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.