This article was originally published here on Forbes.com.
Want To Make Better Decisions Under Stress? Hack The Clock
During a crisis, we can start to feel time compress. That means time seems to speed by out of control. Feeling time compress can lead us to fall back on thoughtless knee-jerk reactions and bad decision making. How can we make better decisions under stress?
Thankfully, there’s a trick to help guard against that out of control feeling. It’s called “hacking the clock.”
“Hack the clock” is a term we use in aviation when a crisis or emergency occurs in-flight. To hack the clock, we physically push a timer on our cockpit clock so that we have a realistic gauge on how much time is actually passing. The point is to intentionally slow things down for the sake of maintaining a stable, safe, and operational environment.
Hacking the clock does two things for the aviator:
- It provides a set physical response to crisis that reasserts our sense of control even as adrenaline is coursing through our veins.
- It triggers us to turn our attention to the memorized checklists and action steps specifically designed for crisis situations.
Hacking the clock allows our brains to catch up to the high-pressure situation at hand, focus our attention and assess what needs to be done, and then take the appropriate action steps in the proper order.
Here’s the thing: hacking the clock isn’t just for fighter pilots. It’s a tried-and-true method for slowing down and taking stock in crises of all kinds. That’s because it can keep a crisis moment, or work-related chaos, from throwing you off—or worse, causing you to make a costly mistake.
During a crisis, simply noting the actual passing of time can help you maintain your bearings and manage the fear that creeps in when time starts to feel sped up.
There’s another clock hack that you can implement, and that involves deliberately slowing down processes or decision-making for a period of hours or sometimes even days. This is the sort of strategy that can help you and your organization maintain a more realistic perspective, get all the facts, and calmly make whatever decisions you’re faced with making.
Calm is contagious.
When things feel like they’re getting out of hand, you need there to be procedures and actions that you can rely on. If you don’t have an emergency checklist or set of practices that come into play during high-stress events, make one now so that you and everyone else knows how to proceed in those moments.
And remember that when you’re facing a business emergency, managing the situation begins with identifying your team’s top, most-pressing priority. Get everyone together to determine the scope of the problem and gather as much information as possible. Give yourself and your teammates the time to observe, to listen, and to ask questions before jumping into action mode.
The next time you’re faced with a crisis, your first step should be to slow down and hack the clock.