In the Decision Comes the Dilemma

It’s the little moments that count. Specifically, one moment: The space in between choosing what to do or what to work on next. It’s that second when you think to yourself, “Okay, what should I do next?” In that space of time, you choose to be productive…or not.

In the Decision Comes the Dilemma by Laura Stack #productivityWe face these moments in the normal course of our days. They represent a fork in the road, where we choose our behavior. For example, if someone cuts you off in traffic, in that split second, you choose whether to flip him off and or apply the brake. It’s not that you’re still not angry¬—you are—but you’re making a purposeful choice in how you’re going to let your self-talk manifest itself. If your partner is in a foul mood and says something snippy to you, in that following second, as you inhale, you choose whether to escalate the conversation or offer soothing words.

The same is true in time management.

It’s whether you choose to:
• Open Word and write an impactful article for a blog, company newsletter, or client
• Open Outlook and spend time messing around with your email

It’s whether you choose to:
• Dive into that spreadsheet and do difficult brain work
• Pick up the phone and call your friend

It’s whether you choose to:
• Rehearse for an important presentation next week
• Research air fare options for your next vacation

It’s not that you don’t want to choose the unproductive option—you do—I do—because we’re human. It’s much easier to do the fun task that allows a mental vacation, rather than the difficult task requiring brain power and focus. However, the results are vastly different. In the choice is the difference between a day filled with activity and a day filled with accomplishment.

Making the correct choice in the moment requires a three-step process:

1. Clarity. You have to know, in advance, what your priorities are for the day. Without a complete list of choices, you won’t have an accurate answer to the question “what’s next?” If you don’t have a plan, any choice will get you “there” (no where). If you already have a plan, you can execute toward it much more efficiently.

2. Discernment. Assuming you do know your priorities, the next step becomes judgment. When in that precious moment, when you’re choosing which fork in the road to take, you must evaluate which alternative will result in a better outcome. Check marks on a list aren’t equal; they have weight. If you could see results, one check mark would look like a faint pencil mark, and another a thick broad stroke with a marker.

3. Discipline. Once you know what you should be working on and make a correct choice between alternatives, the only item that weighs the balance is self-control. When you know what’s on your plate, make an accurate choice among alternatives and decide what you should be working on, do you actually follow through? If you say to yourself in your head, “I really should work on that strategic plan,” what’s the next action? Open the document, or with one click of the mouse, go down a rabbit trail.

This three-step process, at the end of the day, will make the difference between a productive outcome, where you feel really good about the results you were able to produce, and a negative outcome, where you feel like banging your head on the wall for yet another wasted day, filled with bad choices, and items on your to-do list that carry forward yet one…more…day.

These decision dilemmas happen to us hundreds of times a day; they add up to a productive day or a wasted day. Choose wisely.



  1. Michelle Gilstrap says:

    Thank you for the great reminders about decision and what is best. Yesterday, I had a list of what to do and just kept ticking it off until I completed it. Yes, I wanted to play and not do everything, but it was much better to complete what I had to do.


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