Being decisive is an important leadership skill. It’s also good leadership to make that big decision tomorrow, rather than right now. Not only will you avoid impulsive decisions, you’ll also get input from your unconscious mind.
Martha Lagace interviewed Harvard Business School postdoctoral fellow Maarten Bos about unconscious thought and decision-making. He defines “unconscious thought as a goal-dependent, deliberative process in the absence of conscious attention. Most people attribute a lot of their actions to a conscious process, but there are scores of processes that operate unconsciously.”
The unconscious mind is powerful. Mine allows me to remember a name or fact only when I stop thinking about it. (I see your head nodding in agreement!)
Writing blogs often involves taking long breaks where I step away from the “great” thought I’ve captured and work on something else. It may seem that I make no progress on the blog during that time. Actually my unconscious mind is refining my ideas while I focus on something else. Sometimes I even find resolution to thorny problems in my dreams. (Rare, but it does happen!)
When you don’t think you’re thinking about the decision, your brain is still working on it without your awareness. So don’t buy that house today or hire that person you just interviewed. When a decision really matters, sleep on it, and engage more of your brain power.
Your unconscious and conscious minds agree. You should contact Humanergy to achieve insight about better decision-making.
Photo from iStockphoto.
Is there any hard data that would support delaying a decision makes for a better decision? If waiting over night makes for a better decision, why not wait for 3 days and make an even better decision?
Good question, Bill! The research says that the best decisions integrate conscious and unconscious thought. So it makes some sense that as long as you’re still in the active thinking (conscious) process, then you’ll be sleeping on it too. Once you stop actively thinking about the problem, your unconscious processes drop off too. So if it’s a big decision that requires lots of thinking, take three days if you can!
I find that not just decision-making benefits from the “wait a bit” process. I wrote a 100-page thesis in about 8 hours after allowing my brain to accumulate, assess, analyze, organize and edit the information I had been researching for nearly 6 months. It was a total “brain dump” and I firmly believe that allowing my unconscious mind to do the work was a huge part of the process (oh, I got an A on that thesis;-)
There’s never a BIG decision that must be made immediately (OK, life and death things aside); reflect and let your magnificient mind do it’s thing…good things come to those who wait!
Talia Champlin, a friend, blog reader and wonderful realtor, takes issue with NOT buying the house. So, go ahead and sleep on it, but buy the house, she says! 🙂
I agree with this article. I will also sleep on a decision if neither answer is the best answer becasue sometimes a third answer exists.