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Decide to be a more efficient decision maker

We all have to make many decisions, choices every day in our personal lives and in the workplace. Some are simple and are almost automatic while others can be very difficult. Some bring consequences that we are forced to live with for a long time. We spend an inordinate amount of time and energy making choices, weighing out options in every day situations. There are often trade-offs and compromises.

Many people have difficulty making decisions, even the simple ones like what to order on the menu at a restaurant, what clothes to wear, what purchase to make, etc. Do you procrastinate? Do you have “paralysis of analysis”? Do you always agonize or stress out over making a decision?

Some decisions demand to be made quickly, on the fly, while others need to be deliberated, considered, weighed out over a longer period of time. Some people are just not suited to be in management or leadership roles because of their lack of ability to make decisions. 

Some professions and  occupations involve quick responses in life and death situations. Making substantial purchases like a house, new car, what job to take, who to marry, getting divorced, whether to relocate, and on and on are the more important with longer lasting results or consequences.

How can you handle decision making more efficiently?

1. Utilize habits as a way to reduce frustration and fatigue in making routine decisions. This will work for predictable and/or routine situations.

2. Use if/then thinking in unpredictable circumstances. This can help you to streamline many typical decisions required to be made in your life.

3. Set the time to finalize a decision and stick with it. Once you have vetted the choices, considered the attractiveness of alternatives and you find there is no clear choice, then admit there is no clearly identifiable right way to go, and just decide.

4. Pretend you are advising a friend through the decision making process. This can only work in certain situations. When emotions are in control reason goes out the window. Your emotions can cloud your judgment.

5. Seek out advice from a trusted friend or expert. Someone else will be able to sort through your quandary and offer suggestions that may be helpful. Be careful who you ask.

6. Limit the amount of information you take in. It is accepted that the more information you have, the better the decision will be. However, at some point you have to cut if off and determine if you are seeking out too much that can cause overload and confusion.

7. Think outside the box and challenge your assumptions. If you continue doing things the way you have always done them you will continue to get the same results you’ve always gotten. Get out of your comfort zone and use your imagination to test new ideas.

8. Be open to new options that may be the opposite of what you would normally do. This will force you to consider options you may have never even thought of or considered before.

9. Lay out the pros and cons. Use a spreadsheet or simply outline the pros and cons, do rankings, list qualities of each of the choices. Putting it on paper will often help you to visually see the differences.

10. Be aware of your biases and prejudices. Everyone has them. Acknowledge your inner most feelings and try to set them aside.

11. Recognize that the results of many decisions are irreversible. Your decisions often have a dramatic effect on other people.

12. Flip a coin. When you are at an impasse this may be the only way you can get off the dime and choose.

Indecision can be the downfall of people in personal situations as well as on the job. The Serenity Prayer can become a means toward wisdom upgrade in your thinking. Don’t let the world pass you by. Make your decisions and move forward.

Becky Vaughn-Furlow retired from Trustmark Bank as executive vice president and human resources director. She can be contacted by emailing bvaughnfurlow@gmail.com.