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10 Tips to Make Decisions Quickly Like a Ninja

10 Tips to Make Decisions Quickly Like a Ninja
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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 July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

More on Building Habits

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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