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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

Reference

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Ericson Ay Mires

The life coach that helps you create your perfect life with his "Ignite Your Instinct" program.

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Last Updated on April 19, 2021

How to Use the 5 Whys to Get to the Root Cause of Any Problem

How to Use the 5 Whys to Get to the Root Cause of Any Problem

Do you take long to solve career or business problems? It may be time to learn how to use the 5 Whys to make the process simpler.

Maybe you believe that you need to know 1000 techniques to solve problems faster. The truth is that there isn’t a single technique that can solve all your problems. But despite this reality, you can still solve most of your problems in an effective way.

How? By leveraging Sakichi Toyoda’s 5 Whys technique. Toyoda used this technique for the Toyota production system, but you can apply it to most of your problems[1]. So, stop trying to memorize dozens of techniques and get ready to work smarter!

What Is the 5 Whys Method?

With the 5 Whys technique, you have to ask 5 questions.

Simple, right? Whenever you’re facing a problem, ask what may have contributed to the current results. Then, continue asking 5 times, or until you reach the root cause.

The 5 Whys | Find the Root Cause of a Problem Fast

    How do you know that this technique works? Well, Toyota has successfully implemented this technique to improve their assembly line. Now imagine what it can do to help you solve common problems[2]!

    The 5 Whys process isn’t complex, but it’ll take time to get used to. If you’re like most, you tend to jump at finding solutions when solving problems. Instead, start by asking one question each time you’re facing a problem.

    It can be for anything minor such as being stuck in traffic. In this case, your first question would be why you didn’t avoid traffic. Ask a single question for all your problems, and continue adding more until you ask 5 by default.

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    Eventually, you’ll know when to ask the 5 Whys and find a root cause to most of your problems. But, you don’t always have to work alone. When you work with unfamiliar topics, work with team members to brainstorm answers.

    If you want to know how to be a great team player, check out this article.

    For example, if you’re troubleshooting a bad marketing campaign for your business, work with your marketing team to find a solution. As a business owner, you’ll wear many hats but won’t be able to find a root cause to most of your problems alone.

    How to Ask the 5 Whys Efficiently

    Before you start asking the 5 Whys, you need to prepare to get the best results. Here’s the flow process for solving a real-world problem:

    1. Get the Right Resources

    You don’t know what you don’t know. So, gather information through books and online resources before solving a problem. You’ll find yourself researching more often for topics you’re not familiar with.

    If you don’t prepare, you’ll limit yourself to an ineffective root cause.

    You can also surround yourself with people who specialize in certain areas. This way you can work together with your group to find the best root cause of a problem.

    Your goal here is to feel comfortable with the questions you’re working with. Avoid answering questions you’re unsure of because you’ll most likely end up with a bad root cause.

    2. Understand the Problem

    Before you solve any problem, it’s important to know the nature of the problem you’re solving. This will help you avoid finding an irrelevant root cause.

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    When you define the problem, you’ll also avoid confusion when working with teams. For example, when working in teams, often it’s easy to assume that everyone is working on the same problem. But this isn’t always the case and can cause teams working to solve two different problems.

    3. Ask Your First 5 Questions

    Once you’ve spent enough time preparing, ask your first question. Instead of giving quick answers, brainstorm which answers will bring the most value. Each question depends on its predecessor, so give meaningful answers.

    The rule of thumb here is to keep repeating why five times until you’ve found a potential root cause. Typically, 5 questions or less is enough to solve the most common problems, but don’t limit yourself to 5 questions if it’s genuinely necessary to ask more.

    Instead, keep asking questions until you can’t anymore.

    4. Find Your Root Cause

    The main goal for using the 5 Whys framework is to end up with a root cause for the issue you’re experiencing. You should come up with an answer that helps you understand when/why the problem occurs.

    It’s also used to address high-level issues so that you can track your progress afterward. By addressing high-level issues, you’ll solve problems quicker before addressing the root cause.

    An Example of the 5 Whys

    Learning about the 5 Whys framework is great, but having real-world examples is better. Here’s an example you can use as a template for when you’re solving real-world problems:

    Problem: Employers haven’t called me back for an interview for the past 3 months

    • Question 1: Why is my resume not getting noticed by employers?
      Because it’s too generic and not showing any special skills for the roles you’re applying to.
    • Question 2: Why is my resume too generic?
      Because I want it to appeal to many professions.
    • Question 3: Why do I want to apply to many professions?
      Because I want to increase my chances of getting hired.
    • Question4: Why would applying to several professions increase my odds at getting hired?
      Because I wouldn’t limit myself to available job openings at one specific profession.
    • Question 5: Why would I limit myself to job openings available?
      Because there is a high demand for my profession.

    In this scenario, you’d stop at question 5 because you’ve found a potential root cause.

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    Since there’s a lot of competition for your industry, your resume needs to stand out. Who do you think an employer will hire, a jack of all trades or an expert in their profession?

    Whenever you’re working with a problem, take time to brainstorm the best questions. That’s because it’ll impact the quality of the root cause you’ll end up with.

    When Do the 5 Whys Not Work?

    As you’ve seen, the 5 Whys isn’t complicated and can be used for many kinds of problems, but it takes a lot of effort to execute correctly. When done right, it can help you find the culprit to most of your common problems. The problem is that this technique isn’t suited for every situation.

    Unreplicable Results

    You won’t be able to replicate the same results. Think about it: you’re creating your own questions and answering them in a unique way. No one else would be able to replicate your results for the most part.

    This means that even two teams working in the same environment will come up with two separate answers.

    Limited by the Knowledge Available

    As mentioned before, gather enough information when solving an unknown problem. The problem is that you won’t always have the best resources available. Because of this, you’ll limit yourself to the quality of your answers.

    If you’re ever facing an unknown topic, try a different problem-solving technique.

    Focusing on a Single Root Cause

    The main goal behind using the 5 Whys is to come up with a single root cause. But all problems don’t always have a single solution. For example, a marketing campaign can have a best, good, and worst case scenario.

    These limitations don’t make the 5 Whys a bad technique to use. Instead, they let you know how to use this technique more effectively.

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    The 5 Whys works best for improving processes and solving simple problems, but it falls short when working with complex problems. That’s why you’ll need to know other alternatives.

    For example, a company’s low customer response rate may be due to several factors. In this case, you’d choose a technique that’s better suited to solve complex problems. Determine which problems you face the most to know which techniques will help you the most.

    The Bottom Line

    Imagine conquering issues most people give up on.

    People would look at you and assume that you know 1000 ways to solve a problem. The truth is that not much has changed since you’d struggled with solving problems.

    But you’re now using a proven system that’s made your life easier.

    You’re a problem-solving machine.

    If you don’t believe this can be your reality, you’re wrong. You have what it takes to solve your problems, but you’ll need to practice. Start by asking one question today as you face a problem.

    Then, keep doing the same until you’re asking several questions for each of your problems. You won’t master the 5 Whys analysis overnight, but, with enough practice, this technique will feel more natural.

    More Problem Solving Techniques

    Featured photo credit: Startaê Team via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] Harvard Business Review: The Unimportance of Practically Everything
    [2] Harvard Business Review: The Five Whys for Start-Ups

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