7 simple steps to better decision making

When you really boil it all down, life is about choices. You choose what to wear in the morning; you choose what to eat every day; you choose how to spend your time throughout the day. Yet for many of us, choice is hard. Sure, we make these every day, little decisions without even noticing, but you throw in just a little complexity and we freeze.

The problem with choices is that they have consequences, and we hate consequences. Just the other day, my printer stopped working. I thought that I would run to the store and pick another one up…a week later, I finally bought a new printer. The issue was there were too many choices, and if I choose the wrong one, it could cost me money, time, and hassle. The bigger issue: each option had its own set of pros and cons. One printer printed really quickly, but the ink was expensive, another had cheap, long-lasting ink, but it was the same brand that just broke on me, and the list went on.

As humans, our natural desire is to eliminate as many negative consequences (cons) as possible. This is one of the reasons why decision making is so difficult for us. When we are faced with options that each have their own unique set of negative consequences, our minds go into overdrive. Even simple decisions (which $150 printer do I want?) can seem to take on a life-shattering importance.

Learning to make quicker, better choices

For those of us who struggle with decision making, there are a few tools that we can fall back on to help make the process easier.

1. Start with a base outcome or standard (with the printer example, I knew I did not want the same brand as before).

2. Weigh the actual significance of the decision (Is picking the wrong $150 printer really going to affect my life? Is the decision permanent or can it be changed if needed?).

3. Give yourself a deadline (I have to have a printer by Wednesday).

4. Focus on the pros, not the cons. Which choice has the best positive outcome?

5. Quickly eliminate options that don’t meet your base outcome, and don’t put those options back on the table (ever, just don’t).

6. Research your options but don’t focus on the minute details. Instead, focus on the common denominator that will affect you the most.   

7. Once you have made a decision, stop thinking about it and act (go buy the printer).