If you are a decision maker, this week, and every week of your career you’ll be asked to do the right thing that’s a hard thing. If you are delaying making a decision that has to be made, ask yourself “Am I deliberating or procrastinating?” Deliberation and procrastination are contrasting approaches to making decisions.

Here’s their key differences: Deliberation is taking action. It involves weighing the pros and cons, gathering information, and planning before taking action. It can be a time-consuming process, but it’s often necessary for complex decisions. But seldom needed for routine decisions.

Procrastination is not taking action. It’s putting off a decision, often without a good reason. Because, ultimately, the decision must be made, procrastination leads to missed opportunities and added stress. Leaders procrastinate because of fear of failure, lack of motivation, or simply not liking the task. None of which are good reasons for not making a decision.

Deliberation is a thoughtful approach that leads to better results, while procrastination is an avoidance tactic that leads to problems.

Here is how Colin Powell stated he avoided procrastinating when making decisions while serving in the White House: “We do not have the luxury of collecting information indefinitely. At some point, before we can have every possible fact in hand, we have to decide. The key is not to make quick decisions, but to make timely decisions. I have a timing formula, P = 40 to 70, in which P stands for probability of success and the numbers indicate the percentage of information acquired. I don’t act if I have only enough information to give me less than a 40 percent chance of being right. And I don’t wait until I have enough facts to be 100 percent sure of being right, because by then it is almost always too late. I go with my gut feeling when I have acquired information somewhere in the range of 40 to 70 percent.”

This is an excellent way to make decisions with this caveat:  the ability to rely on your “gut feeling” is determined by your experience in the area in which you are making a decision. The more experience you have in the area, the more you can rely on that experience and reduce your need for more information. The less experience you have the more you need additional information – until it’s no longer about Deliberation but has become Procrastination.

Finally, decision makers often believe they need more data before making a decision. But often more data isn’t necessary. Here are 3 questions to ask when determining if more data is really required before making a decision:

1. Will more data improve the outcome?

2. Will more data make the person or process impacted by the decision more effective or efficient?

3. Are you using the desire for more data as a reason to not take action?

If the answer to the first 2 questions is “yes” get the necessary data immediately.  If the answer to the 3rd question is “yes” – do I really have to say it?