In today’s fast-paced world, we are bombarded daily by numerous decision-making opportunities. Some are basic and seemingly have negligible impact — like deciding what to eat for lunch — while others are major, with more significant impact. Either way, the ability to think on one’s feet are not just desirable attributes, but necessary tools for survival.
So, are there tips that can help you make the right decisions, and quickly too? Here are some of them:
- Identify and consider your goal: What overall goal are you trying to achieve, and how does this particular decision affect it? It’s important to always keep this in mind, when making both big and little decisions. For example, if one of your goals at the beginning of the year was to switch to a healthier diet, keeping this in mind will guide your simple daily eating decisions. When making major decisions, like changing jobs or moving to a new city, focusing on a primary goal of, say, spending more time with family or making more money can guide you into quickly working out the best decision for you.
- Consider available information: Facts are very important to decision-making. The more information you have about a situation, the easier it will be to make a decision about it. For instance, knowing the curriculum offered by schools you’re considering can help you decide on the most fitting postgraduate program for you. So, it is advisable to get as much information as is available when making decisions.
- Weigh your options and eliminate the bad ones: Now that you know what your overall goal is and you have information, consider all your options. Quickly run them through your mind if you must make a decision in a flash. You should also consider the consequences and impact of each option. Are you solely affected or are others impacted by your decision? If others are affected, do they need to be consulted? Imagine that a work colleague sends you a provocative email. You could, a) respond in kind or, b) respond professionally. What’s the consequence of each option and how do they affect your primary goal in the organization? The process of elimination is also a very handy tool, so get rid of the options with negative consequences or those that do not align with your primary goal. Doing these narrows down your choices and may even leave you with just one option, which makes your decision clear as day.
- Make the decision! Your available options should have considerably narrowed at this point, so pick the best one and commit to it. Don’t dwell on the other options you passed up — doing so will only drag you backwards.
- Run it by someone: As the age-old adage goes, two (good) heads are better than one. Trustworthy friends, family or colleagues may see your blind-spots and help you assess the situation, pointing out factors you might have missed. Sometimes they may not say anything, but as you hear yourself speak out loud, you begin to see the situation in a different light and the best decision becomes clear to you.
- Make a list: Like hearing yourself talk, writing things down also helps you see things clearly. You can write down all the available options and make a pros and cons list for each option. Seeing it laid out like this can make the situation and available options clearer, thus making the decision easier.
- Sleep on it: Sleep is a very effective "medicine" for the mind and body. Sometimes stress and overthinking can cloud your judgement, causing you to be indecisive. A good night’s rest does wonders in such situations. You wake up in the morning with a rested mind, ready to think through the situation clearly and make a decision. Even a 30-minute nap in the middle of your day can help if you don’t have the luxury of waiting till the next day. You know how sometimes your computer gets slow and/or responsive, but a quick shutdown/restart resets it to its normal function? It’s like that with your "supercomputer" brain.
- Take a break: If sleeping is not an option for you, consider briefly stepping away from the subject/situation. Stop thinking about it and do something random, like reading a novel, cooking, playing a game, taking a walk, or watching a movie. Research shows that sometimes, giving your "thinking brain" some time off a problem while you do other mindless things, can help it come up with a solution. You might be in the middle of grilling kebabs when you have your "aha" moment!
- Give yourself a timeline: Yes, you don’t want to rush decisions, especially those with significant consequences, but you also don't want them to lag. Taking too long can cause you to overthink the situation, causing "decision fatigue" and indecision to set in. Giving yourself a timeline helps prevent this, especially if you’re someone who generally does well under pressure.
- Trust your gut: Sometimes, it boils down to this — your intuition. You’ve weighed all the options and done everything you should do, but still can’t reach a "logical" decision. All you’ve got is a gut feeling. Trust it, go with it. It is possible that your subconscious is picking up something you’re unable to articulate and nudging you in the right direction.
If you’ve got a bit of time to decide, however, consider taking all/some of these extra steps: