You should have a reaction immediately, one way or another. If you have to think about a dress to say you like it or not, then the dress doesn't really mean anythying. I make up my mind very, very fast about things, because anything that takes long thinking doesn't really interest me. -- Oscar de la Renta, on dress shopping in Time Tactics of Very Successful People
Have you had the following happen? You have a decision to make, but you don't want to make it, so you put it off or avoid it, but it leaves you unsettled and disturbed until you deal with it. This had come up because I have two such decisions pending right now - committing to some relatively minor surgery, and whether to accept someone's application for a project.
Of course the right thing to do is buck it up and make the damn decisions, so why do we torture ourselves? Two general categories come to mind: a) We don't know what we want to do, or b) we know it, but we're putting off taking action. In my two cases, I have one of each. I know I want to undergo the procedure, but it's expensive, unpleasant, and time-consuming - I'm nervous committing. I.e., category b. For the second one, I'm not sure whether I want to turn the person down or not, i.e., category a.
For decisions we aren't ready to make yet, make sure there are good reasons to put them off. There are a few situations where it's valid to do so, mainly when you need more information. But that can be a trap. Will gathering more information really significantly alter what you decide? (There's definitely an opportunity for 80-20 decision making here.) Beyond gathering information, "I just need more time" is also valid and also a trap. Why do you need more time? A good heuristic I share with clients is the "one-time pass" to put things off. Push it out as far as you need, but when it comes back you have to decide.
Of course there are many techniques to help make decisions, from love/hate at first sight (like de la Renta) to "T-tables" comparing alternatives across binary dimensions. That's a book chapter.
I'm curious: Do the two cases above cover the spectrum? Do you have trouble making decisions? What techniques do you use? When has putting off a decision helped a lot, and why?