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Facing off with decision procrastination.

Last week we reviewed issues that arise around making personal decisions. This week, I’m offering you some steps to deal with the issues raised last week. Then, next week, we will dive into specific actions I find most useful.


Since we identified common procrastination as a barrier to making a decision – let’s talk about overcoming it.

First, the “I’m too busy” root of procrastination. This is like getting in the rental car and hurrying to your location without taking the time to enter it in the GPS. Yes, you're in a hurry, but really - you'll get there faster and more accurately by pulling off to the side of the road and punching in the numbers.

Learning to carve out time for your priorities is a life skill that will serve you over your career. There is rarely a day any of us get through our checklists. You set yourself up for success by identifying that now is the time to make the decision, prioritize it, and find some focused time to give it the needed attention. This time may also include time to recover from the day-to-day decision fatigue. Perhaps scheduling this at the beginning of the day or the week will be helpful. You will also clear out a lot of the excess mental clutter by doing so.


Now, what about the people-pleasing, or fear of disappointing people, root of procrastination -- when you know in your gut what the right decision is, and you keep delaying it because it will be "letting someone down." First realize, if you follow through with the decision that aligns with your goals, purpose, and values, you will relieve your own suffering sooner.  And the people you’re worried about disappointing likely will be no better off by delaying it. In fact, delays often hurt others more and give false hope. Second, if you choose to make a decision that does not align with who you are or what your most important priorities are in order to spare someone’s feelings, you will end up resentful down the road and likely put yourself in situations that cause further problems. So, in the words of Dr. Sasha Shillcutt, “Sometimes, you’re going to have to disappoint good people.”  You are the only one prioritizing your health, your family, and your specific patients. Choose to live out of who you were meant to be right now.


On to the “only one right choice” root of procrastination - there is often no “sole right decision.” You can view any decision as correct vs. wrong, or you can view any decision and its outcome as part of your journey.  If you consider it with the pressure of thinking there is a wrong choice, the pressure soars, as do the fears.


For instance, in 2007, I could have stayed in Florida and been quite content. And, I could have moved to Alaska, which was on my husband’s radar, with a job opportunity. If I had remained in fear of “making the wrong choice,” I likely would have been paralyzed and delayed the decision. Instead, after looking into all the pros and cons (I didn’t skip the due diligence), I felt both places would work. (And honestly, some places in the Smokey Mountains, Southeast Asia, and a dozen other sites looked just as good to me.). I didn’t feel like there was only one right location. Importantly, had I felt that way, when my “burnout story” came to a head eight years later, I likely would have been beating myself up that I had made the “wrong” choice.  What purpose would that serve except to make myself more miserable? Instead, that part of my life has fueled my passion for physician wellness in graduate medical education and helped me define clear goals. 


Speaking of that, lessen the pressure on yourself and learn to have your own back.  You’re making the best decision with what you know right now. You never have to question it. It’s now part of your journey. You will learn and grow from it no matter what. 


So, what decision do you know you need to make now? How will you carve out time to attend to it? Can you live out of your purpose and priorities, knowing some good people may be disappointed? Are you willing to experience the temporary discomfort of making the hard decision now rather than prolonging the suffering? What if more than one choice is good and there isn’t one “right” one? How will that help you move forward? For a little deeper dive on procrastination, you can read my blog series on it HERE.


I look forward to sharing some detained and practical steps in the next blog.


Have a joy-filled week! Tonya

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