Most things are fairly simple, although they rarely seem that way at the time.
Take writing, for example – I could write all day, every day, and produce a vast number of words on any given topic. They might even make a little bit of sense along the way.
Of course if I did that, my kids, professional life and other tasks would likely fall in a heap. So I have to make a choice – what to do, and when to do it.
Making a choice isn’t usually that difficult, unless I make it that way. I think:
what’s more important to get done right now?
Then I make the best decision I can and get on with it.
So let’s simplify the decision making process a bit so we can spend enough time deliberating to make a good decision, but not so much that we end up with analysis paralysis.
Acknowledge the Decision
You can’t make a good decision unless you accept that you’ve got a decision to make. Otherwise, you’ll make “faux” decisions where you try to avoid making the decision at all, and in doing so end up deciding something by default anyway (often that kind of “decision” just involves resorting to the status quo).
Paper or plastic?
Take out or dine in?
Pencil or pen?
You make these decisions all the time – they’re not that hard, are they?
Accept the Tension
For me the most common piece of tension in decision making is this:
- I want to do X
- I’m supposed to do Y
- I can’t do both X and Y right now.
Accept the tension but don’t get paralysed by it. Often the tension can be resolved with “I’ll do this thing now, and that thing later” and moving on faster.
Of course that doesn’t always work – especially if X and Y are complete contradictions (should I take job X or job Y).
Self-Aware About your Hangups
I will sometimes spend hours deliberating between buying two things which are nearly identical, for the sake of a few dollars.
Which is just silly.
Being aware when we’re letting our hangups about certain topics (money, time, travel, risk) direct our decision making is a core element in making better decisions.
Are you refusing to start the thing you want to start because you’re afraid of rejection? Are you not clicking “publish” on your latest blog post because you are pre-judging the response you’ll get? Not looking after your finances because it might involve some hard questions about where you spend your money?
Know your hangups, and don’t let them make your decisions for you.
Because once we know that they are doing the thinking rather than our brain, we’re at least a few steps ahead in making a better decision.
Every decision has multiple factors, sometimes simply “which do I prefer” or “which is better for me”. So if we’re going to make good decisions as well as fast ones we at least need to take a pass at the variables.
Normally it’s this part where we vacillate from one decision to the other and back again, like a pendulum swinging from side to side over and over again.
By all means weigh the pros and cons, but I think we all know that decisions aren’t made on logic every time.
Weighing up the decisions means appreciating what actually matters to you and what doesn’t. There’s no point saying “that red car has a higher top speed” if you’re never going to drive it anywhere that the top speed actually makes a difference.
Knowing what matters to you is probably the most critical part of this process. That kind of honesty with yourself takes a little getting used to, but once you nail it you’ll see some immediate benefits.
Decide and Act
And let’s stop overcomplicating everything.