While you always want to be thoughtful, it’s definitely possibly to overthink career decisions.
Does a big choice like quitting your job or changing careers merit a lot of thought?
Absolutely! But, as a decision coach who helps people who can’t make up their minds, I’ve also seen clients spend hours agonizing over whether to ask for a favor or go to the office happy hour. And that’s time and energy that could’ve been better spent elsewhere.
So, check out this handy guide to help you quickly get on the right track for those minor, career-related decisions. From there, you’ll be able to take all that time you saved being indecisive and use it to do work that’ll get you noticed.
1. Should I Sign Up for a New Project?
Yes if you can see a clear benefit to your career, reputation, or skill set.
No if you’re just doing it for the sake of looking busy or important. If you’re not going to give it your best, better not to do it at all. When you phone something in, you could do your reputation more harm than good.
2. Should I Join an Office Social Event?
Yes if you can work it into your schedule. These activities may not be your favorite, but they help build your reputation as a team player and, hey, it’s usually just a few hours.
No if you have a pressing personal issue, or if you feel like you’re spending more time socializing with co-workers than anyone else. If you’ve gone out with your colleagues already that week, you can say “no.” But, also be aware that, if it’s part of company culture, you may be seen as someone who doesn’t want to be a part of the team.
3. Should I Call in Sick?
Yes if you’re infectious. Don’t be the one who gave the whole office the flu.
No if you’ve got a history of calling out sick for minor ailments. You don’t want people rolling their eyes when they hear you’re at home—again.
4. Should I Tell My Boss [Something]?
Yes if it’s going to impact their work or make them look bad if they don’t know. Also, yes if it’ll help build the working relationship or give insight into how you work.
No if it’s personal, petty, or unprofessional.
5. Should I Answer That Email Today?
Yes if that’s the office culture, if it’s urgent, or if you’re the only one with the answer. If need be, you can reply with a line like “I’ll be in touch in approximately [time frame].”
No if it’s regarding something someone else will handle, or you need time to think about your response.
6. Should I CC [Name] on This Email?
Yes if it’s genuinely important that they see it.
No if you’re just trying to score points, or if it’s not relevant to their work. (People can see right through that.)
7. Should I Just Wing Something I Haven’t Finished?
Yes if it absolutely must be turned in or presented, no exceptions (e.g., the client is waiting in the lobby to hear from you)—but take steps to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
No if owning up only has consequences for you. In other words, if sharing that you fell behind makes you look bad, but saves your team (or boss) from putting out something that’s not well done, put the integrity of the work first, and commit to getting things done on time in the future.
8. Should I Tell My Teammates I Disagree With the Direction of a Group Project?
Yes if it’s in the early stages, you have a plan for pivoting, and you’re prepared for people to disagree with you.
No if you’re already deep into the project and don’t have any alternatives. It’ll come across as little more than complaining if it’s too late to do anything about it.
Obviously, there are times when extenuating circumstances will complicate even a typically straightforward decision. But decision-making is like any other skill—it’ll get stronger with practice. If you work on saying “yes” and “no” to more straightforward questions, then the next time you’re debating small actions like raising your hand in a meeting or accepting coffee at a client meeting, you’ll be able to respond quicker and feel better about your decision.
Photo of person thinking courtesy of Maskot/Getty Images.