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5 Tips for Lightning-Fast Decision Making

5 Tips for Lightning-Fast Decision Making

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 decision making. 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. We just can’t make that firm commitment to a decision. Here are a few of the labels you may go by:

* Over-thinker
* Procrastinator
* Slow to act
* Analysis paralysis
* Perfectionist

Have you ever felt like you identified with any of these labels? If so then know that you aren’t alone. We are at the extreme of the decision making process, spending too much time thinking about our decisions, and not enough time acting upon them.

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Fixing our Decision Making

For people like us, we need to balance out our decision making processes with a bit of “rashness.” We need techniques that will help us dive in to our decisions head first and to stop worrying about the repercussions so much.  Here are 5 tips to help us balance out our decision making process.

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.

If you’re simply slow at making decisions, then this tip is a life saver. It doesn’t have to be 2 minutes either; anything from 1-5 minutes should work fine as well.

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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 and lead to analysis paralysis, so in this case, try judging 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 to death.

3. Put it in a hat

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/bag. Your decision will be the one you pull out at random.

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This also works if you have a bunch of tasks you don’t want to do; these you could pair with a reward hat. Do a task, then when its done pull out your random reward from the other hat. This will help make the process be more tolerable.

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 is mentally draining, because you’re trying to see every step along with its 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.

5. Embrace the idea of failure

Probably the biggest fear for us slow decision makers is that our decisions will lead to bad results. Compensation is then made by over-thinking 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.

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Instead, we should see delaying the decision as worse then making a bad decision. Bad decisions can be recovered from and learned from, but not making a decision at all means we don’t get to determine how our lives unfold. A fear of failure means that some thing or someone will make that decision for you.

Closing thoughts

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

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Last Updated on September 20, 2018

8 Ways to Train Your Brain to Learn Faster and Remember More

8 Ways to Train Your Brain to Learn Faster and Remember More

You go to the gym to train your muscles. You run outside or go for hikes to train your endurance. Or, maybe you do neither of those, but still wish you exercised more.

Well, here is how to train one of the most important parts of your body: your brain.

When you train your brain, you will:

  • Avoid embarrassing situations. You remember his face, but what was his name?
  • Be a faster learner in all sorts of different skills. No problem for you to pick up a new language or new management skill.
  • Avoid diseases that hit as you get older. Alzheimer’s will not be affecting you.

So how to train your brain and improve your cognitive skills?

1. Work your memory

Twyla Tharp, a NYC-based renowned choreographer has come up with the following memory workout:

When she watches one of her performances, she tries to remember the first twelve to fourteen corrections she wants to discuss with her cast without writing them down.

If you think this is anything less than a feat, then think again. In her book The Creative Habit she says that most people cannot remember more than three.

The practice of both remembering events or things and then discussing them with others has actually been supported by brain fitness studies.

Memory activities that engage all levels of brain operation—receiving, remembering and thinking—help to improve the function of the brain.

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Now, you may not have dancers to correct, but you may be required to give feedback on a presentation, or your friends may ask you what interesting things you saw at the museum. These are great opportunities to practically train your brain by flexing your memory muscles.

What is the simplest way to help yourself remember what you see? Repetition.

For example, say you just met someone new:

“Hi, my name is George”

Don’t just respond with, “Nice to meet you”. Instead, say, “Nice to meet you George.”

Got it? Good.

2. Do something different repeatedly

By actually doing something new over and over again, your brain wires new pathways that help you do this new thing better and faster.

Think back to when you were three years old. You surely were strong enough to hold a knife and a fork just fine. Yet, when you were eating all by yourself, you were creating a mess.

It was not a matter of strength, you see. It was a matter of cultivating more and better neural pathways that would help you eat by yourself just like an adult does.

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And guess what? With enough repetition you made that happen!

But how does this apply to your life right now?

Say you are a procrastinator. The more you don’t procrastinate, the more you teach your brain not to wait for the last minute to make things happen.

Now, you might be thinking “Duh, if only not procrastinating could be that easy!”

Well, it can be. By doing something really small, that you wouldn’t normally do, but is in the direction of getting that task done, you will start creating those new precious neural pathways.

So if you have been postponing organizing your desk, just take one paper and put in its right place. Or, you can go even smaller. Look at one piece of paper and decide where to put it: Trash? Right cabinet? Another room? Give it to someone?

You don’t actually need to clean up that paper; you only need to decide what you need to do with it.

That’s how small you can start. And yet, those neural pathways are still being built. Gradually, you will transform yourself from a procrastinator to an in-the-moment action taker.

3. Learn something new

It might sound obvious, but the more you use your brain, the better its going to perform for you.

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For example, learning a new instrument improves your skill of translating something you see (sheet music) to something you actually do (playing the instrument).

Learning a new language exposes your brain to a different way of thinking, a different way of expressing yourself.

You can even literally take it a step further, and learn how to dance. Studies indicate that learning to dance helps seniors avoid Alzheimer’s. Not bad, huh?

4. Follow a brain training program

The Internet world can help you improve your brain function while lazily sitting on your couch. A clinically proven program like BrainHQ can help you improve your memory, or think faster, by just following their brain training exercises.

5. Work your body

You knew this one was coming didn’t you? Yes indeed, exercise does not just work your body; it also improves the fitness of your brain.

Even briefly exercising for 20 minutes facilitates information processing and memory functions. But it’s not just that–exercise actually helps your brain create those new neural connections faster. You will learn faster, your alertness level will increase, and you get all that by moving your body.

Now, if you are not already a regular exerciser, and already feel guilty that you are not helping your brain by exercising more, try a brain training exercise program like Exercise Bliss.

Remember, just like we discussed in #2, by training your brain to do something new repeatedly, you are actually changing yourself permanently.

6. Spend time with your loved ones

If you want optimal cognitive abilities, then you’ve got to have meaningful relationships in your life.  Talking with others and engaging with your loved ones helps you think more clearly, and it can also lift your mood.

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If you are an extrovert, this holds even more weight for you. At a class at Stanford University, I learned that extroverts actually use talking to other people as a way to understand and process their own thoughts.

I remember that the teacher told us that after a personality test said she was an extrovert, she was surprised. She had always thought of herself as an introvert. But then, she realized how much talking to others helped her frame her own thoughts, so she accepted her new-found status as an extrovert.

7. Avoid crossword puzzles

Many of us, when we think of brain fitness, think of crossword puzzles. And it’s true–crossword puzzles do improve our fluency, yet studies show they are not enough by themselves.

Are they fun? Yes. Do they sharpen your brain? Not really.

Of course, if you are doing this for fun, then by all means go ahead. If you are doing it for brain fitness, then you might want to choose another activity

8. Eat right – and make sure dark chocolate is included

Foods like fish, fruits, and vegetables help your brain perform optimally. Yet, you might not know that dark chocolate gives your brain a good boost as well.

When you eat chocolate, your brain produces dopamine. And dopamine helps you learn faster and remember better. Not to mention, chocolate contains flavonols, antioxidants, which also improve your brain functions.

So next time you have something difficult to do, make sure you grab a bite or two of dark chocolate!

The bottom line

Now that you know how to train your brain, it’s actually time to start doing.

Don’t just consume this content and then go on with your life as if nothing has changed. Put this knowledge into action and become smarter than ever!

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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