7 Deadly Sins of Entrepreneurship, Part 2: Indecisiveness
“What should I do next?” “What project should I focus on?” “What color should the font be on my blog?” We’ve all been there before – faced with decisions – some critical, many insignificant.
There are plenty of decisions in life that require deep analysis and thoughtful decision-making: Buying a home, choosing a college to attend, figuring out where to raise your kids, etc.
Running your own business is not unlike the aforementioned life-altering scenarios. Certain decisions will make or break your business, so it’s important for all decisions to be based on solid logic and reasoning, with a little bit of your own gut and emotion mixed in.
Most of your day-to-day business decisions, however, are not critical. If you make the wrong decision, you can adapt and correct your mistake. In fact, bad decisions are often valuable because they give us solid information about what not to do in the future.
In most cases, I believe the only thing worse than a bad decision is no decision at all.
Being intelligent sometimes works to our disadvantage. We want so badly to do everything perfectly that we sometimes fail to do anything at all. I’m a big fan of eating, so I’ll run with a food analogy: analysis paralysis at an extreme is like having three options for dinner, not being able to choose what you’d prefer to eat, and dying of starvation. Okay, that was a little too extreme…
There have been countless examples of individuals and businesses who work on a product and never release it because they aren’t able to perfect it. These people forget that the amount of lost income by having no release or a significantly delayed release far outweighs the additional income gained by releasing a “perfect” product. And guess what? The supposed “perfect” product usually isn’t perfect anyway.
A good example with blogging and niche site creation
If you spend too much time in the planning stages, unable to make relatively quick decisions, you miss out on valuable time where your site can be exposed to the internet. Don’t have an entire content plan yet? Not accepted into a particular affiliate program yet? Who cares – Build the site, do what you can, and allow it to start becoming indexed and start aging. No one is going to see your site yet anyway, so what are you so afraid of? If you’re not sure whether something will work, don’t dwell on it, just try it and tweak it as necessary.
How Do We Fight Indecisiveness?
It’s not easy. When you’re in the moment of being unable to make a decision, you often need someone else to push you, or else you risk taking an absurd amount of time, which winds up being detrimental to your bottom line. I think the only way to really prevent indecisiveness is to attack it on the front end – that is, have a few mechanisms in place that will help reduce the chance of you becoming indecisive further down the road. Here are my tips:
1) Set deadlines
You should be doing this already with your major goals and “checkpoints,” but you should also do it for any key decisions. Self-imposed deadlines aren’t always the easiest to stick to, but set them anyway. Having a difficult time deciding which logo to use on your website? Make a note of your deadline (literally – write this on a sticky note and place it on your computer monitor where you always have it in sight). Pick a reasonable amount of time (e.g. “until tomorrow morning”), and stick to it.
2) Always know the “next action”
Sometimes indecisiveness doesn’t come from analysis paralysis. One of the most common questions I think many entrepreneurs face is “what should I do next?” You have so much going on, a lot of it is important, and it’s difficult to really prioritize each task.
You might create a to-do list each day (which I recommend, and often fail to do), but you’re probably taking the wrong approach. Does this example below look familiar?
- Reply to e-mail
- Add backlinks to niche site #1
- Do research for niche site #2
- Write a blog post
The above example is certainly better than having no to-do list at all, but it doesn’t give you the best guidance. Are you replying to ALL e-mail? How many backlinks are you going to add? What types of backlinks? How much research are you doing for niche site #2? Are you researching keyword traffic? Competition? Everything? What is your blog post going to be about? Will you need to do research before writing the blog post?
My point is, you may have a framework for your day, but you don’t have specific actions that prevent you from asking “what should I do next?” Here’s a revised example of the above to-do list that helps reduce indecisiveness:
- Reply to/take action on/file away all inbox e-mail that is more than 3 days old.
- Add 10 social bookmarks to niche site #1.
- Write 2 backlink articles for niche site #1.
- Write 5 blog comments for backlinks to niche site #1.
- Determine 5 potential target keywords for niche site #2.
- Research traffic for 5 potential target keywords for niche site #2.
- Assess the competition of each keyword.
- Based on the results of the keyword research, determine possible domain availability for target keywords.
- Purchase a domain, if available. If not, repeat steps 5-8.
- Decide on topic/title for new blog post.
- Do necessary research for blog post.
- Write blog post.
- Plan tomorrow’s to-do/action list.
Yikes! This seems to be a lot more intense than before. By doing this exercise, not only do you know what the next action is (and thereby don’t waste time trying to figure it out during the day), but you might realize that your plan is too ambitious.
Don’t you hate when you get to the end of the day and you’re scratching your head wondering why you couldn’t complete a simple, 4-item to-do list? Break your list down into more detail, and reevaluate your plan for the day. The above example might not be perfect, but you get the idea.
Having this plan of action in place will save you time by eliminating periods of indecisiveness.
3) Have someone to talk to
If you have a partner or partners in business, this usually isn’t an issue. But if you don’t, have a few people you can rely on to bounce ideas off of. These can be friends and family, or people you’ve never met before online (it’s not as sketchy as it sounds!). There’s a good chance you know people within some kind of online community or people who you frequently converse with in a blog’s comment space that you can reach out to for a quick discussion online (AIM/G-Chat/Skype are all great for this).
Having people to talk to about a particular decision will often keep you from being too indecisive.
4) Picture the worst case scenario
This is one of my favorites. When I’m faced with a decision that I can’t figure out, I simply ask myself “what’s the worst that could happen if I make the wrong decision?” Take your mind down that road and you’ll realize that the worst case scenario may not be so bad. This will give you comfort and confidence needed to be decisive when you feel you’re at risk of making the “wrong” decision.
5) Stop thinking and just do it
This is a good one when paired with #4 above. It’s very similar to the old saying “go with your gut.” If there really isn’t a lot at stake, stop thinking about it and just take action. If you screw up, chances are you can fix it. If you’re a bit uncomfortable with jumping into a decision without much thought, then ask yourself these two quick questions (very similar to picturing the worst case scenario):
- If I make the wrong decision, how much money will it cost me?
- If I make the wrong decision, how much time will it cost me?
If the answers to both questions are acceptable to you, then stop thinking and just do it.
Your time is valuable – that’s the bottom line. Yes, there is a certain amount of analysis that will help save you time by making the right decision, but there’s usually a point where indecisiveness wastes more time than making a wrong decision.
What do you think about indecisiveness? Is there a fine line between being decisive and just being stupid?
Stay tuned for “deadly sin” #3. To make sure you don’t miss any future updates, consider subscribing to my RSS feed. Also, I’d love it if you shared this post using the buttons below or in the left sidebar. Thanks!