Stop deciding things…

Leave a comment

27/11/2018 by Chris Green

I’ve had a couple of days recently where at the end of the day I felt quite wrung out.  And it wasn’t because I’d been grappling with a hard passage, or leading a difficult meeting, or trying to understand finances. (Spreadsheets – ugh).

No, it was simply because I had spent a day being presented with a series of issues on which I was being asked to make decisions.

I had spent a day being presented with a series of issues on which I was being asked to make decisions

Now, it’s now common knowledge that decision-making is one of the hardest tasks the brain has to do.  It’s up there with constantly switching between areas of focus (which is why trying to multitask is so exhausting, and also why it can’t be achieved) and exercising self-control. Clue: exercising self-control is much harder if you’ve given in even once – not eating any chocolate digestives is much easier than eating just one and putting the lid back on the tin.

So a day spent making decisions is going to be a tiring day.  It feels like you’re doing something productive, but actually, but the end, you haven’t done anything other than choose.  No choice has been taken forwards –  and you have zero energy for doing it anyway.

What to do?  Because leaders do have to make decisions and choices, and those decisions are usually the hard ones because if they were easy, someone else would have made them.

And, to be honest, most of us find it hard not to stick our oar in.  The buildings committee might have decided that the right colour was green, but they’re coming to you to validate their choice – and by deciding you actually you obliterate all the work that they’ve done to that point because their discussions and decisions are made irrelevant by the fact that you choose to make the decision yours. 

Thereby depleting your decision-making energy as well.

So you waste their time, and yours.

Instead, the goal has to be to reduce the number of decisions you have to make. And there are two main ways.

Screenshot 2018-11-27 at 17.47.53Decide less by Automating

You probably already do that with which bible passage you’re going to read today, who you’re going to pray for, and maybe which small group you’re visiting. I have a packing list, a template for recording stuff from books, a regular time to catch up with notes from meetings. 

We all know the story of Barack Obama and the suits – he never had to decide what to wear because he always wore the same. That’s an extreme example, but:

  • Why make decision about which book to read next?  Have a pile, and work through it.  Occasionally sort through it if you wish, but normally, just say, ‘next!’
  • Why make a decision about how to prepare a sermon?  You normally go through the same sequence, so just identify it and name it.

You can think other examples – the lifestyle gurus all it ‘automation’, meaning that the decision was made once when you constructed the template, and it’s then easy to action it each time.

If you work in a team, you can establish principles: these choices shouldn’t need to come to me.

What bit of your life could you make decision-lite by automating?  One of Michael Hyatt’s good habits is trying to construct an Ideal Week.  In your Ideal Week, when do things like exercise, or Quiet Times, or time with the kids, take place?  Can it all fit into one week?  Well, try to put some of those things into a weekly routine a bit, so that you don’t have to decide each time.  I find that especially important in ministry, where there is relative freedom in the way we design our days –  structure helps.

Screenshot 2018-11-27 at 17.47.53Decide less by Delegating

I know, I know.  Grandmother, have an egg.

But I also know (from my tiring days) that I’ve obviously got a lot to learn here.

You see, it’s very easy to delegate stuff that I’m not interested in. But when you look closely, ’You decide – I don’t mind either way’ is not actually delegation, is it?

It’s much harder to delegate stuff where I am interested, even though I’m not the right or necessary person to make the call.  We were talking about redecorating the staff corridor, and people wanted my view.  Fair enough, I’m on the staff.  I don’t like the idea of hot pink walls (although for the record, no-one’s suggested that). And I know the colours I prefer – but why should my views be the one that matters? We need the people whom we all agree have beautiful and relaxing homes to guide the decisions for us.

Sometimes, when you’re the leader, you do have to make the call.  Sometimes, when you’re the leader, people want your views to carry more weight, so that the decision feels formally ‘approved.’  Sometimes, when you’re the leader, people need to feel that you’re invested in the project.

But…

‘You decide – you’re much better placed than I am to make the call.  You decide – you know more than me.  You decide – I know that I think but I’m just as likely to be wrong. You decide – it’s your decision, not mine.’

Those are all genuine acts of delegation – where our refusal to be the one to make the decision actively empowers someone else. ‘I trust you, and will abide by your decision.’

And those acts thereby genuinely reduce the number of decisions we need to make, and free us to be that bit more focused.

I don’t have a bible verse or passage for this, but I do think it’s a fair implication of ‘body’ language. 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Shortlisted for “Most Inspiring Leadership Blog, 2018”

New resource

Pastors are busy, and leading a church is a demanding task.  That’s why I wrote this e-bookchecklist: The Pastor’s Checkup – The Top 10 Questions every pastor needs to answer (and helpful stuff if you can’t)

There’s only way to get it is by subscribing to my  (occasional) email newsletter here.

Topics

God, Suffering and Joy

A conversation between me (with cancer) and Michael (with Multiple Sclerosis)

Legal stuff

This blog does not share personal information with third parties nor do I store any information about your visit to this blog other than to analyse and optimise your content and reading experience. I am not responsible for republished content from this blog on other blogs or websites without my permission. This privacy policy is subject to change without notice.

I welcome your participation on the Ministrynutsandbolts site, and invite you to share ideas elsewhere on what you learn and read here. At the same time, I ask that you respect my intellectual property rights in the process.

You are welcome to link to my site or any specific post on my site, extract and re-post less than 200 words on any other site, provided you link back to my original post, or print my posts in any non-commercial publication (e.g., company newsletter, class syllabus, church newsletter, etc.), provided you include this copyright notice: “© 2017 Chris Green. All rights reserved. Originally published at www.ministrynutsandbolts.com.”

Please do not do the following without written consent: Re-post one of my posts in its entirety anywhere else on the Internet, use this content for commercial purposes, including selling or licensing printed or digital versions of my content, or alter, transform, or build upon this work.

If you have some use for my content that is not covered here, please contact me. If you would like me to do a guest post on your blog, email me at ministrynutsandbolts@gmail.com

Copyright does not apply to the titles of books, but transparency means I should own that the title of the blog is taken from the excellent ‘Ministry Nuts and Bolts: What They Don’t Teach Pastors in Seminary ‘ by Aubrey Malphurs (Kregel: 2nd edn. 2009)

© 2018 Chris Green

%d bloggers like this: