11 May 2010, by A. Cedilla
When you find yourself paralyzed with indecision, what can you do?
Anchor yourself in the present.
One definition of paralysis is “a loss of control, feeling or function.” And the most common scenario in which we find ourselves paralyzed is when we’re required to make a decision: there are too many details or not enough,and there’s not enough time to make a good choice. Where does it go wrong?
Control – Your control is affected when you can’t settle on a course of action, or you have no idea or clue what to do.
Sudden emergencies (as if there’s another kind), or too many demands and issues vying for your attention all at the same time and you freeze. You can’t think. There’s too much and it’s all at once. So what do you do?
Breathe, step back, and anchor yourself. Take the moment back for yourself, don’t give it away to panic.
Take time to compose yourself and drum up some questions. If you’re familiar with the 5 starting points of journalism (who, what, when, where and how) throw them in: What’s going on? Who needs help, with what, when and how?
Move on: How important is it? Should you handle it, or can someone else do it? When’s the deadline?
Keep asking questions. The more you find out, the more data you have to work with that clarifies the situation, and you get starting points to spur you to action.
Another great help is to have a clear set of priorities and linked daily goals. When you have both you can build on your goals, structure your workday around your priorities, and use both as a compass to guide you in rough waters.
It also makes your day easier if you set things up so that common interruptions or issues can be filtered out — whether you use technology (think voice-mail and spam/in-box filters, to start) or routines. “A place for everything and everything in its place,” simplifies morning preparations enormously.
All the voices outside your head saying ME, ME, ME, OVER HERE.
It’s especially hard when you’re at a vulnerable moment –you’re tired, distracted, hungry or sleepy.
Take a break, go for a walk, get your heart pumping, your blood oxygenated. Make or have a quiet place, somewhere close — go to it, have people respect it by being clear about your intentions to re-connect with yourself. Have a calming ritual.
Get it out or channel the negative feelings into something constructive, if not cathartic. Don’t let it drown out who you are at your core.
Function – We’ve seen this in personal computing — the whole shebang freezes, overloading at just that one app, that one click, and somehow there wasn’t enough RAM to handle the hiccup; the system’s resources are suddenly tied up into that one decision — and the whole thing locks up.
Again, step back, breathe, anchor. Asses, break down and prioritize the mess that’s demanding your attention.
Work your way down the priority list. Use real focus and single-task. If it’s still too much, ask for help. Don’t bully through the mess alone.
Here’s a short list of what you can say to buy yourself more time to collect yourself:
- YES, NO, Not right now, Later maybe.
- What’s the real issue here?
- Let me think about that. In the meantime: a) what do you suggest we do in response? b) can you get more data and suggestions on how to handle the issue before we talk again about it?
- What are the concerns of the team regarding this issue? What do they need to resolve it on their level? When they do this, when can we expect it to change?
- Let someone else handle that, they should know where it needs help, they made it./ That’s their responsibility let them come up with a solution to address it.
- I need time to think about it. We can’t force the issue at this point. Let’s wait and see.
- It’s not that important, let go. Your time is better spent on your high-value issues.
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