When possible, delay making decisions

Amos (Tversky) liked to say that if you are asked to do anything—go to a party, give a speech, lift a finger—you should never answer right away, even if you are sure that you want to do it. “Wait a day,” Amos said, “and you’ll be amazed how many of those invitations you would have accepted yesterday, you’ll refuse after you have had a day to think it over.” [The Undoing Project, Michael Lewis, page 196]

Often, decisions  must be made quickly.

      • Some decisions are trivial and inconsequential. When ordering at a restaurant, just choose. 
      • Some decisions must be made quickly. If your car needs a battery, buy one.
      • With some decisions, the right choice is obvious so there’s no benefit in delaying. Change your route to avoid stalled traffic.

But most decisions can be delayed, and doing so may produce a better and more confident choice.

Postponing even for 24-48 hours is enough time to help avoid impulsive and rash decisions. Often, our emotions inordinately affect our decisions and cause us to make bad choices that we later regret. But emotions are short-lived; delay decisions and emotions will subside. For instance, if you’re overly excited about something, or charmed by someone, or fearful, or feel intimidated or coerced—wait a few hours and the emotions will dissipate and you can make a more rational decision.   

This principle should also inform how we ask others to make decisions. When asking people to make an important decision, don’t ask for an immediate response; give them ample time to study the implications and think through options. It’s respectful to say, “I need you to make a decision about an issue. Let me share, right now, all the facts I know, and then take time to think about it and let me know when you’re comfortable making the decision.”

For sure, push the pause button when making important decisions about your time, money, future, reputation, and values.

14 Replies to “When possible, delay making decisions”

    1. Mary. Me too. But there’s no better time than the present to change. [This reminds me of a similar thought: The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago; the second best is today.

  1. Sound advice! Likewise, growing up, my daddy always responded to circumstances with, “Let’s sleep on it.”

    1. Monica, that’s a great, succinct phrase: let’s sleep on it. How often, in our lives, that phrase would have saved us from heartache. Don

  2. Don…All of the car salespeople and those in timeshare sales will blow your house down . I remember years ago sitting in a timeshare “pitch” and telling the salesman “I don’t make decisions on the spot. Let me think about it and get back to you tomorrow”…to which he replied “no one has ever come back”. I said “Thank you. You just made my decision”. Truth be known, I catch grief from within my own family for stalling decisions. Maybe those of us who are not the sharpest crayon in the box need more time. :-).

    1. Neil, thanks for sharing your great anecdote. You’re right, high-pressure salespeople hope for impetuous decisions. I’ve learned that whenever a decision involves money…wait.

  3. You are so right! Some decisions such as ordering at a restaurant have to be made quickly, but many decisions do need thinking about. I had that happen to me regarding returning to choir. My initial reaction was “yes.” After thinking about it I realized that it was probably not a good idea for me. When the time is right, I will know. Also, we need to consult with God as He always knows best!! Thank you for your thoughts.

    1. Thanks, Toni, for taking the time to write. You’re right, long-term commitments should be made only after serious thought. I look forward to having you back in choir. Don

  4. Ha! Don, this works so well, certainly for some, and always—perhaps—under the right conditions.
    Please read on…..
    – A few days ago we brought Pantry Moths home on something from the store. I was nearly sickened by this, as I had not been around indoor bugs, and certainly not flying ones either here or in other homes.! So, I got busy taking everything out of the closet, middle shelf first, washing it and setting the items around the kitchen while continuing to clean. It took an entire afternoon to complete two shelves, including the spices. washing each item with soap and water and rinsing each piece. In order to catch more moths,, and to avoid getting totally grossed-out, I closed the Pantry door,, turned the light off and took a break by completing another project. This included separating and filing a mound of papers. No moths here; thank God! My husband had done the shopping, had gone back out on errands and was now home reading during this time.
    Today, I resumed the process of killing newly appearing moths, wiping down the area, removing the contents of the last two shelves and cleaning them again with Clorox, all while enjoying a Houser concert. (Nice mental and spiritual break!)
    Upon his return, my husband volunteered to wipe down the Pantry, with Clorox! Wow! Just what I had hoped! But, when I mentioned it, – as you suggest, -tomorrow afternoon seemed soon enough, he thought,. This, even having been a bit more than disgruntled about the increased difficulty that had ensued in getting to the sink and refrigerator easily.. Again, I could not stand the wait! The thought of moths getting into every nook-and-cranny was just too much for me! More of the long process of a thorough wipe-down began: every back-wall surface, every shelf-support board, every side of each shelf, the ceiling and floor, each hinge , every molding edge and door design, the entire door both inside and outside the Pantry followed until, lastly, Cloroxed door knobs completed the job.
    The day had turned into night. Houser completed another wonderful concert! The Clorox treatments, complete, I washed up and sat down to catch-up. There was your welcomed post! “Just Wait” was the theme— What? Too late! Ha! — If only I had seen it sooner! —Surely, my husband would have undertaken this simple task for me,—in so much less time, no doubt—yes, sometime —perhaps tomorrow afternoon!
    Oh,, but, —hmmm. What was the multiplication rate of Pantry Moths again?
    – Karen Steinman
    Ha! Ha! Hope you enjoyed this tongue-in- cheek response, Don. —. Thanks again for sending your well-thought-out posts. I look forward to each time they appear.
    —. Blessings to each in your family. And, a Happy Fourth of July!

    1. Karen, I share your dislike of inside bugs. I’m having a challenge with outdoor bugs with my vineyard, but that’s entirely different. I hope you got the plague of pantry moths eliminated. Take care, Don

  5. Don,
    I would leave a comment but I decided to take some time before I make a decision to comment.

Leave a Reply

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