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Last Updated on August 27, 2020

Effective Decision Making Process: How to Make Wise Decisions

Effective Decision Making Process: How to Make Wise Decisions

Mastering the decision making process is key in both life and leadership. Many people are overwhelmed by choices, plagued by indecision, and stressed by analysis paralysis. However, it’s possible to overcome all of this and learn to make great decisions.

You want to make the right personal or business decision, and, in many cases, the sheer amount of options you have to wade through sets you up to question the very decisions you make.

Research from Cornell University suggests we make over 200 decisions per day on food alone[1]. Imagine how many decisions we must make in general!

If you find you’re struggling to make a specific decision, often second-guess yourself or have post-decision regret, or would like some additional resources in your decision-making toolkit, you’re in the right place. Let’s dive into the decision making process.

The Three P’s of the Decision Making Process

The 3 P’s of the decision making process are as follows:

  • Perspective: what to think about when making a decision
  • Process: the steps for making a decision
  • Preference: identifying your best strategies for decision-making

Perspective

As you now know, we make tens of thousands of decisions daily. So much of making good decisions lies in the way we think about the decision itself. Here are some things to consider:

Put the Decision in Context

How important is this decision? Sometimes we agonize over the smallest decisions, like what to have for dinner or what to wear.

Next time you get stuck on a decision, take a step back and ask yourself to rate the importance of the decision. Use a scale of one to five, with five being a very critical decision to your life (career change, who to marry, or whether to have kids) and one being fairly innocuous, with smaller effects (what meal to order or whether to comment on a social media post).

If it’s a four or five, you’ll likely want to spend more time on it, but if it’s a one, you can quickly make the decision and move on.

Know Yourself

Many ancient philosophers from Aristotle to Socrates touted the benefits of “knowing thyself”. This applies to decision-making, too. We make decisions through our own perspective and lens and it’s critical to know yourself: your style, values, beliefs, fears, stories and what works for you.

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When you have strong self-knowledge, it makes many decisions much quicker and easier. For example, when you know your values, and, for example, know that you value family, it’s easy to decide to miss that work event for your kid’s soccer game.

Learn to Satisfice

In his book, The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less, Barry Schwartz talks about the power of satisficing (yes, it’s a word) instead of maximizing.

Maximizers want to make the absolute best decision. They exhaust all alternatives trying to find the one right choice. This often leads to analysis paralysis, stress about the decision, and regret once a decision has been made.

Satisficers seek to find what is “good enough.” They know there is never a perfect choice and seek to find a decision that meets most of their needs or requirements.

When you learn to satisfice instead of maximize, you can make better, faster decisions with less regret.

Accept That You Won’t Always Like Your Decision

Often, people hesitate to make a decision because they don’t like the decision–even when they know it’s the best decision to choose. And just because a decision is right doesn’t make it any easier to make.

I come across this with clients all the time. They tell me they don’t know what to do; but as we talk, they actually do know exactly what they need to do; they just don’t like the answer. This is especially prominent when people have a true dilemma, when all options are equally terrible, but a choice is unavoidable.

Identify Which Decisions to Streamline

The more decisions that are made, the more energy is used. Ultimately, this comprises your ability to make wise decisions. This is called decision fatigue.

One study, for example, showed that “patients who met a surgeon toward the end of his or her work shift were 33 percentage points less likely to be scheduled for an operation compared with those who were seen first”[2]. The surgeon’s were experiencing decision fatigue and were less likely to decide to operate on a patient, even though the patient may have needed it.

There are many areas in your life where you can automate decisions so you don’t have to make them at all. This leaves more mental bandwidth for the important decisions.

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Think about decisions you make in your daily life where you could streamline the process and set up an automated choice instead. Perhaps it’s what you eat. Could you simplify and have eggs on toast every morning so you don’t have to make that decision?

How can you reduce or eliminate choices in your life so that you make space for those that are most important?

Process

In 2007, Pam Brown of Singleton Hospital in Wales created a 7-step decision making process. Many others have followed in his footsteps, with hundreds of different adaptations of this same formula.

Here are the 7 steps:

1. Outline the Goal and Outcome

What decision are you trying to make? What are you trying to accomplish with this decision? Get crystal clear on the problem and decision.

2. Gather Data

Here, you need to gather relevant information to make an informed decision. What do you need to know before you choose?

3. Develop Alternatives

Brainstorm and identify your options. You want to make sure you have enough options that you can make a good decision, but not so many that you feel overwhelmed.

4. List Pros and Cons

In this step, weigh the evidence and identify the advantages and disadvantages of each. You can also consider how likely it is that each option meets your goals.

5. Make the Decision

It’s decision time. Here, choose among alternatives based on the information you’ve collected.

6. Immediately Take Action

You’ve picked your course of action. What’s your first step? Do it as soon as possible—no excuses!

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7. Learn and Reflect

Now, it’s time to review your decision making process, understand the consequences and results of your decision, and use that information to improve future decision-making.

Preference

Once you have perspective and understand the process, you can proceed using the strategy that works best for you.

Listen to Your Inner Voice

Trust your gut to solve the problem. Stop listening to everyone else and what they say you should do, and get clear on what you believe.

For more on how to listen to your inner voice, check out this article.

Identify the Risk and Reward

Is the reward worth the risk? Is the benefit worth the cost? There will always be trade-offs in life; are they acceptable?

Phone a Friend

It’s hard to make decisions alone, so get some help! Consider a best friend (who knows how to listen), a coach (who can walk you through the relevant questions to reveal your thinking), or a mentor (who has been in that situation before).

Be cautious about who to involve. Part of the challenge in decision-making is to not get swayed too far off your own beliefs. Everyone is going to have an opinion. Don’t let someone convince you otherwise when you know something is best for you.

Use Your Learning Preference

Are you a visual, auditory, or kinesthetic decision-maker? How do you know? Think about a decision you’ve made recently that went well, and put yourself back in the mindset when you went through that decision making process. Did you make it based on the picture you had of what it would “look” like (visual), your internal self-talk or dialogue (auditory), or on a feeling you had (kinesthetic)?

Take Action

Sometimes you don’t know until you’re “in it.” When you’re faced with two choices, make the best choice with the information you have and what you feel is best, and then start moving. You’ll know if that choice is right for you if you feel good as you move forward.

Leverage Your Emotions

Our emotions affect our ability to make decisions. When you are aware of and understand your emotional states, you can make better decisions.

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On the flip side, when you aren’t aware of your emotions and whether they are truly connected to the decision itself, then you can make the wrong decisions for the wrong reasons.

See the graph below for details on how to identify and read your emotions[3]:

Use emotions to help you through the decision making process.

    Sleep on It

    If you have a big decision to make, think about it before bed, but wait to make the decision until you wake up the next morning. When you sleep on it, you make better decisions with a clearer mind[4].

    Wait

    Sometimes we pressure or put false deadlines on ourselves, and we don’t have an answer because we’re not ready or it’s not the right time…just yet.

    If you have the freedom, sometimes the best thing you can do is wait until the right decision emerges on its own. Sometimes this could be as little as a few minutes or hours, and other times it could be months.

    The Bottom Line

    Making decisions can be tough, but it doesn’t have to be impossible. If you use the strategies outlined above, you can make the decision making process work for you in the long run. Find what helps you the most, and incorporate it into your own process to make decisions that will lead you to a better life.

    More Tips on the Decision Making Process

    Featured photo credit: Brendan Church via unsplash.com

    Reference

    More by this author

    Tracy Kennedy

    Lifehack's Personal Development Expert, a results-driven coach dedicated to helping people achieve greater levels of happiness and success.

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    Last Updated on September 24, 2020

    17 Ways Learn New Skills Faster and Enjoy the Process

    17 Ways Learn New Skills Faster and Enjoy the Process

    In the movie The Matrix, everyone was intrigued with the ability that Neo and his friends possessed to learn new skills in a matter of seconds. With the incredible rise in technology today, the rapid learning in the movie is becoming much more of a reality than you realize.

    The current generation has access to more knowledge and information than any before it. Through the internet, we are able to access all sorts of knowledge to answer almost every conceivable question. To become smarter, it’s more about the ability to learn faster, rather than being a natural born genius.

    Here are 17 ways to kickstart your Matrix-style learning experience in a short amount of time.

    1. Deconstruct and Reverse Engineer

    Break down the skill that you want to learn into little pieces and learn techniques to master an isolated portion. The small pieces will come together to make up the whole skill.

    For example, when you’re learning to play the guitar, learn how to press down a chord pattern with your fingers first without even trying to strum the chord. Once you are able to change between a couple of chord patterns, then add the strumming.

    2. Use the Pareto Principle

    Use the Pareto Principle, which is also known as the 80 20 rule. Identify the 20% of the work that will give you 80% of the results. Find out more about the 80 20 rule here: What Is the 80 20 Rule (And How to Use It to Boost Productivity)

    Take learning a new language for example. It does not take long to realize that some words pop up over and over again as you’re learning. You can do a quick search for “most commonly used French words,” for example, and begin to learn them first before adding on the rest.

    3. Make Stakes

    Establish some sort of punishment for not learning the skill that you are seeking. There are sites available that allow you to make a donation toward a charity you absolutely hate if you do not meet your goals. Or you can place a bet with a friend to light that fire under you.

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    However, keep in mind that several studies have shown that rewards tend to be more motivating than punishment[1].

    4. Record Yourself

    Seeing yourself on video is a great way to learn from your mistakes and identify areas that you need to improve. This is very effective for any musicians, actors, speakers, performers, and dancers.

    5. Join a Group

    There are huge benefits to learning in a group. Not only are you able to learn from others but you’ll be encouraged to make progress together. Whether it’s a chess club, a mastermind group, or an online meet-up group, get connected with other like-minded individuals.

    6. Time Travel

    Visit the library. Although everything is moving more and more online, there are still such things called libraries.

    Whether it’s a municipal library or your university library, you will be amazed at some of the books available there that are not accessible online. Specifically, look for the hidden treasures and wisdom contained in the really old books.

    7. Be a Chameleon

    When you want to learn new skills, imitate your biggest idol. Watch a video and learn from seeing someone else do it. Participate in mimicry and copy what you see.

    Studies have shown that, apart from learning,[2]

    “Mimicry is an effective tool not only to create ties and social relationships, but also for maintaining them.”

    Visual learning is a great way to speed up the learning process. YouTube has thousands of videos on almost every topic available.

    8. Focus

    Follow one course until success! It’s easy to get distracted, to throw in the towel, or to become interested in the next great thing and ditch what you initially set out to do.

    Ditch the whole idea of multitasking, as it has been shown to be detrimental and unproductive Simply focus on the one new skill at hand until you get it done.

    9. Visualize

    The mind has great difficulty distinguishing between what is real and what is imagined. That is why athletes practice mentally seeing their success before attempting the real thing[3].

    Visualize yourself achieving your new skill and each step that you need to make to see results. This is an important skill to help when you’re learning the basics or breaking a bad habit.

    Take a look at this article to learn how to do so: How to Become a Person Who Can Visualize Results

    10. Find a Mentor

    Success leaves clues. The best short cut to become an expert is to find an expert and not have to make the mistakes that they have made.

    Finding out what NOT to do from the expert will fast-track your learning when you want to learn new skills. It is a huge win to have them personally walk you through what needs to be done. Reach out and send an email to them.

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    If you need help learning how to find a mentor, check out this article.

    11. Sleep on It

    Practice your new skill within four hours of going to sleep.

    Josh Kaufman, author of The Personal MBA, is a noted rapid learning expert. He says that any practice done within this time frame causes your brain to embed the learning more rapidly into its neural pathways. Your memory and motor-mechanics are ingrained at a quicker level.

    12. Use the 20-Hour Rule

    Along with that tip, Kaufman also suggests 20 as the magic number of hours to dedicate to learning the new skill.

    His reasoning is that everyone will hit a wall early on in the rapid learning stage and that “pre-committing” to 20 hours is a sure-fire way to push through that wall and acquire your new skill.[4]

    Check out his video to find out more:

    13. Learn by Doing

    It’s easy to get caught up in reading and gathering information on how to learn new skills and never actually get around to doing those skills. The best way to learn is to do.

    Regardless of how unprepared you feel, make sure you are physically engaged continuously. Keep alternating between research and practice.

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    14. Complete Short Sprints

    Rather than to force yourself into enduring hours upon hours of dedication, work in short sprints of about 20-30 minutes, then get up and stretch or take a short walk. Your brain’s attention span works best with short breaks, so be sure to give it the little rest it needs.

    One study found that, between two groups of students, the students who took two short breaks when studying actually performed better than those who didn’t take breaks[5].

    15. Ditch the Distractions

    Make sure the environment you are in is perfect for your rapid-learning progress. That means ditching any social media, and the temptation to check any email. As the saying goes, “Out of sight, out of mind.”

    Before you sit down to learn new skills, make sure that potential distractions are far from sight.

    16. Use Nootropics

    Otherwise known as brain enhancers, these cognitive boosters are available in natural herbal forms and in supplements.

    Many students will swear by the increased focus that nootropics will provide[6], particularly as they get set for some serious cramming. Natural herbal nootropics have been used for thousands of years in Ayurvedic traditions to improve the mind and learning.

    Find out more about brain supplements in this article.

    17. Celebrate

    For every single small win that you experience during the learning process, be sure to celebrate. Your brain will release endorphins and serotonin as you raise your hands in victory and pump your fits. Have a piece of chocolate and give yourself a pat on the back. This positive reinforcement will help you keep pushing forward as you learn new skills.

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    The Bottom Line

    Learning a new skill should be exciting and fun. Whether you use online courses, real world experience, YouTube videos, or free online resources, take time to learn in the long term. Keep picturing the joy of reaching the end goal and being a better version of yourself as continual motivation.

    More Tips on How to Learn New Skills

    Featured photo credit: Elijah M. Henderson via unsplash.com

    Reference

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