In 1995, Professor Iyengar set up a booth of samples of jams in a grocery store. Every few hours, he switched from offering 24 different jams to a group of six jams. More people stopped at the large display, but more people bought from the small display (12 an hour versus 2 an hour.) The original study concluded that too many choices leads to “decision paralysis“.
Having a clear outcome in mind when you’re starting a new project (business, plan, meeting, exercise program) is one of the things you can do to give it a better chance of success. Having too many “objectives” on your list is worse than having none.
Having a few clear and concrete desired outcomes, or even just one, is best. Otherwise you end up like a mosquito at a nudist colony. Too many choices and you end up buzzing around, never landing.
Keep it simple and inspiring. Getting yourself or a group of people – even dedicated, intelligent, hard-working people – is difficult. Adding unclear or many outcomes does not help. “Stretch goals” do not help, unless you / they have a history of consistently setting and executing goals successfully already.
Or you end up the bottle neck, making all the decisions, because nobody else knows what’s going on or what you want. You need a simple, inspiring vision that people can understand and buy into, and that you can communicate often and clearly.
Set Your Intent
Big or small, defining the outcome gives you a better chance of success. It makes it easier to plan, track, and execute, and burns far less time and energy. There is not point in climbing the ladder faster than anybody else if it’s leaning against the wrong wall.
This sounds overly simplistic, but it’s amazing how often there’s a vigorous debate amongst a client’s leadership team when I ask the question “What’s the definition of success?” or “What outcome are we looking for?”
This means you will also need to
Decide What You’re Not Going To Do
You can’t do everything. You certainly can’t do everything at once. So make a decision. What are you really good at? What do you (or your company) really love doing? Where is the biggest opportunity to apply that competency? Why do you really (no, really) want this?
Knowing this will help you say no, with a clear conscious and healthy personal and professional boundaries, to the things that detract from your main focus. Do first things first, and second things second (if at all).
If you haven’t made these kinds of choices before – if you haven’t had to choose what not to do – this can be exhausting and very uncomfortable, emotionally and physically. I promise it’s worth it.