6 Decision Making Hacks

August 5, 2014
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decision making friends talking photo by Cole Hutson

1. Pretend you’re offering an advice to a friend

If you’re going through a box of your childhood toys, you’ll probably want to keep almost everything. In reality, your stuffed bear collection is just not going to fit into your studio apartment. It might be emotionally difficult to let go, but it’d be foolish to buy a huge house for some toys. Emotions can cloud our judgment and make decision making hard. What works for me is pretending that I’m giving advice to a friend. This helps me to step back from the situation and see things in a rational, objective way. So I give advice to myself. Sort of.

2. 2 Minute turnaround

It’s lunchtime. A colleague has offered to go grab sandwiches for everyone but you can’t decide what you’d like on your sandwich. So you ask the I.T guy what he recommends, then you look up on Google the most healthy gluten-free sandwiches are best for powering through the afternoon. Then you call your mom and ask her advice. Before you know it lunch has passed and you still haven’t made your mind up. When you’re faced with a small decision, make it within 2 minutes. If an issue requires more thought, make a SWOT (strength, weakness, opportunity, threat) analysis and ask everyone who will be directly affected by the decision their opinion.

decision making spreadsheet

3. Draw up a spreadsheet

You know what really helps? Writing down your options and comparing them. Handiest tool for it? A spreadsheet.

Spreadsheets are powerful because it makes your problem visual. And you know what? Visual decisions are easier to make. When you go shopping, don’t you do exactly that? You see a few pairs of shoes you like. You will go back-and-forth between shops to try on the shoes and see which ones fit best. Finally, you start ranking the shoes in your mind and end up going for your number one.

This is called the spreadsheet method and we already apply this in our everyday life.

So when you’re making a decision make a list of your options and rank them. I can guarantee you that you’ll quickly gain clarity even on the toughest decisions.

4. Making Decisions in the Morning

One of the biggest reasons for indecisiveness during the day is decision fatigue. According to the New York Times we actually have a finite storage of mental energy available to us. As the day progresses, that energy depletes.The less energy we have, the less able we are to make decisions.

The lesson? Don’t crack the tough nuts in the evening. It makes way more sense to make important decisions during your productive hours. And for most people, that’s actually in the morning.

Here’s what drains your energy quickly (especially during the morning): planning meetings, doing meetings, planning tasks, dealing with HR-related issues and generally everything that involves another human being. And yep, all those things are essential, but when you have to make decisions, postpone your social obligations to the afternoon. Give yourself plenty of time to eat a good breakfast and give yourself the time to constructively work on your problems and issues.

5. Shopping is tiring

Don’t go shopping on an empty stomach. We all know this is true when buying food, otherwise, you end up with a shopping trolley full of chips and ice-cream. But this is also true for decision making in general. Your body needs fuel to think clearly and make decisions, the more decisions you make the more fuel your body uses. When we go shopping we’re constantly making micro-decisions, between one brand of toilet paper on another, which size milk to buy etc. This drains out energy levels and it’s why we feel depleted after hitting the shops. Use coupons from here.

6. Step-by-step Decision Making

If none of the above work, you can try this step-by-step decision-making method:

1. Identify the goal

Why do you need to make a decision? Do you really want to change job because you want a different career? Or do you just hate your boss? Do you need a new cell phone, or just want a new one to look cool?

You need to make your decision based on your requirements. Don’t make decisions based on peer pressure. For instance, when it comes to buying a new phone, list all of your reasons to actually buy a new cell phone. Write down what is important for you and what features you need. Cell phones can have a gazillion different features, but what you require might be found with a phone with less features.

2. Be conscious of biases

Best example: Apple products. You’re either for or against Apple, which means you’re biased towards the product. Which means if you’re looking for a new laptop, you’ll only look at Apple products or none at all. These biases can actually cloud your judgment. Ask yourself “What do I need?” For example, if you are looking for something with long battery life and is easy to transport, it’s logical that you’ll choose a MacBook Air. However, if you want a powerful 3D-capable laptop, your best bet will be with an HP. Don’t allow biases to make decisions for you.

3. Do a post-analysis

Look, I’m one for continuing human improvement. I want to optimize my decision-making processes as much as I can. That’s why I feel it’s very important to make an analysis of your thought process for every major decision you make.

Analyzing helps you identify what went right and what went wrong. Figure out what eventually motivated you to make a decision. It will help you in future situations.

What works for you? How do you make decisions? Let us know in the comments section!

About Ewout Meyns

Ewout is our Founder and CEO, he is straight-forward and direct. He’s a friendly chap and never fails to motivate the team to perform at their best. He makes sure we keep moving forward.