Every person must make choices in their lives. These choices may be monumental or insignificant, they may be personal or they may be professional; but every day, our choices and our decisions measure in the thousands.

i'm against picketing but i dont know how to show itConsider for a moment, the most mundane of tasks — having breakfast. Think through your process of decision making. You have to assess your level of hunger, determine what you feel like eating, select the bowl / plate to use (will it be your favorite bowl or the one most convenient to you at the time) and so on. Each of these micro-decisions add up.

With every choice and every decision that we make, there is a corresponding cost. On a personal level, most of us are aware of these costs — for example, having dinner with friends means that I can’t spend the time finishing the book I am reading — but what happens when these decisions are professionally based? What do leaders consider in the making of decisions?

Wally Bock has an excellent article on choice that looks at work-life balance as a process of decision making. There is an accord here, between what I call “life continuum” and the need for all professionals (and particularly leaders) to actively prioritize:

… choice isn’t between balanced and unbalanced. Instead you have to choose among a number of things to do at any one time. And the choice isn’t between work and life; it’s between different ways to use your time that make up all the parts of your life.

You choose among the options available. You can stay late and work on that project. Or you can meet some friends for dinner. Or you can catch up on your reading or your sleep. You choose.

Leaders are acutely aware of the opportunity cost of their decisions, for with every decision that is made, some other course of action is foregone. In a business context this often has a hard dollar value. Leaders must assess risk and chart a course of action designed to maximize both outcomes and opportunities.

And when it comes down to it, leaders, as Wally explains, are likely to choose the “urgent over the important”.

What other elements do you consider in your decision making process? How do you find balance?

Nina Nets It Out: Leaders often must choose the urgent over the important. As a leader, what are the criteria you use to guide your decision making?