it sleep. However, it seems that I may have inadvertently missed the point. Author / Social Worker, Amy Morin wrote a Psychology Today article where she recommends scheduling around 20 minutes each day for “reflection and rumination”. Stefan Papp on Quora, also recommends a specific strategy where he doesn’t think about any “difficult things after 8 pm” and I have found a really easy way to achieve that objective. Watch ‘Keeping Up With The Kardashians’. 

4. Multi-task – we all know how difficult it is to concentrate on more than two things at once. And before anyone says it, I know that (allegedly) men are meant to struggle with this concept more than women but I can assure you that I can actually pat my head and rub my stomach at the same time, so there. Anyway, I digress. Author of “The Depression Cure” Stephen Ilardi told Fox News that the key to avoiding over-thinking is to absorb yourself in an alternative activity. He advocates “a physical activity that combines mental engagement and social contact, such as tennis or a brisk nature walk with a friend”.

5. Break the thought spiral – and how do you do that? Simple. Don’t think about it, do something. Author of “Embrace the Chaos,” Bob Migliani wrote in The Huffington Post that he tries to turn his negative thinking about the future into positive actions:

“Each time I would start getting worried about the future, I would make a proactive choice to physically get up from the place I was sitting and walk to the computer to start writing or working on my book.”

Or as Lucas Schwekendiek puts it on Quora: “Do not focus on what you need to do, do not focus on what you haven’t done and should have done, and do not focus on what is going on around you. Just focus on something you can do now and then do it.”  

Get all that? Good. Go on then, do it.

Or at least think about it 😉