Our lives are defined by our ability to make decisions. Our careers, relationships, health—anything and everything about our present selves boils down to the decisions we’ve made in the past, yet some of us struggle with decision making. We may have access to data, plenty of options, and generally have everything going for us, but when crunch time rolls around we seize up. We just can’t make that firm commitment to a decision. Here are a few of the labels you may go by:
* Slow to act
* Analysis paralysis
Have you ever felt like you identified with any of these labels? If so then know that you aren’t alone. We are at the extreme of the decision making process, spending too much time thinking about our decisions, and not enough time acting upon them.
Fixing our Decision Making
For people like us, we need to balance out our decision making processes with a bit of “rashness.” We need techniques that will help us dive in to our decisions head first and to stop worrying about the repercussions so much. Here are 5 tips to help us balance out our decision making process.
1. The 2 minute rule
The idea behind this tip is to force action through a self-imposed deadline. It’s simple enough to incorporate: any time you have to make a decision, just set the timer and begin the process. The time limit forces you to quickly assess the pros and cons while quickly coming to a decision. The simplicity behind this tip makes it very accessible.
If you’re simply slow at making decisions, then this tip is a life saver. It doesn’t have to be 2 minutes either; anything from 1-5 minutes should work fine as well.
2. Think black and white
There are times when we have more choices then we need. Excess of anything can overwhelm and lead to analysis paralysis, so in this case, try judging your options simply as good or bad, which will simplify and quicken the process of weeding out the less optimal decisions.
This limited approach is ideal for the over-analyzers who insist on questioning every variable to death.
3. Put it in a hat
If all options seem to have roughly equal value, write down your best ones on separate pieces of paper and place them in a hat/bag. Your decision will be the one you pull out at random.
This also works if you have a bunch of tasks you don’t want to do; these you could pair with a reward hat. Do a task, then when its done pull out your random reward from the other hat. This will help make the process be more tolerable.
4. Focus on the present
We can often become overwhelmed with the big picture, trying to see how our decisions will affect the future. The process is mentally draining, because you’re trying to see every step along with its every outcome. It’s better to save that energy for the task at hand, and simply try and make the best decision possible. Live in the moment, make a decision based on what will make the next step the easiest instead. Doing this for every step is a great choice for the chronic non-decision maker.
5. Embrace the idea of failure
Probably the biggest fear for us slow decision makers is that our decisions will lead to bad results. Compensation is then made by over-thinking the situation, causing us to question every aspect involved in the decision. Ultimately we run the risk of making no decision at all because we waste time and energy on useless questioning—this line of thinking must be rewired.
Instead, we should see delaying the decision as worse then making a bad decision. Bad decisions can be recovered from and learned from, but not making a decision at all means we don’t get to determine how our lives unfold. A fear of failure means that some thing or someone will make that decision for you.
It’s rarely the case that the best decision to make is to not make one at all. Those who struggle to make decisions run the risk of letting their lives run them, rather than them running their own lives. This puts independence under constant threat, so it’s up to us to make sure that we are in control of our lives and our decisions.
Keep these tips in mind the next time you feel like you want to back away from a decision, because you don’t want your life to be decided for you.
Here are some concrete dos and don’ts you’ll want to pay attention to in order to make a solid decision: How Not to Screw Up Your Decision Making
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