My husband would laugh if he knew I was writing this post. He thinks I’m not the greatest decision maker in the world. He’d probably ask me how I could possibly be dishing out advice on this topic. And I’d say he’s quite right albeit for one point. Because I am sometimes a poor decision maker, I’ve learned a few strategies that help.
1. Create a visual
I struggle to imagine things before I can actually see them. An example was when we renovated this house about 16 years ago. We designed the extension ourselves and bought some beautiful second hand double-hung Edwardian windows for the south facing wall. The builder asked me what height I wanted the windows. ‘About here?’ he asked, putting a mark on the wall. ‘Sure,’ I said, having no real idea what that would look like. When I came home that afternoon the windows were sitting low to the ground with a huge amount of space above them and they looked completely wrong. I knew there was no way I could live with those windows so I asked the builder to shift them up. Which was no small job but I have never once doubted that decision.
So what did I learn? That I need to see things – I can’t always imagine them. I could have resolved this by asking him for a sketch (to scale) so that I could see what the end result would be. And that I should only work with very patient builders.
2. Take your time
This one is a challenge for those of us who are action oriented. If you’re not sure about a decision, sleep on it. Meditate on it. Take your time. Don’t rush. If you must make a decision hastily, take half an hour out of your day and go to your local park. Lie on the grass under the trees and let yourself completely relax. Quite often the answer will arise by itself.
3. Listen to your intuition
I can’t emphasise this point strongly enough. Listen to the little niggles and learn to believe in your first instincts. Sometimes you won’t be able to explain why something feels wrong but trust that you really do know what’s best for you. Even if you can’t explain why.
4. Get it on ‘appro’
When I was a child my mother only ever shopped by taking things home on ‘appro’. I love this old fashioned concept. It was a trust based system where you took home a frock or a new pair of shoes and tried them on in your own time. And you got to see what they looked like in your own mirror. It was a system that didn’t just apply to clothes but often home furnishings too. Which is so important. How are you expected to know if a lime green cushion will look ok on your charcoal coloured sofa without trying it? I have one little shop in my local strip that still offers this service – and I love it. The alternative for me is to shop at places where they happily refund or exchange.
When your decision is about something other than a purchase, see where you can apply the ‘trying it on for size’ principle. Spend a day working in a business before making a decision; ask for referrals from like minded friends for professional services and then interview three before making a choice.
5. Write it down
For bigger decisions like whether to take on a new role, start a business or move overseas, spend some time writing a paragraph or two of what that experience will look like once you’re there. This process requires imagination – putting pen to paper helps you to think creatively. Often once you get to the end of your written piece you may find you’ve arrived at a place that isn’t what you’d imagined.
6. Tell the truth
Let the people you work with know that you’re inclined to change your mind. Recently, I’ve been working with a new designer, the lovely Jodie from Seaside Creative. At the outset of our professional relationship I let her know that I’m not always great at visualising things. I told her I’d know once it was right but the steps along the way can be mildly painful. I asked her to factor in changes and assured her that I was always happy to pay for extra revisions. Setting it up from the start has made life easier for both of us. I’m taking my time and sleeping on decisions. Thankfully Jodie is the most patient person in the world.
I’ve taken more time on this design process than any other business decision I’ve made and I honestly feel that it will be well worth the wait.