Beyond the 8-Ball: Making Decisions Successfully

Beyond the 8-Ball: Making Decisions Successfully

Whether it’s a career change, choosing between two candidates, or the countless things we decide on during a typical work day, decision-making is an integral part of our lives. Over time, our choices—from unconscious ones to live-altering ones—collectively shape our destinies. While many lower stakes choices can be reversed, making the right decision at the onset lessens the angst, time, and energy in having to change course. Following these tips will help you make faster, wiser, and more informed choices.

Add Weight to Your Pros and Cons

Writing down a list of pros and cons on a sheet of paper is a common exercise when trying to decide upon one direction versus another. The trouble with stopping there is each item on your list has a different value to you. Therefore, next to each pro and each con, assign a number between 1 and 10 that indicates its importance. Once you’ve made your values clear, making a sound decision becomes infinitely easier. Since every decision involves a large degree of emotion, it’s smart to share your list with a friend or coworker who can offer objectivity.

Avoid Decision Fatigue

Highly successful people with busy schedules structure their day to make as few decisions as possible. They achieve this by making habits out of their anticipated and routine choices. Things like what they’ll wear, what they’ll have for lunch, and what time they’ll work out are set. With fewer choices to make, they have more time and energy to focus on important decisions. Science tells us that the ability to make quality decisions erodes with every choice we make throughout the day. Therefore, it’s best to make decisions when your mind is fresh and unencumbered by other tasks, which for most people is first thing in the morning. If you find yourself caught in the vicious cycle of analysis paralysis late in the afternoon, it’s wise to table your decision for a time when you have a fresh perspective.

Set A Time Limit

We’ve all experienced giving ourselves an hour to work on something and inevitably finishing within that time frame. The concept that a task will get performed in the time that is allotted to it is known as the Parkinson’s Law. In making decisions, we often fall prey to this same principal. That’s why it’s crucial to set a time limit, even for your biggest decisions. There comes a point in every judgment we make whereby time and information no longer serve us. Correcting a mistake is almost always less costly than inaction. By waiting to make a perfect choice, our productivity and mental health suffer. Adding to this, a 2014 study by neuroscientists at NYU found that the longer we take to make a decision, the less confidence we have in it. So unless you’re absolutely convinced that weighing additional useful information will dramatically alter an outcome, make a choice and move on.

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