Antisocial umbrellas and fast decision making

I was watching a bit of Wimbledon today.  Rain, as can be expected, came on, and amongst the crowd, out came the umbrellas.  What struck me was how anti-social and self-defeating they are in a crowd.  They spread further out than your neighbour, and so there is a good chance that the edge of someone’s brolly will be under yours … and you get dripped on.  Your head may stay dry, but your clothes will still get wet.  Poncho’s that allow the legs to stay covered as well, and allow air to flow seem to so much more socially sensible.

Anyway, the reason for sitting with a beer was a moments break from the building works that we are doing.  We are remodelling several rooms, including one large one with a very high ceiling, with a plasterer coming in 3 weeks time, and various other tradesmen expected as well.  Even small jobs that need doing such as stripping out old units from a utility room take time.  And, new ones keep appearing, like wire brushing and hammeriting three large beams that were covered and will be covered again … but had surface rust.

But, the real time pressure comes from the number of decisions that need to be made, and I am again struck how useful an ability it is to be able to make large numbers of decisions relatively quickly, and limit the downside in doing so.  To pick on an example, we have lighting,  – do we use large uplighters?  If so, do we go for sodium or incandescent?  How many?  Positioned where?  What unit design?  Do we need corridor lighting as well, and again position choices on ceiling mounted or under a handrail?  Do we put in a fibre-optic star-ceiling (very cool though lots of work … but no way to do it afterwards at all).  And then there’s down lighters.  In all cases we need to get the wiring in now, and cover our bases for future changes.  This story gets repeated numerous times for drain runs, boarding, radiators and piping runs, water pipes, showers, tile choices and more.  And many decisions have implications on other options, so you end up resolving for them multiple times over.  It’s easy enough if you just do whatever is normally done, but we have always looked to push the envelope a bit.

It’s rather wearing, and though we’ve done it successfully several times before, we are currently wondering why we do it … as we always do about this stage.  What have we found works?

Don’t underestimate how long the decision making process takes.  With research included we’ve found that this can become that largest time user in all the DIY work we’ve done.

Think the decision right through, particularly considering how it could fail.  Can it be maintained?  Will it limit options downstream?  Does it rely on something that is new/only available from one supplier?  Does it prevent you doing something else?

Avoid irreversible decisions where possible, and where they are required, focus time and energy on them – especially on thinking through the downsides.

Keep options open as long as you can, but commit when you need to, and don’t use too much time on one decision and leave yourself too little for others.  It’s the sum of the decisions that matter, not each individual one.

Establish whole solutions as tests, making each decision in theory, then think through how the whole sytstem works together – much easier and less risky than trying to think through each decison in isolation.

Document what decisions you’ve made and why, including all calculations.  Unless you have a dramatically better memory than me then you’ll have no idea why you made a particular call when you come to look back at it during the works.  And you risk realising why you made a call only after it shows up for real (sadly we’ve done this a few times).

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