In the last “decision mastery series” article, we revealed the four-point process to making a good decision. In this article, I talk about the important first step to making any decision: TIMING.

You’re faced with a difficult problem. What is the very first thing you need to do? Determine when the absolute deadline is for you to reach a final conclusion, then act on it. Pretty simple, right? Well, kind of.

Most of the important decisions we will ever make have no set deadline.

Think about this.

The decision to get married or divorced, switch jobs, start a new business, or review your personal or business strategic plan do not actually have to be done by any specific date.

This is precisely why you need to set a deadline.

How do you set a target date for an important decision that has no deadline? Treat the decision as a critical meeting or presentation and put it on your calendar. If you have a smartphone, set alerts and reminders for yourself.

Think First, Decide Later
The deadline to reach your decision is not the time to start thinking. Begin thinking deeply about the issue well before the deadline to avoid creating unnecessary stress caused by procrastination. Thinking deeply should involve working through the other three steps in the decision-making process--all of which are covered in my book, Never Be Wrong Again--Four Steps to Making Better Decisions in Work and Life.

What if the deadline approaches and you really haven’t focused on the issues confronting you? If you can avoid it, don’t force the decision without thinking through it. Instead, set a new deadline.

If you find that you just keep postponing and setting new deadlines, the reality is that this decision may not be as important as you think. If it really is important to you, stop postponing.

Look Backward to Go Forward
Some decisions need to be made more than once. Reevaluating decisions made long ago will help you determine whether the choice you made then is still the best decision.

Is your job still leading where you want to go?

Are the systems you put into place in your office still the optimal procedures?

Make new decisions on important issues every so often. Don’t just keep doing things because you have “always done it that way.”

When Procrastination Is the Right Decision
We are still hardwired to think and react the same way we did thousands of years ago. Most of the time our reactions are quick and emotional, especially when we are angry. Emotional, knee-jerk reactions are almost always the wrong choice.

Technology has evolved into lightning-fast processing, but humans haven’t. Banging out an angry email, text, or tweet in the heat of the moment may feel briefly gratifying, but once you hit that “send” button, there is no undoing it.

Instead of acting on an emotional decision, write a draft email or put your thoughts on paper, and wait at least a day. Read and edit as needed with a more level head. Sometimes you will find that no response may be more optimal.


No matter what decision you are faced with, if it is important, the first thing to consider is Timing. Determine when you need to decide. If there isn’t a deadline, set one. Occasionally reevaluate decisions made long ago that are still in action to see whether they are still your best choice, and keep emotions out of the equation.

With a method for making important decisions that begins with Timing, stress is minimized and your odds of getting the best result are maximized. Then you can move on to the other three factors, Balance, Probabilities and Pattern Recognition - all of which I will cover in my upcoming blogs.

Michael Angelo Costa

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