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10 Tips to Make Decisions Quickly Like a Ninja

10 Tips to Make Decisions Quickly Like a Ninja

How are you in decision making? Do you spend a long time thinking over every single decision, because you are afraid of making the wrong choice? Do you feel a need to analyze every single option before you come to a conclusion?

If so, congratulations — you “suffer” from analysis paralysis. Analysis paralysis is the state of over-thinking about a decision, to the point where a choice never gets made, thereby creating a paralyzed state of inaction.

As much as I’ve no problems making major life decisions quickly and precisely (I took less than a few months to realize my life purpose, a month to realize my boyfriend (now husband) is the one for me, and less than two months to decide to quit my day job to start my business), I used to suck at simple, daily decisions. From buying an external hard disk, to choosing the color to get for my new lip gloss, to deciding what to have for lunch or dinner, these were the little decisions which could leave me stumped for a good 15 minutes.

Needless to say, such indecisiveness would drain me of my time and energy. I would feel panicky over having to pick the “right” option and would get “stuck” with decision making. What should rightfully be simple decisions would explode into complicated messes as I would hunt down all options and mull over them obsessively — hence making it near impossible to arrive at any decision.

This was in the past though. Today, I’m prompt with both small and large decisions. This guide shares 10 key tips that I applied to break out of analysis paralysis. Tips #1, #3, #5, #6, and #7 have been particularly crucial for me.

Tip #1. Differentiate Between Big and Small Decisions

Firstly, differentiate between big and small decisions. Then, give them the attention they deserve based on their importance.

A big part of my analysis paralysis in the past came from treating all decisions as if they were life altering when really, they weren’t. While my meticulousness helped with life decisions like finding my soulmate and discovering my life path, it was very draining with other decisions because I would invest much time and energy in them even though they didn’t warrant the effort.

Are you stumped by a decision right now? Ask yourself:

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  1. How important is this decision?
  2. Will the outcome of this decision make a difference a year from now?
  3. What’s the worst thing that can happen from this?

Give a decision only the time and effort that it deserves, based on its importance.

If the decision isn’t going to make any major difference to your life in a year’s time and there are no serious consequences that will come out of it (e.g., picking the wrong color for your post-it notes), then it is a small decision. Chill and let go. Spend as little time and effort as you can to nail it.

If a decision will create major impact in your life even after a year and there are serious implications from making the wrong choice (e.g., marrying someone you no longer feel right about), then that’s a big decision. Set aside proper time to think over it; delay if necessary. I have a guide “How To Make Life’s Hardest Decisions” to break out of these dilemmas.

For anything in between, give it some level of thought, but don’t let it drag for too long.

Tip #2. Identify Your Top Objective(s)

Before entering into the decision making process, identify your top objective(s) for this decision. Then, use that to guide you in your decision making. This will help you to arrive at a valid decision quicker.

For example, many people often want to collaborate with me in my business. From promoting their products, to promoting their campaigns, having me create a course for their portal, to creating a new offering together, these are examples of pitches I get every week.

My criteria for this decision is simple: exposure for my blog. Will I gain any exposure for Personal Excellence from this engagement? is the question I ask myself. If the answer is “no” and they are simply trying to get free exposure with minimal/no contribution on their end, then it’s usually a “no”. In knowing my end objective, it helps me to be quick and decisive since I can immediately assess the option that’ll help me to realize my end goal.

Tip #3. Perfection is not the key; “Moderately okay” is

Unless it’s a life-altering decision, perfection isn’t the key. Your role is to pick a moderately okay decision in a fair amount of time, then move forward after that.

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Why do I say that? That’s because every option has its pros and cons, and it’s very hard to be in a situation where the perfect choice is available right there and right then. While you can work through and hunt down the perfect choice, it comes at a high cost. The 80/20 rule applies, where you need to invest 80% of effort just to achieve that incremental 20% improvement in your final decision.

Now, if the decision is a life-altering one, then it’s worth to invest time and effort to get the perfect pick. However, if the decision isn’t going to make a big difference in your life a year or two from now (see Tip #1), then it doesn’t matter whether you make a lousy, a not-so-lousy, or an awesome choice — the difference between the options will never create any far-reaching consequences. Even if you pump in hours of hard work to arrive at a top-notch solution, it will never result in a significant difference in your life.

This doesn’t mean that you should just pick a random option for all decisions: after all, negative effects can accumulate over time to create a huge negative impact. However, it does mean that you should go the 80/20 way and go with a moderately okay selection and not hunt down a “perfect” choice.

Tip #4. Eliminate the Bad Options

Next, eliminate the bad options. Having a flood of options can clutter up the decision making process, so eliminate the bad ones right away to make it easier to assess. Refer to your objectives for making this decision (see Tip #2), identify the options that will definitely not meet your objectives, and get rid of them.

The ones that are left should be the considerably good ones, which then allows you to make a more pinpointed assessment.

Tip #5. Pick One and Go — Don’t Look Back After That

If you are stumped by the options and you are not sure which one to pick… then just pick one and go. Don’t look back after that.

While this may seem reckless, it actually isn’t. The reason why you have shortlisted these options is because they are reasonably good. If it’s really crappy, you would have eliminated them as per Tip #4! Now, no matter which option you pick, you will miss out on the benefits exclusive to the other options, since each option probably has its unique pros and cons.

Hence, rather than agonize over which one to choose, it’s more important that you select one quickly and make the best out of it. In doing so, you will create your perfect outcome — simply because you made the commitment to make the best out of it.

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Tip #6. Let Go of Your Childhood Stories Surrounding Decision Making

Part of the reason for my past analysis paralysis is because my dad would always tell me to be prudent and to only buy the things I need (he still does that actually). Even though I grew up frugal, my dad still chides me over any new things I buy because he perceives them as wastage. “钱很难赚,不要乱乱花” is what he always says (translated from Mandarin means, “It’s hard to earn money; don’t spend it carelessly.”).

Hence, I became irrationally resistant to bad choices. Is this the best option? I would always ask myself. Is there a better option? What if I don’t like this later on? What if there are hidden cons to this option? What if a better option comes up later? That would mean that I’ve made a bad decision! 

Eventually, I realized that I was living under the shadow of my childhood stories. For example, every decision has its pros and cons, and it’s unrealistic to think that I have made a bad decision just because there are one or two things I don’t like about it. Even if I have truly made a bad decision, it’s silly to beat myself up over it since everyone makes bad decisions at one point or another. It’s more important that I learn from my mistakes and focus on the positive side of each situation, rather than focus on the bad side.

If you constantly freeze in the face of decisions, and your paralysis seems to have a life of its own, then it’s possible that there’s a childhood story driving you to act this way. What is your childhood story for decision making? How can you let go of it?

More on childhood stories and how to let go of them: What Childhood Stories Are You Reenacting in Your Life Today?

Tip #7. Set a Hard Time Limit

Set a hard time limit for your decision. Your time limit should be based on the importance of the decision (refer to Tip #1). Since time is relative and every decision is different, there is no hard and fast rule on the limit. Personally, I limit myself to more than two minutes for small decisions and no more than a few days to weeks for mid-level decisions. For big decisions, technically I allow myself to take as long as needed, though I always come to a conclusion within a couple of months.

Tip #8. Delegate the Decision to Someone Else

This tip is a little sneaky since you are effectively removing yourself from the decision-making process and shifting the decision-making responsibility to someone else. However, it works if you trust the opinion of that person and you’re okay with not handling the decision.

I recently put this at work in my business. A few months ago, I hired a permanent admin assistant — sort of like my right hand person — to take care of my admin work. This includes making administrative decisions on my behalf, after which I’ll review and approve or amend where needed. By doing so, I never get too involved in the admin work, which prevents me from going into analysis paralysis mode in my admin decisions.

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Tip #9. Get the Opinion of Someone You Trust and Go with It

The second to last tip is to get the opinion of someone you trust and go along with it. This is slightly different from Tip #8 in that you still take ownership of the decision even though you’re basing it on someone else’s opinion.

I often do this when I’m shopping and can’t make up my mind. Usually I narrow it down to two options, after which I’ll consult my friend whom I’m shopping with and/or seek the advice of the store assistant. If their recommendation makes sense, I’ll go along with it; if not, I’ll pick the one I prefer. Either way, getting their opinion accelerates my decision-making process since I get more inputs to help me decide what I really want.

Tip #10. Channel Your Energy into Other Things

If you are still in analysis paralysis mode despite the nine tips, it’s possible that you simply have extra energy that’s not being channeled into more meaningful areas!

For example, I notice that I sometimes obsess about things simply because I have the bandwidth to do so. I’ll ask myself: Are there more important things I can do now than hyper-analyze this decision? What more important tasks can I divert my time and energy to? How can I get started? Be it writing a new article, replying important emails, working on a new course, or creating a new video, I’ll then get to those things right away rather than obsess further on the decision.

Interestingly, as I do that, the decision becomes smaller in magnitude and I’m able to come to a conclusion after a short while.

So if your analysis paralysis is coming from having too much excess energy, then channel that energy into other tasks. Find more important tasks to devote yourself to. You’ll be much more productive this way; you’ll also find yourself getting clarity in your decision as you spend time away from it.

Read the original article in full: Stop Analysis Paralysis: How to Be Fast and Decisive in Decision Making | Personal Excellence

Featured photo credit: LendingMemo via flickr.com

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Celestine Chua

Celestine is the Founder of Personal Excellence where she shares her best advice on how to boost productivity and achieve excellence in life.

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Last Updated on April 22, 2021

How to Work Hard the Smart Way: 4 Daily Rituals to Follow

How to Work Hard the Smart Way: 4 Daily Rituals to Follow

Habits are what sets an average leader apart from a great leader. We can argue that talent is the biggest factor; we may debate how the amount of charisma sets the two apart. Yet, if you were to show me what you believed to be a great leader, I can show you the habits that made her/him great. Great leaders have great habits and know how to work hard the smart way.

Developing Great Habits Is Hard Work

In my early college days, I had spent a lot of time learning how to play the trumpet. Playing the trumpet took time and discipline. I had some natural talent, but not enough to hide my lack of ability. My trumpet teacher was a man of discipline, and there was no doubt he had talent. What stood to me was his work ethic. He had to be one of the hardest working mentors that I had the privilege of working with.

One afternoon, I was in his office getting ready for my weekly trumpet lesson. As I was preparing, my eyes scanned the room and saw that there were quotes all over his office. My eyes rested on one quote that forever changed my thinking about my playing. It was a quote from my high school basketball coach Tim Notke that would become popular through professional athletes Kevin Durant and Tim Tebow:

“Hard work beats talent when talent fails to work hard.”

Hard work trumps talent. The key to success is not found in your talent or ability. Talent and ability are necessary, but they are not the primary factors. They are supporting roles in the story you are writing.

Ultimately, hard work is the key to your success. A good work ethic creates the momentum that propels you forward towards your goals.

Motivation Is Not the Answer

How many times have you seen someone go to a conference, get inspired, and then come home and do nothing?

If motivation were the answer, the world would have transformed hundreds of times over. Yet, when we look out our doors or turn on the news, we do not see a utopian society.

We have thousands of people who become inspired but lack the work ethic to apply anything they have learned. Time and time again frustration creeps in. We are so motivated and inspired by what we see but fail to put in place the things that would change our lives.

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Frustration happens when the gap between what you expect to be true and what is true gets bigger. Motivation tends to create an expectation that is not rooted in reality. We want to take on the world but cannot get off Netflix long enough to do so.

Motivation is not the answer, but working hard is. Good habits and routines that produce success are the byproducts of a strong work ethic. The habits and routines we create and follow are the foundation on which we build a winning life.

How to Work Hard by Working Smarter

Here are 4 routines that will help you learn how to work hard and achieve your short term and long term goals.

1. Define What a Win Looks Like

In football, a player that crosses into the end zone gain points. In soccer, a player kicks the ball into the net to score. Hockey, lacrosse, and basketball are all the same. The player takes the object and moves it into the designated area to gain points. The team with the most points wins the game.

Why is it that we can define what a win looks like in sports, but we fail to do so in our leadership, our businesses, or our homes?

Learning how to work hard without setting a target is futile. It is insanity to work hard without having a clear direction to place your energy. I would argue that defining a win is one of the most important routines that a leader can have. Defining a win separates superficial activity from meaningful activity.

When I define a win, I know the goal line I have to cross[1]. Knowing where the goal line is informs me of the activity I have to engage in to cross it. Without a clear direction, I am spinning my wheels hoping that I will get to a destination I haven’t defined. It is like asking a GPS for directions but failing to input the destination.

4 Steps to Define a Win
  • Know the outcome you desire.
  • Declare the outcome in specific, meaningful terms.
  • Write the outcome down.
  • Set your activity list to only do that which will complete your goals.

Let me give you an example. 15 years ago, I started speaking professionally. As a young and naïve speaker, I thought winning meant that I had to get a reaction from the audience. If they cheered, smiled, or cried, I considered myself a winner. The problem was my lack of understanding of what a win looked like. As a seasoned speaker, my wins look different.

As of today, when I speak, I am not looking for any emotional reactions from the audience. I win if, and only if, I clearly communicated my point so that anyone hearing the talk can take it and apply it to their lives that day. That is how I define a win when I speak now.

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Create a habit of declaring a win. When you do, you will see your productivity soar and your encouragement increase. Pairing a hard work ethic with wise decisions creates victory. Stop being a mouse on a wheel that goes nowhere, and start being the captain of your fleet.

2. Evaluate Your Activity

Not all activity is equal. There are things you must do, things you need to do, and things we can either give away or delete. The greatest challenge of a leader is understanding the difference. Understanding what activity is busywork and what activity is mission work is pivotal.

Not only do we need to learn how to evaluate our activity, but we must make this a core routine in our arsenal of success. Stop working so hard on everything and start learning how to work hard on the right things.

Not every activity will move the needle forward for you. In fact, you were never meant to do everything yourself! Once we stop trying to be a martyr in our leadership, we can start looking at how to take things off our plates through delegation.

Based on the Eisenhower box, there are 4 things that we look at when deciding on which activities are important:

  • Do now
  • Plan to do it later
  • Delegate to someone else
  • Delete it

Powerful questions are the way you discover if the activity is right or not:

  • Does this activity move me towards or away from my goals?
  • Do I have to do this activity or can I give this activity away to someone else?
  • Does this activity have to be now right now or can it be scheduled for later dates?
  • Does this activity have to be done at all?

Evaluating the type of activity you engage in should be a routine that you do daily. Learning how to work hard should create progress. Having a system of evaluation and a routine to do it will help.

3. Prioritize Your Calendar

If you were to show me your calendar, I could show you why you are not further along. When you lack the routine of placing things on your calendar, two things happen.

First, what does not make it on your calendar does not get done.

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It is a simple truth that is often overlooked. Your calendar contains the power to change your life. Yet, we don’t use our calendars to their fullest potential.

“You will never change your life until you change something you do daily. The secret of your success is found in your daily routine.” -John C. Maxwell

Also, if you don’t mark you activities on your calendar, you are leaving it open to other’s priorities.

“The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.” -Stephen Covey

Having a routine in your life where you place things on your calendar is pivotal to your success. This is not a routine one should overlook.

It’s time to take your leadership and business to the next level. It’s time to start putting your daily routines on your calendar, along with your priorities.

4. Reflect on Your Day and Plan the Next

We are all about the morning routine. Whatever that looks like for you, there should be a routine in the morning that sets you up for success.

Hard work starts when your feet hit the ground in the morning. Creating the habit of winning starts with the first thing you accomplish that morning. If you win your morning, you will win your day.

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Best Morning Routine to Prepare to Work Hard

    But how often have you heard people talk about an evening routine? Tomorrow is won the day before it happens. When you fail to plan your day, you may put your effort toward in the wrong things. Route replaces routine. Indecision replaces decisiveness. Losses replace wins. The discouragement will deflate your momentum and increases the chances of procrastination. That is why we set our schedule the night before.

    “Every battle is won or lost before it is ever fought.” -Sun Tzu

    Working hard doesn’t have to be hard work. It shouldn’t take much out of you learn how to work hard as long as you work smart. Having a time where you reflect on the day and set your priorities is the difference-maker.

    Use these questions to reflect on your day:

    • What went well?
    • What didn’t go well?
    • What can I change?
    • What do I need to start doing?
    • What do I need to stop doing?

    The Bottom Line

    Navigating through life is hard work. Yet, the work doesn’t have to be hard when you work smarter. When you create routines that support your mission, you create wins. Working hard, the smart way will tip the balance in our favor.

    Boxing legend Joe Frazier said:

    “Champions aren’t made in the ring; they are merely recognized there.”

    Champions put in the hard work behind the scenes. The world recognized them as a champion when they saw the results of the hard work. Right now, you are doing the work of creating a champion in yourself.

    That work is setting your routines in order because you now know that success flows from your daily routines. If you are not experiencing the success you desire, then it is time to change things up.

    More on Creating Healthy Routines

    Featured photo credit: Zan via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] The Balance Careers: Interview Question: “How Do You Define Success?”

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