Are you one of those people who freeze whenever they need to make a decision? Even at a store, you spend forever trying to choose between two similar products, and you can never pick what to wear to work.
Of course, this is just the tip of the iceberg as there are also more important decisions, such as those related to your finances or family. If you wish you were better at decision-making, you’ll be glad to hear that it’s a skill, and you can improve it. Here’s how to do so.
1. Make Sure You Have Enough Info
One of the most common problems that hinder our decision-making process is not enough information about our options. To be able to make the best possible choice, you need to gather information on all the options so that you can truly weigh the pros and cons.
Even if your source of indecision is simply two fruit yogurt options, you can read the label on the package and decide based on the ingredients.
This piece of advice is especially important when it comes to making life-changing decisions or those that will influence a lot of people. So take your time, gather all the info, and use rational thinking.
2. Simulate the Outcomes
Another great way to exercise your skills in this department is to test all the options in your head. Take each individual option and consider its effects, both immediate and long-term ones. Try to be as objective as you can and involve other people so that you’re not tempted to sugar-coat your favored choice.
Simulating the outcomes in as much detail as you can allow you to see almost everything that could go wrong in the process. Even if an idea seems by far the best, it might come with some hidden shortcomings that will only manifest later. Even though you don’t have a prescient vision, you can see far in the future simply by using your common sense.
3. Pretend You’re Advising Someone on Their Decision
You know how wise you are when giving advice to other people, but you get paralyzed when you need to make a decision yourself? Other people’s problems always seem easily solvable compared to ours. We can see the right choices for them because we’re not directly involved in the situation.
So when you get stuck, look at your situation from a distance, as if you were your friend. It also works the other way around — how would you advise your friend in the same situation?
This way, you’re almost bound to get to the right choice, and you may find out that you haven’t seen it before because you’re not comfortable with it for various reasons, i.e., it’s a difficult/unpleasant option.
4. Use the Elimination Method
When they’re faced with multiple-choice questions, students are often advised to use the elimination method, i.e., to discard the least likely answers immediately. Once they do, they can focus on the most likely answers and use logic to figure out the correct one.
It’s similar when it comes to making decisions. Sometimes, when there are too many options, they can cloud your judgment and cause too much confusion, impairing your ability to think logically. However, if you narrow down your options by eliminating the worst ones, you can spend more time weighing the costs and benefits of the remaining ones.
5. Take Some Time Away From the Situation
You know that feeling when you’re making something and it looks fantastic, but when you take a break from it and come back, you suddenly see a million flaws? Distance helps us reset and look at something anew.
If you feel completely stuck and your situation doesn’t require an immediate decision, distance yourself from it for a while. We tend to run in circles when we’re stuck and thus wear ourselves down and get thoroughly frustrated, which ultimately leads to choosing the wrong thing.
However, when we take a break from it and come back to it later, we can see our situation with fresh eyes. This doesn’t have to be a long time either. Sometimes, all you need to do is sleep on it.
6. When You Need to Act Fast, Trust Your Gut
Collecting information and making careful deliberations is great and can be extremely helpful — when there’s time. What happens when you need to make a decision right now? You don’t have many options, and the best thing you can do is rely on your intuition.
Circling back to the example with students and tests — usually, when students are not sure about the answer, it’s best to stick to their first, intuitive guess. How many times have you changed your initial answer only to find the “correction” was wrong?
It’s the same with decisions, especially if you’re an expert in the field. Your conscience may not have caught up with your intuition, which is based on your experience and is probably right.
7. Identify Any Cognitive Biases
One of the most difficult things to achieve is to exclude any cognitive biases from the decision-making process. There are many types of biases, and no matter how hard you try, you will be influenced by at least some of them because that’s just human nature.
However, there are ways to minimize their effects since they can seriously cloud your judgment. For example, you may be susceptible to attentional bias that will make you see only what you want to see. The easiest way to avoid this is to bounce your ideas off other people.
As a matter of fact, it’s best to exchange opinions with someone who disagrees with your favored decision, if you have one. That way, you can challenge each other’s viewpoints and investigate any potential flaws in your judgment.
8. Play “Devil’s Advocate”
If there’s no one who could challenge your potential decision, you may choose to play devil’s advocate. This method is particularly great if you’re way too confident in your choice. As you know, in real life, things are seldom black and white, so it’s always best to examine the yang to your yin.
You can do this by deliberately looking for arguments against your choice, scrutinizing them closely, and seeing if they should concern you.
If it’s an either/or kind of decision, i.e., there are only two opposing options, you can do this for the other one as well and see which one holds better when “under fire.”
9. Work on Building Your Confidence
Lack of confidence is one of the most common reasons behind poor decision-making skills. What good is rational thinking, let alone intuition, when you don’t trust yourself and your abilities? By improving your self-confidence, you’ll boost your decision-making almost automatically.
Luckily, there are many activities that can help you do so, from rewarding yourself for small victories to building long-lasting healthy habits.
On the other hand, the better you become at decision-making, the more confident you’ll be, so it’s a win-win situation. Just take it one step at a time! Put these tips to practice the next time you’re indecisive.