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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

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 May 12, 2020

8 Steps to Continuous Self Motivation Even During the Difficult Times

8 Steps to Continuous Self Motivation Even During the Difficult Times

Many of us find ourselves in motivational slumps that we have to work to get out of. Sometimes it’s like a continuous cycle where we are motivated for a period of time, fall out and then have to build things back up again.

There is nothing more powerful for self-motivation than the right attitude. You can’t choose or control your circumstance, but you can choose your attitude towards your circumstances.

How I see this working is while you’re developing these mental steps, and utilizing them regularly, self-motivation will come naturally when you need it.

The key, for me, is hitting the final step to Share With Others. It can be somewhat addictive and self-motivating when you help others who are having trouble.

A good way to have self motivation continuously is to implement something like these 8 steps from Ian McKenzie.[1] I enjoyed Ian’s article but thought it could use some definition when it comes to trying to build a continuous drive of motivation. Here is a new list on how to self motivate:

1. Start Simple

Keep motivators around your work area – things that give you that initial spark to get going.

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These motivators will be the Triggers that remind you to get going.

2. Keep Good Company

Make more regular encounters with positive and motivated people. This could be as simple as IM chats with peers or a quick discussion with a friend who likes sharing ideas.

Positive and motivated people are very different from the negative ones. They will help you grow and see opportunities during tough times.

Here’re more reasons why you should avoid negative people: 10 Reasons Why You Should Avoid Negative People

3. Keep Learning

Read and try to take in everything you can. The more you learn, the more confident you become in starting projects.

You can train yourself to crave lifelong learning with these tips: How to Develop a Lifelong Learning Habit

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4. See the Good in Bad

When encountering obstacles or challenging goals, you want to be in the habit of finding what works to get over them.

Here are 10 tips to make positive thinking easy.

5. Stop Thinking

Just do. If you find motivation for a particular project lacking, try getting started on something else. Something trivial even, then you’ll develop the momentum to begin the more important stuff.

When you’re thinking and worrying about it too much, you’re just wasting time. These tried worry busting techniques can help you.

6. Know Yourself

Keep notes on when your motivation sucks and when you feel like a superstar. There will be a pattern that, once you are aware of, you can work around and develop.

Read for yourself how the magic of marking down your mood works.

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7. Track Your Progress

Keep a tally or a progress bar for ongoing projects. When you see something growing, you will always want to nurture it.

Take a look at these 4 simple ways to track your progress so you have motivation to achieve your goals.

8. Help Others

Share your ideas and help friends get motivated. Seeing others do well will motivate you to do the same. Write about your success and get feedback from readers.

Helping others actually helps yourself, here’s why.

What I would hope happens here is you will gradually develop certain skills that become motivational habits.

Once you get to the stage where you are regularly helping others keep motivated – be it with a blog or talking with peers – you’ll find the cycle continuing where each facet of staying motivated is refined and developed.

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Too Many Steps?

If you could only take one step? Just do it!

Once you get started on something, you’ll almost always just get into it and keep going. There will be times when you have to do things you really don’t want to: that’s where the other steps and tips from other writers come in handy.

However, the most important thing, that I think is worth repeating, is to just get started.

Get that momentum going and then when you need to, take Ian’s Step 7 and Take A Break. No one wants to work all the time!

More Tips for Boosting Motivation

Featured photo credit: Japheth Mast via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Ian McKenzie: 8 mental steps to self-motivation

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