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5 Techniques To Make Better Decisions

5 Techniques To Make Better Decisions

How can I make better decisions?

I browsed the web and ended up on Qoura reading the most popular answers. People often suggested, “just do it,” “ignore fear of failure,” and “never turn back.”

I thought it over and really considered it. If I simply ignored the “fear of failure” and just “did it”, would that really be making a decision? Absolutely not!

“Just doing it” results in even more failures and even more regrets. Imagine if general George Patton just ignored his “fear of failure” and recklessly charged straight into enemy lines without a plan! Image if you, or your family and loved ones ignored all risk and “just did it” instead of taking the time to make a well informed decision.

Imagine if we applied those same results for:

– Buying a house

– Quitting your job

– Having kids

– Investing in a new business venture

– Getting Married

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– Having a vasectomy

– Plastic surgery

It probably wouldn’t end up so well!

Instead of flipping a coin, using your magic 8 ball, or “just doing it”, here are 5 techniques to make better decisions.

1. “I cannot decide on what I do not know!”

Hal wanted to quit his job. After his workday was over, he sat down with a pen and paper and came up with a massive list of pros and cons. He wrote out everything he wanted to do and how he was going to make money. He imagined over and over the freedom and excitement that he would gain after leaving. The next day Hal walked into work and quit.

This may sound great to some but, the problem with Hal was that he did not know enough to make a good decision yet! He rushed what he actually had plenty of time to do.

Everything that he imagined and dreamed about was blurry. All the “facts” that Hal used to make his decision were NOT verified facts, but rather bits and pieces that he heard from his friends or picked up on from the far corners of the internet. Hal is extremely jaded.

Hal then replayed the same facts over and over in his head (thinking they were real). No new information was being added to the equation to allow him to make a better decision.

We often jump to conclusions when making difficult decisions that require serious thought and planning. We must first gather more information because:

  1. You do not know what you do not know!
  2. You cannot decide on what you do not know!

If I asked you to solve the following equation A + B + 2Z – 10X = P could you do it?

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Not right away because there are too many unknowns! You could guess or use trial and error but that takes too much time and a great deal of effort in real life. We need to go out and collect more information to make a better decision.

We do not have all the answers

2. “Maybe you can help me?”

The quickest way to gathering more information to make that tough decision is to go out and ask other people. However, there is a trick. Ask the people who have already done it! Stay away from the people that don’t have any experience but seem to know everything.

This year, while I complete graduate school, I wanted to participate in applied clinical research. More specifically, I wanted to design and develop medical devices from a clinical need.

Instead of “just doing it,” I decided to reach out to a respected faculty member to see if it was a good idea. I went to him and poured my heart out. He looked at me like I had 2 heads and shunned me away!

I took the advice to heart and sulked a bit. Instead of just quitting, I decide to gather even more information! But this time, I reached out to other schools including MIT, Stanford, UMN, and Johns Hopkins. The information and feedback I got was amazing.

Why? Because all these schools were actually DOING IT! That had already developed over a hundred medical devices in the same fashion I wanted to do. Not only that, they had specific programs to help people like me who wanted to do that kind of research and design.

On the other hand, my school was not doing it and the professor I reached out to wasn’t either.

-Ask the people who are doing it or have already done it to get more information.

3. Seek the Devil’s Advocate.

As human beings, we are self-confirming. We naturally seek out information that we already agree with and tend to ignore information that we disagree with. Skepticism and denial can be good in some instances, but these characteristics must not be confused with being hard-headed.

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Imagine 2 documents sitting right in front of you, one with information you agree with, and the second with information you disagree with. Whether you are right or wrong, or whether the information is right or wrong, you will pick the document that you agree with first and consider that information more seriously. Obviously, whether you are right or wrong, you will pick the document containing information you agree with first and take that more seriously.

Let’s go back to the “should I quit my job” example. You probably already REALLY want to quit your job and have already made up your mind. Now, instead of making a decision, you are just confirming your existing desire to quit, by collected confirming evidence. This confirmation bias blinds us from the obvious and has lead to some of the worst business decision ever made (for example, Quaker Oats‘ aquisition of Snapple).

To counteract this, reach out and collect information that opposes your existing viewpoints.

Good businesses use this process all the time. When Fortune 500 companies make big time investments (like acquiring another company, investing in new ventures, downsizing, re-sizing, etc.), they hire a completely separate team to investigate the opposing viewpoint, and then seriously consider the opposite.

Remember, “De-Nile isn’t just a river in Egypt.”

4. Beware of the sham options.

Everything seems great in comparison with something crappy.

The other day I was watching HGTV’s Home Hunters Abroad. A couple was shopping for a beautiful island home in Caruso. They required two things: it had to be less than $400,000, and it had to be rent-able.

The couple contacted a real estate, who I now realized was skilled in the art of sales. He lined up 3 beautiful houses. House number 1 cost $399,000 and was perched on top of a hill overlooking a magnificent clear blue bay. The couple fell in love with the view and was seriously considering buying the house until they found out the new construction would get in the way of their ocean view.

After seeing how the couple reacted to the ocean view, the real estate agent quickly changed his sales tactics. He showed them house #2, which had a stunning ocean view and a white sand beach a few steps from their back door.

The only problem was the house was $489,000 – a full $89,000 over budget. The couple was so angry at the real estate agent that they considered replacing him.

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Finally the last on the list, house #3, had no view, was not rent-able and was $10,000 under budget.

Which house did they chose?

The couple went with house #2 that was $89,000 over budget! They made a poor decision and broke the bank because they were not aware of the sales trap the real estate agent set.

House #2 seemed like the best option in that context, compared to the shame option of house #3. In a different context, going an extra $89,000 over budget is a bad idea.

What they should have done was not buy anything and waited until something else showed up. However, when you are in the middle of a difficult decision, sometimes it’s hard to gain that kind of perspective.

5.  Factor in the opportunity cost

How could the previous couple in the home buying example snap out of the mental trap set by the real estate agent?

The couple needed a change in perspective. When dealing with big number numbers like $400,000 and $486,000 the difference might not seem that much, but let’s take another look and consider the opportunity costs.

What is another to $89,000 to you? Well it’s another 2 years of saving every single cent of your paycheck (assuming you make ~$60,000 before taxes). Which means you cannot eat, buy gas, go out, or do anything for 2 entire years. You must save every single penny of your paycheck to afford the difference!

Here are more examples of what they could have bought with the amount the went over budget by:

Conclusion

Next time instead of jumping to conclusions and “just doing it”:

  1. Take some time to gather more information. You don’t know what you don’t know.
  2. Get more information people who have already done it, not the people who are trying to sell it.
  3. Seek the devils advocate and seriously consider what they have to say. You might be just confirming yourself!
  4. Beware of the shame option. All other options seem great in context to a crappy one.
  5. Gain a greater perspective by considering the opportunity costs.

Featured photo credit: thinker / Dan Mckay via flickr.com

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Last Updated on January 21, 2020

How to Increase Work Productivity: 9 Ground Rules

How to Increase Work Productivity: 9 Ground Rules

We all have those days when completing our assigned tasks seems beyond reach. With the temptation of social media, mobile games, and the internet in general—not to mention the constant bustle of people in the office—it’s easy to fall prey to disruptions and distractions at work.

So, what can we do about it? How to be productive at work?

While we don’t have a foolproof system that can completely eliminate disturbances and diversions, we do have 9 ground rules that can be applied to help give your productivity levels a boost.

Keep reading to find out our tips on work productivity.

What Does It Mean to Be Productive?

How to be productive at work?” is the age-old question plaguing employees and employers alike around the world. Regardless of where you work and what you do, everyone is always looking for new ways to be more efficient and effective.

But what does being productive actually entail?

Completing more tasks on your list or working longer hours doesn’t necessarily mean you’re being more productive. It just means you’re more busy, and productivity shouldn’t be confused with busyness.

Productivity means achieving effective results in as short amount of time as possible, leaving you with more time to enjoy freely.

It involves working smarter, not harder. It means refining processes, speeding up workflows, and reducing the chances of interruptions.

Productivity is best achieved when looking at your current way of working, identifying the bottlenecks, flaws, and hindrances, and then finding ways to improve.

9 Ground Rules on How to Be Productive at Work

1. Avoid Multitasking

Multitasking can give the impression that more tasks can be accomplished as you’re doing multiple things at once. However, the opposite is true.

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Research has shown that attempting to do several things at the same time takes a toll on productivity and that shifting between tasks can cost up to 40 percent of someone’s time.[1] That’s because your focus and concentration is constantly hindered due to having to switch between tasks.

If you have a lot of tasks on your plate, determine your priorities and allocate enough time for each task. That way you can work on what’s urgent first and have enough time to complete the rest of your tasks.

2. Turn off Notifications

According to a Gallup poll, more than 50 percent of US smartphone owners admit to checking their phones a few times an hour.[2]

Switching off your phone—or at least your notifications—during work hours is a good way to prevent you from checking your phone all the time.

The same applies to your computer. If you have the privilege of accessing social media on your work desktop, switch off the notifications on there.

Another good tip is to logout from your social media accounts. Therefore when you feel the urge to check it, you might be swayed because your page isn’t so easily accessible.

3. Manage Interruptions

There are certain disruptions in the office that are unavoidable such as your manager requesting a quick meeting or your colleague asking for assistance. In order to deal with this, your best approach is to know how to handle interruptions like a pro.

Be proactive and inform the people around you of your need to focus. Turn your status on as “busy/unavailable” on your work chat app.

If you’re on a deadline, let your colleagues know that you need to concentrate and would really appreciate not being interrupted for the moment, or even work from home if that’s a feasible option for you.

By anticipating and having a plan in place to manage them, this will minimize your chances of being affected by interruptions.

4. Eat the Frog

Mark Twain once famously said that:

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“if it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.”

What this basically means is that you should get your biggest, most urgent task out of the way first.

We all have that big, important task that we don’t want to do but know we have to do because it holds the biggest consequence if we don’t complete it.

Eat the frog is a productivity technique that encourages you to do your most important, most undesirable task first. Completing this particular task before anything else will give you a huge sense of accomplishment. It will set the ball rolling for the rest of the day and motivate you to eagerly complete your other tasks.

5. Cut Down on Meetings

Meetings can use up a lot of time, which is time that can be used to do something useful.

You have to wait for everyone to arrive, then after the pleasantries are out of the way, you can finally get stuck into it. And sometimes, it may take a whole hour to iron out one single issue.

The alternative? Don’t arrange a meeting at all. You’ll be surprised at how many things can be resolved through an email or a quick phone call.

But that doesn’t mean you should eliminate meetings altogether. There are certain circumstances where face-to-face discussions and negotiations are still necessary. Just make sure you weigh up the options prior.

If it’s just information sharing, you’re probably better off sending an email; but if brainstorming or in-depth discussion is required, then an in-person meeting would be best.

6. Utilize Tools

Having the right tools to work with is crucial as you’re only really as good as the resources you have at your disposal. Not only will you be able to complete tasks as efficiently as possible, but they can streamline processes. Said processes are essential to a business as they manage tasks, keep employees connected, and hold important data.

If you’re the manager or business owner, ensure your team has the right tools in place.

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And if you’re an employee and think the tools you currently have to work with aren’t quite up to par, let your manager know. A good team leader understands the significance of having the right tools and how it can impact employee productivity.

Some examples of tools that could be used:

Communication
  • Slack for team chat and collaboration.
  • Samepage for video conference software.
  • Zendesk for customer service engagement.
Task Management
  • Zenkit for task and project collaboration.
  • Wunderlist for listing your to-do’s.
  • Wekan for an open source option.
Database Management
Time Tracking
  • Clockify for a free tracker.
  • TMetric for workspace integrations.
  • TimeCamp for attendance and productivity monitoring.

You can also take a look at these Top 10 Productivity Tools to Help You Achieve 10x More in Less Time.

7. Declutter and Organize

Having a disorganized and cluttered workspace can limit your ability to focus. According to researchers, physical clutter can negatively impact your ability to concentrate and take in information.[3] Which is why keeping your work environment well ordered and clutter-free is important.

Ensure you have your own system of organization so you know what to do when the paperwork starts to pile up.

Being organized will also ensure that you know where to find the appropriate stationery, tools, or documents when you need it. A US study reveals that the average worker can waste up to one week a year looking for misplaced items.[4]

Here’s a useful guide to help you declutter and organize: How to Declutter Your Life and Reduce Stress (The Ultimate Guide)

8. Take Breaks

Taking regular breaks is essential for maintaining productivity at work. Working in front of a computer can lead to a sedentary lifestyle which can place you at a higher risk of heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. Even a 30 second microbreak can increase your productivity levels up to 30 percent.

As well as your physical health, breaks are also crucial for your mental and emotional wellbeing. That’s because your brain is like a muscle, the more it works without a break, the easier it is for it to get worn out.

Ensuring you actually take your breaks can prevent you from suffering from decision fatigue. It can also help boost creativity.

Take a look at this article and learn why you should start scheduling time for breaks: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

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9. Drink Water

Although we know we should, it’s easy to forget to drink enough water during the working day.

Many of us turn to tea or coffee for the caffeine hit to keep us going. However, like taking breaks, drinking water is essential for maintaining productivity levels at work. It’s simple and effective.

Not drinking enough water can lead to dehydration and also headaches, tiredness, and weight gain.

A good tip to avoid dehydration is to keep a water bottle at your desk as it can serve as a reminder to constantly drink water.

If you find the taste of water a little bland, add some fruit such as cucumber or lemon to give it a better taste.

You can also get more ideas on how to drink more water here: How to Drink More Water (and Why You Should)

The Bottom Line

The preceding 9 ground rules on work productivity aren’t the be-all, end-all. You and the company you work for may have other tips on how productivity is best increased and maintained.

After all, it’s something that can be perceived differently depending on the exact job and work environment.

In saying that, however, the 9 ground rules serve as a good foundation for anyone finding themselves succumbing to disruption and distraction, and are looking for ways to overcome them.

A good tip to keep in mind is that change doesn’t happen overnight. Start small and be consistent. If you slip up, just dust yourself off and try again.

Developing habits happens gradually, so as long as you keep up with it, you’ll soon start to notice the changes you’ve been making and eventually enjoy the fruits of your labor.

More About Boosting Productivity

Featured photo credit: Cathryn Lavery via unsplash.com

Reference

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