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How to Make Decisions Under Pressure

How to Make Decisions Under Pressure

Thanks to the nature of life and society, we’re often forced to make our most important decisions under pressure. Whether that pressure is caused by a lack of time, emotional duress, or something else entirely, it’s hardly the best state in which to make reliable decisions. Without a way to switch into an objective mindset — or at least a process to deal with decisions objectively — you could wind up making a bad decision that’ll bite you for years to come.

Almost every important decision I’ve ever had to make has been made out of necessity and under pressure of various kinds, and that’s given me the chance to work out a process that I can use to work through them in a detached way. You can never eliminate all the bias that comes from emotions and circumstances. Subjectivity is inherently part of being a human being. But you can minimize that bias through the use of a reliable process and make the most of a bad situation. Here’s how:

1. Know the Situation

Knowledge is power. The better you understand the decision and all that it entails, the more likely you are to make a good decision. The first step of the process is to put your research skills to use and study the relevant material, study it until you’re intimate with it.

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Employ various research techniques. Don’t rely on anecdotal evidence, such as the opinions of trusted friends, but acquire it — it matters. Hard information matters, and some people would say it matters the most, but a healthy mixture of hard information and the opinions of those who have “been there and done that” is best in my opinion. It serves to reduce the sway that media manipulation by marketers or vested interests may have wielded through the bias in (what seems to be) objective texts.

You want to know the big picture, and you want to know the fine print. Leave no stone unturned, because the small pebbles in their aggregate have just as much weight as the big rocks.

2. Know the Outcomes

From the certainty of information, you must turn to the tentative vacillation of prediction. There’s no way you can know the future, but the knowledge you have gathered will help you to get closer to it. Make the best prediction you can as to the outcome of the various options you have at your disposal. What are the short-term effects? What are (more importantly, usually) the long-term effects? Will the effects of my decision affect the lives of others and how?

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It is too easy to get caught up in the minutiae of your decision and make your final choice based on small factors or short-term effects. After doing heavy research, the quality of your decisions can be affected by familiarity blindness. So it’s important to take a careful look at where each decision puts you in a week, a month, a year, a decade. This helps you regain your perspective.

3. Consult with the Objective

Talk to objective people — people who aren’t your friends — who are experts or knowledgeable in the area you need to make a decision in. Research as done in the first step is about finding out all the information that is out there already. It’s static information and can’t be tailored to your situation because it (should) just describe what is. Objective experts can look at your situation, and without emotional attachment to you, give advice on the best course of action.

But what is objectively the best course of action as far as an expert is concerned isn’t always the best course of action. It usually is, but subjectivity does play a part. If you don’t feel you could live with the results of the decision they suggest or it doesn’t align with your core values and beliefs, it’s not stupid to pass the advice over. Seek a second opinion or go for the next most workable suggestion on their list.

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4. Commit

The thing about difficult decisions, and decisions you need to make under pressure, isn’t just that they’re hard to make in the first place. It’s that they’re hard to commit to. If you’ve followed a sound process for determining the best course of action, and the advice you have attained is sound advice, the best course of action should be clear by now.

That doesn’t mean it’s the easiest course of action. The best one rarely is the easiest. Be sure when you make your final decision, and commit to it. Start implementing it as soon as your situation allows, because once you’ve made the first steps it’s harder to fall back into your indecision.

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We have all just entered into a new year, and an uncertain one at that. It’s a time when many people want to make changes in life and make big decisions, and we also live in a time when many more people are facing difficult times than they’ve had to in years past. So it seemed pertinent to suggest a way of dealing with these things, and I hope these guidelines help you through.

It’s impossible to give a process of flow chart-like proportions that will hold your hand throughout every step of the  decision-making process. That’d be great for making the best choice even when the pressure of the world is doing your head in, but the situation that comes with each decision changes too much for that. We’re left to deal with principles that are flexible enough to help us through many different situations, but they’re solid principles, and followed properly, the finer steps will reveal themselves.

Featured photo credit: pixabay via pixabay.com

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More by this author

Joel Falconer

Editor, content marketer, product manager and writer with 12+ years of experience in the startup, design and tech digital media industries.

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Last Updated on November 18, 2020

15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It)

15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It)

It’s okay, you can finally admit it. It’s been two months since you’ve seen the inside of the gym. Getting sick, family crisis, overtime at work and school papers that needed to get finished all kept you for exercising. Now, the question is: how do you start again?
Once you have an exercise habit, it becomes automatic. You just go to the gym, there is no force involved. But after a month, two months or possibly a year off, it can be hard to get started again. Here are some tips to climb back on that treadmill after you’ve fallen off.

  1. Don’t Break the Habit – The easiest way to keep things going is simply not to stop. Avoid long breaks in exercising or rebuilding the habit will take some effort. This may be advice a little too late for some people. But if you have an exercise habit going, don’t drop it at the first sign of trouble.
  2. Reward Showing Up – Woody Allen once said that, “Half of life is showing up.” I’d argue that 90% of making a habit is just making the effort to get there. You can worry about your weight, amount of laps you run or the amount you can bench press later.
  3. Commit for Thirty Days – Make a commitment to go every day (even just for 20 minutes) for one month. This will solidify the exercise habit. By making a commitment you also take pressure off yourself in the first weeks back of deciding whether to go.
  4. Make it Fun – If you don’t enjoy yourself at the gym, it is going to be hard to keep it a habit. There are thousands of ways you can move your body and exercise, so don’t give up if you’ve decided lifting weights or doing crunches isn’t for you. Many large fitness centers will offer a range of programs that can suit your tastes.
  5. Schedule During Quiet Hours – Don’t put exercise time in a place where it will easily be pushed aside by something more important. Right after work or first thing in the morning are often good places to put it. Lunch-hour workouts might be too easy to skip if work demands start mounting.
  6. Get a Buddy – Grab a friend to join you. Having a social aspect to exercising can boost your commitment to the exercise habit.
  7. X Your Calendar – One person I know has the habit of drawing a red “X” through any day on the calendar he goes to the gym. The benefit of this is it quickly shows how long it has been since you’ve gone to the gym. Keeping a steady amount of X’s on your calendar is an easy way to motivate yourself.
  8. Enjoyment Before Effort – After you finish any work out, ask yourself what parts you enjoyed and what parts you did not. As a rule, the enjoyable aspects of your workout will get done and the rest will be avoided. By focusing on how you can make workouts more enjoyable, you can make sure you want to keep going to the gym.
  9. Create a Ritual – Your workout routine should become so ingrained that it becomes a ritual. This means that the time of day, place or cue automatically starts you towards grabbing your bag and heading out. If your workout times are completely random, it will be harder to benefit from the momentum of a ritual.
  10. Stress Relief – What do you do when your stressed? Chances are it isn’t running. But exercise can be a great way to relieve stress, releasing endorphin which will improve your mood. The next time you feel stressed or tired, try doing an exercise you enjoy. When stress relief is linked to exercise, it is easy to regain the habit even after a leave of absence.
  11. Measure Fitness – Weight isn’t always the best number to track. Increase in muscle can offset decreases in fat so the scale doesn’t change even if your body is. But fitness improvements are a great way to stay motivated. Recording simple numbers such as the number of push-ups, sit-ups or speed you can run can help you see that the exercise is making you stronger and faster.
  12. Habits First, Equipment Later – Fancy equipment doesn’t create a habit for exercise. Despite this, some people still believe that buying a thousand dollar machine will make up for their inactivity. It won’t. Start building the exercise habit first, only afterwards should you worry about having a personal gym.
  13. Isolate Your Weakness – If falling off the exercise wagon is a common occurrence for you, find out why. Do you not enjoy exercising? Is it a lack of time? Is it feeling self-conscious at the gym? Is it a lack of fitness know-how? As soon as you can isolate your weakness, you can make steps to improve the situation.
  14. Start Small – Trying to run fifteen miles your first workout isn’t a good way to build a habit. Work below your capacity for the first few weeks to build the habit. Otherwise you might scare yourself off after a brutal workout.
  15. Go for Yourself, Not to Impress – Going to the gym with the only goal of looking great is like starting a business with only the goal to make money. The effort can’t justify the results. But if you go to the gym to push yourself, gain energy and have a good time, then you can keep going even when results are slow.

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