Do bad decisions still haunt you?

Act Confidently for Better Outcomes

If you make enough decisions, you can count on making a bad one now and again. How do you recover from those errors?

Start by determining why you erred:

Did you fail to properly research the issue? Don’t rush. Know how much time you have to make a decision, and balance gathering enough background with acting quickly.

Did people—customers, employees, your boss—react differently than you had anticipated? Involve them early in the process next time and gauge their reactions often.

Did conditions change? Sometimes those conditions will be out of your control; other times you may discover that you overlooked them or their importance.

Did you poorly or incompletely communicate your decision, the need for action or your reasons for deciding as you did? The more critical the decision, the more you need to talk about what you are doing and why.

Did you force a change that your team or workplace was not ready to embrace? The best way to increase buy-in is to involve staffers in forming and implementing the decision—even if you retain control.

Remember: Great leaders make more bad decisions than mediocre managers. That is because they become actively involved instead of sitting back and letting others take the lead. The next time you err, take comfort in the knowledge that you took action instead of ignoring the situation, and commit to learning from your mistake.

Slay those time-eating monsters

It’s not just emergencies and interruptions that can overwhelm you. Everyday tasks lingering on your to-do list can turn into monsters that skulk through your work day and threaten your productivity. Reclaim your time with good habits and discipline.

Best practices: List your assignments, on paper or using an electronic calendar, and update the list daily. Each day, tackle your top priority projects early. Once you have taken care of your most important tasks, you will feel less frantic about interruptions and emergencies. Use the following system to identify your priorities and plan the best ways to spend your time. Rank tasks according to these guidelines:

  • “A” tasks are your No. 1 priorities. When an important project crosses your desk, add it to your to-do list right away and flag it for immediate action. When you know each task’s priority, you will understand how you should spend your time.
  • “B” tasks are vital. Think about the regular projects and assignments that contribute to your on-the-job success. They will show up on your to-do list regularly, so you can plan the best way to handle them. Remember that delegation is an option. Devote time now to training an employee whom you can trust to handle routine tasks, and you will free time later.
  • “C” tasks are important too. They have firm deadlines even though they are neither urgent nor vital. Don’t let that lead you to overlook them, though. Be sure to devote time to them before they become urgent tasks with “right now” deadlines. Add them to your daily to-do list, note the progress you make and be sure to carry them over each day until you can cross them off.
  • “D” tasks are “rainy day” projects. You know that you must complete those assignments eventually, but their deadlines are not set in stone. Maintain a separate list of such tasks, and turn to that list when you find yourself with unexpected time on your hands or when you need a break from the stress of higher-priority tasks. Limit the time you spend on D tasks, however, so you do not end up using them to procrastinate on projects that are more important.

What other assignments and projects are you responsible for right now? If you think of items that do not fit in any of the categories described above, they might not be worth doing. Clear the clutter from your to-do list by deleting those items immediately.

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