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Career coach - decision-making

Dr Pam Brown gives advice on how to take decisions with speed and confidence

Dr Pam Brown gives advice on how to take decisions with speed and confidence

Everyone makes hundreds of decisions daily, and doctors need to make frequent and important clinical decisions – career decisions too.

Many of us become paralysed by important decisions, increasing stress. Here we explore ways to facilitate decision-making

• Look at the evidence. Decision-making is defined as ‘deciding on a course of action after appropriate thought or considering the evidence'.

• Effective people tend to make decisions rapidly and change their minds slowly if at all. However, speed does not equate to good or bad decision-making.

• Decisions may be simple yes/no, choosing between alternatives, or more complex, involving finding correct combinations - e.g. performance and size of a piece of clinical equipment at an affordable price.

• This seven step process is useful for major decisions:

o Outline the goal and outcome

o Gather data to support the decision-making process

o Develop alternatives (e.g. brainstorm)

o List pros and cons of each alternative

o Make the decision

o Immediately take action to implement it

o Learn from and reflect on the decision-making

• If delaying a major decision, evaluate whether waiting for information or procrastinating. Set a date to re-evaluate and a deadline for completion.

• You do not have to make decisions on your own.. When others will implement the result, it improves ownership if they share the decision-making

• Don't waste time worrying about decisions which are not yours to make – this is a common cause of wasted energy

• Accept that some decisions will involve conflict or dissatisfaction

• Committing the choices to writing often makes it easier to weigh the pros and cons. Other decision-making tools include Edward de Bono's Six Thinking Hats, and Decision-tree Analysis (explore these on the internet).

• Often the decision made is less important than fully committing to it. Accepting this can reduce stress dramatically.

Dr Pam Brown is a GP in Swansea

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