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:
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”. 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.
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.
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.
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
- How Not to Screw Up Your Decision Making
- Stop Dithering: Become A Better Decision-Maker
- 13 Ways To Make Decision Making Less Stressful
Featured photo credit: Jason Strull via unsplash.com