Your work environment is a ripe ground for decision making. From the moment you start interviewing and you decide to accept the offer, you’ll be making micro and macro decisions that ultimately affect your satisfaction and the development of your career. Unfortunately, there’s rarely a way to tell whether your decisions are “right” ones—there are too many variables, and even then, most decisions are subjective by nature. However, it is possible to make decisions in a better way.
What Makes a “Good” Decision
First, let’s qualify exactly what counts as a “good” decision. Though you may debate some of these points, these are some general qualifiers for good decision making:
- Timely. If you wait too long to make a decision, you’ll cause some serious backups. You don’t need to make all your decisions right away, but you do need some sense of urgency and finality.
- Researched. This should go without saying; the more data you have to make a decision, the better your decision will be.
- Logical. Logical decisions tend to be better ones; for this, you’ll need to separate yourself from your subjective emotions.
- Pragmatic. Pragmatic decisions are utilitarian decisions; the ones that do the greatest amount of “good.” What good means is up to you, however, and can apply to you as an individual or your company as an organization.
- Independent. Don’t rely on other people to make your decisions for you.
Now let’s take a look at how you can weave more of these qualities into your everyday decisions, with a focus on simplicity.
Simple Strategies to Become a Better Decision Maker
Anyone can adopt these seven strategies to become a better decision maker.
- Know when to invest and when to trust your gut. Some decisions are bigger than others, but all decisions demand energy, and spending too much time on little decisions can leave you fatigued for the bigger, more important choices of your life. Accordingly, one of the best skills you can learn is identifying which decisions are worth your time and which ones aren’t. For those little decisions that pile up in your life, just trust your gut and forget about them. Save your energy for the bigger ones.
- Imagine the advice you’d give to a friend. This is a good way to separate yourself from your emotions and make a more logical decision. Instead of thinking about the decision as you would make it, imagine that a friend is being forced to make the decision. What kind of advice would you give him/her? This exercise can help you hash out the emotions and in-the-moment thoughts that might be skewing your thinking.
- Take a time out. Another way to separate yourself from the decision is to literally separate yourself from it. Instead of poring over the same details over and over again, give yourself a time out. Step away from your desk and out of the office, and go for a walk or do something fun. The fresh air and exercise will clear your mind, and you’ll be able to make a better decision when you come back.
- Do your research. It’s a simple step, but it’s one you should make for every decision you deem to be significant. You don’t have to carry out a full research report here, but you do have to gather new information. In fact, even talking to other people counts as research—get their opinions and learn from their experiences if you can (just make sure your final decision is your own).
- Bust out the pro/con list. Pro and con lists remain a staple recommendation for decision making for a reason—they’re effective. Pro/con lists are a way to organize your thoughts a logical, ordered way, and it also serves to quantify the process somewhat. Most decisions are based on qualitative factors and unpredictable elements, which make them difficult to compare, but with pro/con lists, you can reduce your decision to a numbers game—at least to an extent.
- Set a timetable. If you’re a type of person who struggles to come to a final decision, make a timetable for yourself. Set a final deadline of when you absolutely must make a decision, and hold yourself accountable to that timeline. Work backward to set other important deadlines as you deem necessary, such as when to narrow your options down or when to do your research.
- Stop worrying. One of the biggest reasons people freeze in their decision making, or rush through the process, is because they fear what will happen if they pick the “wrong” choice. Stop. Like I said earlier, there’s really no such thing as an objectively “wrong” decision in most situations; if there was, your decisions would probably be easier to make. Rest assured that even a “bad” decision usually leaves room for eventual recovery. All you can do is make the best decision you can.
Decisions are a major component of our daily lives, even when we aren’t directly or deliberately thinking about them. We choose what to wear, when to start working, how to respond to our emails, on up to bigger decisions, like whether or not to ask for that raise. When you start making better decisions, everything in your life will improve incrementally—and as you can see, it’s not a complex or burdensome improvement to undertake.