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Leadership Today - Practical Tips For Leaders

Apr 8, 2022


We can so often end up worrying about decisions that we don’t even need to make yet. Here’s how scheduled decisions can help.



Welcome to episode 132 of the Leadership Today podcast where each week we bring research to life in your leadership. This week we look at how scheduled decisions can reduce worry.


Have you ever dreamed about leaving a job? Things become challenging so you start to scroll through employment websites, just to see what else is out there. Before you know it your spare time, commute to work, lunch break and other opportunities are punctuated by a quick job search.

Or maybe there’s another type of significant change you need to make at some point. Perhaps this change doesn’t need to happen for a while, but you find your thinking looping back on it repeatedly.

As humans we have an exceptional ability to find things to worry about. There are some things we can’t control or influence where worrying is entirely futile. But there are other things that we do have some control or influence over where worrying can still become a problem.

Here’s a simple technique that I believe can really help. I call it scheduled decision making. 

Let’s take the job search example. The problem here is that we haven’t actually decided to leave our current job, so the constant job searching just leads to distraction and dissatisfaction. We haven’t decided to make a decision, so we end up just gathering more and more information as we ruminate on whether we should change jobs.

When coaching people in these sorts of situations, the first question we explore is whether now is the best time to make a decision. Often times now isn’t the best time to decide. There may be a lot going on so the person doesn’t have capacity to work the issue through, or they may not have all the information they need to make the decision, or their decision might just be a reaction to current circumstances. If that’s the case, then we explore a time in the future when they will likely be in a better position to make a decision. Here I ask people to actually choose a date. I then suggest they schedule the decision making process for that date. 

In the job search example, let’s say we schedule the decision for two months in the future. That helps us to feel confident we will address the issue - it’s in our calendar. It also makes all that job searching far less important, so we can better focus on today’s challenges. At the two month mark they will make their decision about whether to leave their job or not.

So this week, think about things you are worrying about at work. Is there an opportunity to schedule your decision making for a future date? You might just find it helps you to focus on the present, and leave future problems for a better time in the future.