Decide to Thrive: Overcoming Indecision, Unlocking Productivity, and Reducing Stress

Decades ago, a pioneer in the field of professional organizing (Barbara Hemphill) said, “Clutter is postponed decisions.”

When I started my business in 2007, this statement rocked me and still does.

Why? Because according to my Myers-Briggs Type, I am “perceiving-oriented.” This means that I dislike planning, love gathering information, and find decision-making boring and even stifling.

But, if clutter is postponed decisions, then my preferences for an existence unencumbered by decisions will lead to more physical, emotional, mental, and time-based clutter in my life and work.

Not good.

What is good is that Jungian Types reflect preferences, not capacity, for action. Early in my career and shortly after the birth of our daughter, I grew overwhelmed by the time-based clutter and decided that “going against type” was preferable to the stress caused by my desire to keep all options available.

I had to learn to make decisions quickly – and move on.

One aspect of my Jungian type that makes this a bit more palatable is the other extreme preference I display toward extraversion. I am not a pontificator. I think by speaking; my dog (and my car windshield) can attest to that behavior.

But quick decision-making is risky and sometimes scary. That’s why some humans may want to avoid it. We don’t like things that make us feel bad.

The Perils of Executive Indecision

I met with a new coaching client yesterday. Three months ago, she was given a team of 200+ people to direct. As excited as she was for this next phase of her career, she said that how she was managing her work was not sustainable.

You see, on the surface, she was cool, calm, and collected. Under the surface, she was drowning. I picture here like that meme of a duck who is completely unruffled above the water and paddling like heck underneath.

I realized quickly that she was likely taking excess time making decisions. She called this insight “eerie” but here was the evidence for my observations.

First, she was a relatively new upper-level executive. It is not unheard of for newer executives to bring their penchant for slow, thoughtful, decision-making with them to their new roles. Accustomed to having the luxury to think through an answer before responding, new executives quickly find themselves buried under a stack of decisions that “just need a little more thought.”

Funny how the skills that bring a person into the executive ranks are the same behaviors that plague them once they get there…

Second, I asked her how many emails she had in her Outlook inbox currently. It was in the thousands. I have come to view email overload as a symptom of bigger issues rather than an independent problem. Emails are like mucus.

Excess email can indicate:

  • A culture of CYA
  • A need for improved communication
  • Poor records management practices
  • Lack of empowerment
  • A distaste for decision-making
  • …and so much more!

The good news for this client (and perhaps for you as well) is that I consider the email inbox as a “skills lab” for practicing quick decision-making.

When you process your email decisively rather than “checking” it, you systematically desensitize yourself to the scary, but necessary, behavior of “decide and move on.”

Yes, sometimes your quick decisions will be wrong. Sometimes you’ll ignore something that comes back to bite you. But those instances will likely be in the minority.

Why? Because you are smart and know what the heck you are doing. You have good instincts and can trust yourself to apply those.

Also, the alternative to the risky quick decision is being buried alive under an avalanche of unmade decisions. From the bottom of the scree, you’ll end up deciding through indecision.

Bottom line: Decide to decide.

Even if the whole decision-making “thing” is not a readily accessible personality preference or skill set.

The benefits tend to outweigh the costs.

P.S. – I have this thing I’ve been working on in secret and wanted to let my loyal, long-term members know first! Join the VIP list for immediate notification.


Dr. Melissa GratiasMelissa Gratias (pronounced “Gracious”) used to think that productivity was a result of working long hours. And, she worked a lot of hours. Then, she learned that productivity is a skill set, not a personality trait. Now, Melissa is a productivity expert who coaches and trains other businesspeople to be more focused, balanced, and effective. She is a prolific writer and speaker who travels the world helping people change how they work and improve how they live. Contact her at or 912-417-2505. Sign up to receive her productivity tips via email.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Like what you read?

Get new posts directly in your inbox!

You might also like these posts…

Enjoying these posts? Make sure you dont miss any!

If you enjoy my blog posts and want to make sure you never miss one - sign up for my newsletter! When you do, you'll also get instant access to my FREE webinar on interruptions in the workplace.

Interruptions can kill productivity. With one “Got a minute?” from a coworker or one stray thought swirling in your brain, the flow of your work can be completely disrupted.

The trouble is that few people have concrete strategies to get back on task quickly after an interruption. Some people completely lose focus…for hours! If you have tried reducing interruptions, but they still impact your ability to be effective at work, this free webinar is for you.