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How Not to Screw Up Your Decision Making

How Not to Screw Up Your Decision Making

You have a problem, but you’re indecisive. You can’t even buy a pair of jeans without agonizing—should you get the skinny, regular, or boot cut? Should you get faded or colored? Maybe you want the ones with the holes, or maybe not? Should you do low rider or high waist?

You’re driving yourself crazy, not to mention everyone else around you. Decision-making shouldn’t have to be that difficult, so if you’re ready to say goodbye to the “eenie, meenie, miney, moe” mentality you’ve allowed yourself to resort to, here are some concrete dos and don’ts you’ll want to pay attention to in order to make a solid decision.

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decision making

    DO

    Relax. If you’re stressed, you’re more likely to overlook something important. When you’re relaxed, you can think clearly, weigh your options and make a better choice. Make sure you’re on your “A” game when you make a call, and learn to relax by using deep breathing, muscle relaxation techniques and exercise.

    DON’T

    Be impulsive—making a quick decision is never the way to go. Weigh your options, and think things through, since impulsiveness leaves too much room for mistakes. If you have a general tendency toward being impulsive, take note of it and be intentional about slowing down and stilling your mind. Remember, you can’t change what you don’t notice.

    DO

    Consider all the options. This is the old pros and cons approach: if you want to take the old-fashioned approach, get a pen and paper and list all the pros and cons, or, if you like a more high tech approach, get the Great Decisions app on iTunes for six bucks: it will help you analyze your options.

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    DON’T

    Make a decision under pressure. Pressures can come in subtle forms, so watch out for suggestions like this from well-meaning people:

    • I need a decision by the end of the week
    • Time’s running out
    • If you don’t do this, someone else will 

    DO

    Seek wise counsel: this means consulting those whose opinions you value, or those who have faced similar circumstances. Don’t be afraid to ask for advice, and be willing to listen.

    DON’T

    Over-analyze. This is the part where you agonize needlessly over your decision. Once you make the call, have confidence in the fact that you did your research, thought things through and trusted your instincts. Then chill out.

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    DO

    Trust that even if you blow it, you’ll learn from your mistakes—growth happens when we’re challenged, not when we coast through life. Ask yourself “what’s the worst that could happen if I make a wrong decision?”

    DON’T

    Think you know it all, as that can lead to disaster. Adopt a humble attitude and a teachable spirit. Learning from others can provide you with valuable information to augment your decision making process.

    DO

    Have an alternative plan. Remember that things don’t always go smoothly in life, and even our best attempts to make wise decisions can backfire through extenuating circumstances that are no fault of our own. Plan for obstacles, and learn to be flexible.

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    At the end of the day, there’s no guarantee that all your decisions will be home runs. However, if you’ve taken time and followed the steps outlined above, you can rest assured that you’ve done all you can to leave your “ennie, mennie, miney moe” strategy behind you.

    The more you practice making small decisions, the better you’ll become when it’s time to make the tough ones. Personal growth and development will be a rewarding part of the process—now go get those jeans!

    Back at You: What do you find is the most difficult thing about making a decision?

    Featured photo credit: Path by the beach via Shutterstock

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    Rita Schulte LPC

    Licensed Professional Counselor

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    The Productivity Paradox: What Is It And How Can We Move Beyond It?

    The Productivity Paradox: What Is It And How Can We Move Beyond It?

    It’s a depressing adage we’ve all heard time and time again: An increase in technology does not necessarily translate to an increase in productivity.

    Put another way by Robert Solow, a Nobel laureate in economics,

    “You can see the computer age everywhere but in the productivity statistics.”

    In other words, just because our computers are getting faster, that doesn’t mean that that we will have an equivalent leap in productivity. In fact, the opposite may be true!

    New York Times writer Matt Richel wrote in an article for the paper back in 2008 that stated, “Statistical and anecdotal evidence mounts that the same technology tools that have led to improvements in productivity can be counterproductive if overused.”

    There’s a strange paradox when it comes to productivity. Rather than an exponential curve, our productivity will eventually reach a plateau, even with advances in technology.

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    So what does that mean for our personal levels of productivity? And what does this mean for our economy as a whole? Here’s what you should know about the productivity paradox, its causes, and what possible solutions we may have to combat it.

    What is the productivity paradox?

    There is a discrepancy between the investment in IT growth and the national level of productivity and productive output. The term “productivity paradox” became popularized after being used in the title of a 1993 paper by MIT’s Erik Brynjolfsson, a Professor of Management at the MIT Sloan School of Management, and the Director of the MIT Center for Digital Business.

    In his paper, Brynjolfsson argued that while there doesn’t seem to be a direct, measurable correlation between improvements in IT and improvements in output, this might be more of a reflection on how productive output is measured and tracked.[1]

    He wrote in his conclusion:

    “Intangibles such as better responsiveness to customers and increased coordination with suppliers do not always increase the amount or even intrinsic quality of output, but they do help make sure it arrives at the right time, at the right place, with the right attributes for each customer.

    Just as managers look beyond “productivity” for some of the benefits of IT, so must researchers be prepared to look beyond conventional productivity measurement techniques.”

    How do we measure productivity anyway?

    And this brings up a good point. How exactly is productivity measured?

    In the case of the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, productivity gain is measured as the percentage change in gross domestic product per hour of labor.

    But other publications such as US Today, argue that this is not the best way to track productivity, and instead use something called Total Factor Productivity (TFP). According to US Today, TFP “examines revenue per employee after subtracting productivity improvements that result from increases in capital assets, under the assumption that an investment in modern plants, equipment and technology automatically improves productivity.”[2]

    In other words, this method weighs productivity changes by how much improvement there is since the last time productivity stats were gathered.

    But if we can’t even agree on the best way to track productivity, then how can we know for certain if we’ve entered the productivity paradox?

    Possible causes of the productivity paradox

    Brynjolfsson argued that there are four probable causes for the paradox:

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    • Mis-measurement – The gains are real but our current measures miss them.
    • Redistribution – There are private gains, but they come at the expense of other firms and individuals, leaving little net gain.
    • Time lags – The gains take a long time to show up.
    • Mismanagement – There are no gains because of the unusual difficulties in managing IT or information itself.

    There seems to be some evidence to support the mis-measurement theory as shown above. Another promising candidate is the time lag, which is supported by the work of Paul David, an economist at Oxford University.

    According to an article in The Economist, his research has shown that productivity growth did not accelerate until 40 years after the introduction of electric power in the early 1880s.[3] This was partly because it took until 1920 for at least half of American industrial machinery to be powered by electricity.”

    Therefore, he argues, we won’t see major leaps in productivity until both the US and major global powers have all reached at least a 50% penetration rate for computer use. The US only hit that mark a decade ago, and many other countries are far behind that level of growth.

    The paradox and the recession

    The productivity paradox has another effect on the recession economy. According to Neil Irwin,[4]

    “Sky-high productivity has meant that business output has barely declined, making it less necessary to hire back laid-off workers…businesses are producing only 3 percent fewer goods and services than they were at the end of 2007, yet Americans are working nearly 10 percent fewer hours because of a mix of layoffs and cutbacks in the workweek.”

    This means that more and more companies are trying to do less with more, and that means squeezing two or three people’s worth of work from a single employee in some cases.

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    According to Irwin, “workers, frightened for their job security, squeezed more productivity out of every hour [in 2010].”

    Looking forward

    A recent article on Slate puts it all into perspective with one succinct observation:

    “Perhaps the Internet is just not as revolutionary as we think it is. Sure, people might derive endless pleasure from it—its tendency to improve people’s quality of life is undeniable. And sure, it might have revolutionized how we find, buy, and sell goods and services. But that still does not necessarily mean it is as transformative of an economy as, say, railroads were.”

    Still, Brynjolfsson argues that mismeasurement of productivity can really skew the results of people studying the paradox, perhaps more than any other factor.

    “Because you and I stopped buying CDs, the music industry has shrunk, according to revenues and GDP. But we’re not listening to less music. There’s more music consumed than before.

    On paper, the way GDP is calculated, the music industry is disappearing, but in reality it’s not disappearing. It is disappearing in revenue. It is not disappearing in terms of what you should care about, which is music.”

    Perhaps the paradox isn’t a death sentence for our productivity after all. Only time (and perhaps improved measuring techniques) will tell.

    Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

    Reference

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