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Last Updated on November 26, 2020

5 Powerful Decision Making Skills to Help You Make Decisions Fast

5 Powerful Decision Making Skills to Help You Make Decisions Fast

Our lives are defined by our ability to make decisions. Our careers, relationships, health—anything and everything about our present selves—boils down to the decisions we’ve made in the past, yet some of us struggle with effective decision-making skills.

We may have access to data, plenty of options, and generally have everything going for us, but when crunch time rolls around, we seize up and don’t know how to make good decisions. We can’t make that firm commitment to a choice.

Here are a few of the labels you may go by:

Have you ever felt like you identified with any of these labels?

We are at the extreme of the decision-making process, spending too much time thinking about our decisions with not enough time acting on them.

For people like us, we need to balance out our decision-making processes with a bit of “rashness” or by listening to our gut feeling. We need techniques that will help us dive into our decisions head first and to stop worrying about the repercussions so much.

Before reading the following tips, you can check out this interesting TED Talk by Patrick McGinnis, where he talks about how to make faster decisions:

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Here are 5 tips to help us balance out our decision-making skills:

1. The 2-Minute Rule

The idea behind this tip is to force action through a self-imposed deadline.

It’s simple enough to incorporate: any time you have to make a decision, just set the timer and begin the process.

The time limit forces you to quickly assess the pros and cons while quickly coming to a decision. The simplicity behind this tip makes it very accessible.

One study found that “when people know when a focal task would end, they invest more effort in it because foregoing other activities becomes less costly”[1]. The same study showed that the students in the study reported feeling less fatigued. This is the power of deadlines.

If you’re simply slow at making decisions, then this tip is a lifesaver. You also don’t have to limit yourself to 2 minutes every time. Anything from 1-5 minutes should work fine as well.

If you find you have a big or important decision to make that will definitely take more than 1 to 5 minutes, give yourself more time, but still apply a deadline. Whether it’s 24 hours, or 1 week, having a time limit will force you into action.

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2. Think Black and White

There are times when we have more choices then we need. Excess of anything can overwhelm us and lead to analysis paralysis.

In this case, use your decision-making skills to judge your options simply as good or bad, which will simplify and quicken the process of weeding out the less optimal decisions.

This limited approach is ideal for the over analyzers who insist on questioning every variable. It’s okay to dedicate some time to think so you can evaluate things better, but it becomes problematic when you start to overthink.

If you’re more visual, you can even make columns, and put your choices on the “good” or “bad” side. This limiting of your options will naturally make the decision easier.

3. Put It in a Hat

This is one of the simplest decision-making skills. If all options seem to have roughly equal value, write down your best ones on separate pieces of paper and place them in a hat or bag. Your decision will be the one you pull out at random.

This is ideal for quick decision-making.

This also works if you have many tasks you don’t want to do—these you could pair with a reward hat.

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Do a task, and then, when it’s done, pull out your random reward from the other hat. This will help make the process more tolerable.

Try not to use this one for big decisions, of course. If you’re deciding where to buy your first home, I don’t recommend throwing all possible locations into the hat. However, if you have to decide which suit to wear to the party tomorrow, the hat can be very helpful.

4. Focus on the Present

We can often become overwhelmed with the big picture, trying to see how our decisions will affect the future.

The process of reaching a decision becomes mentally draining because you’re trying to see every step along every outcome. It’s better to save that energy for the task at hand, and simply try and make the best decision possible.

Live in the moment, make a decision based on what will make the next step the easiest instead. Doing this for every step is a great choice for the chronic non-decision maker.

This is one of the decision-making skills that may involve visualization. Visualize the results of each possible decision. Which one makes life easier and/or better?

To learn how to visualize results, check out this article.

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5. Embrace the Idea of Failure

Probably the biggest fear for us slow decision-makers is that our decisions may lead to bad results.

We then compensate by overthinking the situation, causing us to question every aspect involved in the decision. Ultimately, we run the risk of making no decision at all because we waste time and energy on useless questioning—this line of thinking must be rewired.

Instead, we should see delaying a decision as worse than making a bad decision and work directly on quick decision-making skills.

We can recover and learn something from making bad decisions, but not making a decision at all means we don’t get to determine how our lives unfold.

Fear of failure means that something or someone will make that decision for you, which you will probably regret for the rest of your life. Overcome this fear and make decisions faster.

The Bottom Line

It’s rarely the case that the best decision to make is to not make one at all.

Those who struggle to make decisions through problem-solving run the risk of letting their lives run them, rather than them running their own lives. This puts independence under constant threat, so it’s up to us to make sure that we are in control of our lives and our decisions.

Keep these tips in mind the next time you feel like you want to back away from a decision because you don’t want your life to be decided for you.

More Ways to Improve Decision-Making Skills

Featured photo credit: Jason Strull via unsplash.com

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Last Updated on January 12, 2021

Science Says Silence Is Much More Important To Our Brains Than We Think

Science Says Silence Is Much More Important To Our Brains Than We Think

In 2011, the Finnish Tourist Board ran a campaign that used silence as a marketing ‘product’. They sought to entice people to visit Finland and experience the beauty of this silent land. They released a series of photographs of single figures in the nature and used the slogan “Silence, Please”. A tag line was added by Simon Anholt, an international country branding consultant, “No talking, but action.”

Eva Kiviranta the manager of the social media for VisitFinland.com said: “We decided, instead of saying that it’s really empty and really quiet and nobody is talking about anything here, let’s embrace it and make it a good thing”.

Finland may be on to something very big. You could be seeing the very beginnings of using silence as a selling point as silence may be becoming more and more attractive. As the world around becomes increasingly loud and cluttered you may find yourself seeking out the reprieve that silent places and silence have to offer. This may be a wise move as studies are showing that silence is much more important to your brains than you might think.

Regenerated brain cells may be just a matter of silence.

 A 2013 study on mice published in the journal Brain, Structure and Function used differed types of noise and silence and monitored the effect the sound and silence had on the brains of the mice.[1] The silence was intended to be the control in the study but what they found was surprising. The scientists discovered that when the mice were exposed to two hours of silence per day they developed new cells in the hippocampus. The hippocampus is a region of the brain associated with memory, emotion and learning.

The growth of new cells in the brain does not necessarily translate to tangible health benefits. However, in this instance, researcher Imke Kirste says that the cells appeared to become functioning neurons.

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“We saw that silence is really helping the new generated cells to differentiate into neurons, and integrate into the system.”

In this sense silence can quite literally grow your brain.

The brain is actively internalizing and evaluating information during silence

A 2001 study defined a “default mode” of brain function that showed that even when the brain was “resting” it was perpetually active internalizing and evaluating information.

Follow-up research found that the default mode is also used during the process of self-reflection. In 2013, in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, Joseph Moran et al. wrote, the brain’s default mode network “is observed most closely during the psychological task of reflecting on one’s personalities and characteristics (self-reflection), rather than during self-recognition, thinking of the self-concept, or thinking about self-esteem, for example.

“When the brain rests it is able to integrate internal and external information into “a conscious workspace,” said Moran and colleagues.

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When you are not distracted by noise or goal-orientated tasks, there appears to be a quiet time that allows your conscious workspace to process things. During these periods of silence, your brain has the freedom it needs to discover its place in your internal and external world.

The default mode helps you think about profound things in an imaginative way.

As Herman Melville once wrote,[2]

“All profound things and emotions of things are preceded and attended by silence.”

Silence relieves stress and tension.

It has been found that noise can have a pronounced physical effect on our brains resulting in elevated levels of stress hormones. The sound waves reach the brain as electrical signals via the ear. The body reacts to these signals even if it is sleeping. It is thought that the amygdalae (located in the temporal lobes of the brain) which is associated with memory formation and emotion is activated and this causes a release of stress hormones. If you live in a consistently noisy environment that you are likely to experience chronically elevated levels of stress hormones.

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A study that was published in 2002 in Psychological Science (Vol. 13, No. 9) examined the effects that the relocation of Munich’s airport had on children’s health and cognition. Gary W. Evans, a professor of human ecology at Cornell University notes that children who are exposed to noise develop a stress response that causes them to ignore the noise. What is of interest is that these children not only ignored harmful stimuli they also ignored stimuli that they should be paying attention to such as speech. 

“This study is among the strongest, probably the most definitive proof that noise – even at levels that do not produce any hearing damage – causes stress and is harmful to humans,” Evans says.[3]

Silence seems to have the opposite effect of the brain to noise. While noise may cause stress and tension silence releases tension in the brain and body. A study published in the journal Heart discovered that two minutes of silence can prove to be even more relaxing than listening to “relaxing” music. They based these findings of changes they noticed in blood pressure and blood circulation in the brain.[4]

Silence replenishes our cognitive resources.

The effect that noise pollution can have on cognitive task performance has been extensively studied. It has been found that noise harms task performance at work and school. It can also be the cause of decreased motivation and an increase in error making.  The cognitive functions most strongly affected by noise are reading attention, memory and problem solving.

Studies have also concluded that children exposed to households or classrooms near airplane flight paths, railways or highways have lower reading scores and are slower in their development of cognitive and language skills.

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But it is not all bad news. It is possible for the brain to restore its finite cognitive resources. According to the attention restoration theory when you are in an environment with lower levels of sensory input the brain can ‘recover’ some of its cognitive abilities. In silence the brain is able to let down its sensory guard and restore some of what has been ‘lost’ through excess noise.[5]

Summation

Traveling to Finland may just well be on your list of things to do. There you may find the silence you need to help your brain. Or, if Finland is a bit out of reach for now, you could simply take a quiet walk in a peaceful place in your neighborhood. This might prove to do you and your brain a world of good.

Featured photo credit: Angelina Litvin via unsplash.com

Reference

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