Issue #41: Setting the framework for decisions





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James Costa

January 16 · Issue #41 · View online

A batch of thoughts, resources, and motivation from a friendly digital agency owner delivered every Monday at 6am ET.

I hate making decisions. A few weeks ago I had to book an AirBNB for a trip to Atlanta, and it took me nearly two hours to do. Hell, even choosing what app to use in a saturated market (I’m looking at you, health trackers) can be tough. And I haven’t even gotten to decisions when emotions are in play: what to do with an underperforming employee who you really like, how you’re going to make payroll, or where you’re headed as a company.
Decisions are often limitless in their options, and so easy to lose time over. As Elizabeth Gilbert (author of Eat, Pray, Love) once so aptly said, “The problem, simply put, is that we cannot choose everything simultaneously. So we live in danger of becoming paralyzed by indecision, terrified that every choice might be the wrong choice.”
Growing up, I didn’t have to make a lot of decisions (and I’d imagine you didn’t either). My mom stayed home for most of my childhood taking care of most decisions from food to schedule. Even choices as simple as what to wear were decided by the schools I chose to go to. We don’t teach decision-making in school, but instead breed a sense of conformity that makes it hard for youth to make choices when there’s more risk in play (like career, education, and investment).
Yet as a business owner, making decisions suddenly became a requirement. From the mundane to the complex, I’m called on to make decisions every day and often done with a limited amount of information. As a business grows, so do the amount of decisions. And while decisions scale, decision-maker’s time can’t.
What I’ve found to be most helpful is positioning yourself as the framework-builder for decisions (as opposed to the decision-maker). Especially as decisions become emotional and depend on multiple people, having a structured approach to solving them is crucial. I find time is most lost in decision-making when people spend time getting upset over the situation they’re in in the first place, as opposed to thinking about the way forward.
Most of the time, all anyone needs to make a decision is the opportunity to take a step back and break down the problem and the options. When in these scenarios, I like to frame the problem for the team, work with them to determine the decisions that need to be made (i.e. short-term, long-term, mid-term), and helping them break down the options to solve the problem within those decisions. From there, making the decision is usually quite easy and actionable.
I like to think about it as searching for something online: you might have 1,000 options to choose from, but by first taking some time to filter your options, you’ll be able to find what you’re really looking for quicker.
A while ago I wrote about the art of making a decision, and while important, so is the self-awareness of knowing when not making a decision is the best decision to make. You’re not scalable, your problems can’t only be solved by you, and making all the decisions will cause decision-apathy in your company. Set the framework for discussion. Break down the options. Be a part of the decision-making process, but empower others to make the call. You’ve got this.
PS: If you enjoyed this week’s issue, I’d really appreciate your support sharing it. Whether it’s a forward, a Twitter post, or Photoshopping my head on Justin Bieber’s body, it would mean the world to me.

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“Crying is all right in its way while it lasts. But you have to stop sooner or later, and then you still have to decide what to do.”
― C.S. Lewis
I used to be great at flying. That changed a few years ago I went on a flight with one of our employees to Austin for SXSW, and her fear of flying ended up transferring to me and subsequently ruining all flights I’ve taken since. (Thanks, Emma.)
As we began our descent into Toronto on Friday, I kept track of my heart rate and laughed at how wild it was (in the 130s) despite the smooth flight. While I tried to bring it down with deep breathing exercises, I couldn’t manage to bring it below 120. Something tells me I’m going to be in the market for the Muse headband soon!
As always, if you have any questions or I can help you in any way, all you have to do is respond to this email!
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