There are thousands of choices to make a day. Which means there are thousands of decisions to make every day. It is estimated to be in the neighborhood of 35,000 decisions we make on average every day. Wow. No wonder sometimes at the end of a long day, the last thing we want to do, is make a decision.
Not all those decisions are huge decisions. Most are mundane affairs, such as the alarm goes off, do I hit snooze or get up? Do I wear a jacket today? What do I want to eat while out for lunch? They take a toll and they add up. This is why behaviors and habits begin to play a strong part in our daily survival. The autopilot begins to take over, lessening the burden of consciously thinking about these decisions.
Our ability to make decisions must stay strong to ensure the integrity and quality of our decisions utilizes our best judgement. This ability has to be practiced and improved upon just like any skill. It must be guarded against over use and fatigue.
Deciding and Confirming
When making decisions we must each be aware and vigilant around our personal biases. We tend to seek out and synthesize information that confirms or even strengthens our beliefs.
Where decision making is concerned, we may sometimes find ourselves taking a position or making a decision without the facts. We may be overly relying on intuition and gut feeling. Then we may use information seeking to merely confirm the decision we have already made.
You can’t make decisions based on fear and the possibility of what might happen.Michelle Obama
It is important to recognize that there are barriers to effective decision making.
- Misidentifying the problem
- You don’t care either way – a lack of emotional attachment
- You care too much – emotions are getting in the way of making a decision
- You don’t have enough information
- You have too much information
- To many people are involved, decision making by committee
- Self interest – too much skin in the game
This is where having a decision making process can come in handy. It’s one more tool in your tool chest that can help combat these barriers.
Some decisions don’t require a formal process to come up with an answer. The every day mundane decisions do add up and our lack of willpower may not even be willpower at all, but rather a diminished ability to make decisions because of decision fatigue.
But many decisions can benefit from working through a process.
If a decision-making process is flawed and dysfunctional, decisions will go awry.Carly Fiorina
The problem can be complex. The process needs to be simple.
This way you can use it more and more. That use will improve the quality of your decisions and make the decision making more efficient. More efficient means not only does it take less time, but it taxes less your pool of mental and emotional resources required to make good decisions.
In any moment of decision the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing.Theodore Roosevelt
5 Simple Steps for Better Decision Making
- Identify Your Goal/Decision – Clearly define your goal or what the decision is
- Gather Information on Options – List out your options. Get the information you need to make a decision. This can be information from others, books, online. Fill in the blanks of what you don’t know that you must know to make a decision.
- Consider Consequences/Weigh Evidence – Evaluate each of the options and weigh them for the potential of reaching your goal. Consider the consequences of each option. Visualize carrying out either of the paths before you. Which one appears to get you to where you want to go.
- Make Your Decision – Decide. If you’ve done your homework and worked through the other steps, then it is just a matter of picking. Decide and commit.
- Evaluate Your Decision – After you’ve implemented your decision, consider if it has resolved the situation. You may need to take another look and choose a different direction if it didn’t do the trick. Also, this is a good moment to reflect on the process of making the decision. Did you have the facts needed? Did you give too much weight to your feelings without understanding why you were feeling that way?
So. Tell me. What do you think? Which is better? To take action and perhaps make a fatal mistake – or to take no action and die slowly anyway?Ahdaf Soueif
Pick a path
If you find that you are in paralysis on a decision where it’s a 50/50 good and bad, and you could go either way, then it is still time to pick. Unless you are missing a key piece of information then taking any more time to decide don’t do any good. One path or another is just as good, so you might as well keep going on your journey.
Perfection is the enemy of good. There is no such thing as attaining perfection in decision making. It’s the best decision you can make in the moment. Even with the big ones, don’t worry so much. It clouds judgement and eats away at your ability to make decisions. There are plenty of other decisions to make, so you’ll get another crack at another one soon enough.
Using a process will help reduce some of the stress around making decisions and having a framework will give you an easier way to evaluate your decision making.