3 Invaluable Rules for Decision Making
I’ve been flipping through the menu for several minutes now, fighting my indecision. Each dish was attractive in its own way. It looks like you’ll have to order everything. Do you think this stupid decision is not even worth considering? Quite possible. Nevertheless, I bet that you yourself have faced similar difficulties, if not with the choice of the dish, then with something else.
Every day we spend an inordinate amount of time and energy choosing between equally attractive options. However, despite the fact that they seem to us to be of equal importance, each of them attracts us in its own way, which forces us to compromise, even if we are only making a choice between cabbage salad (easy and healthy), salmon (harder to digest protein) and ravioli (tasty, but high in carbohydrates).
Even if such mundane decisions take so much time and energy from us, what can we say about the more serious situations that we face every day in our organizations? Which product should you continue to release and which one should you discontinue? Who to hire and who to fire? Should I start this difficult conversation?
How can we learn to cope more effectively with all kinds of difficult decisions? To do this, I use three methods, and the third I discovered as recently as last week.
First Method – Reduce Associations
The first method is to use the power of habit to significantly reduce the fatigue associated with routine matters. The bottom line is that if you make it a habit, for example, to always have a salad for lunch, then you no longer have to make decisions on this issue at all. This way, you will save energy for other activities. It is a powerful method when it comes to predictable and routine decisions. But what about non-standard situations?
Second Method – If/Then Algorithm
The second method involves the use of an if / then algorithm to simplify spontaneous decisions. For example, imagine a situation where someone constantly interrupts you and you do not know how to react to it. In this case, my rule would sound like this: if a person interrupts me twice in a conversation, then I will reprimand him. However, there remains the problem of large, strategic decisions that cannot be predicted or made into a habit.
Third Method – Use a Timer
Last week I was at a retreat with the management of a high-tech company. It was in this meeting that I found an easy way to deal effectively with difficult choices. The firm faced challenges the consequences of which were impossible to predict.
On the agenda were questions of this kind: In the production of which products to invest more funds, how to respond to threats from competitors, how best to merge with a recently acquired company, where to cut the budget, how to organize an accountability system, and so on.
It is such decisions that can drag on for weeks, months, or even years, hindering the development of the organization as a whole. They cannot be turned into a habit or resolved with an if / then algorithm. And most importantly, these are questions to which there are no clear and deliberately correct answers.
The management of companies tends to hesitate in making decisions of this kind, collecting more and more data, repeatedly weighing the pros and cons, attracting additional consultants – in general, postponing the decision in the hope that later there will be a clear answer.
But what if we take as a basis the fact that such an answer simply does not exist? Perhaps this will speed up the decision-making process?
So I was thinking, sitting at this meeting, where again, for the umpteenth time, they discussed a painful question – what to do with a certain business, when suddenly the CEO interrupted the debate, loudly declaring: “It’s quarter past three. We have to work out a solution within the next fifteen minutes. “
“Wait a minute,” said the CFO, “this isn’t an easy question. Maybe we can return to discuss it at dinner or at the next meeting? “
The CEO was determined, “No, we’ll make a decision in fifteen minutes.”
And you know what? We did it.
This is how I found my third decision-making method: use a timer. If the challenges you face have been explored enough, the choices are equally attractive and the answer has not been found, admit that it is impossible to determine the right course and just make a decision
Of course, it would be nice to first check its effectiveness – for example, create a trial version with a minimum investment in it. But even if you cannot do this, a decision must still be made. The time you save by cutting back on fruitless evaluations and discussions will be of immense benefit to you in terms of productivity.
Wait a minute, you argue, if you spend more time on it, sooner or later there will still be a correct answer. It may very well be. But, firstly, you will lose a bunch of precious hours, days, and weeks waiting for “enlightenment”. Secondly, the correctness of this one and the only decision will teach you in many other cases to hesitate in empty hopes for a clear answer.
Try this method now. Pick a decision you’ve been putting off for a long time, give yourself three minutes and you will succeed. If you are inundated with unresolved questions, take a piece of paper and make a list of them. Set a time in advance for yourself and in order, one by one, make the best possible decision at the moment. Making decisions – any decisions – will give you a sigh of relief and move on.
As for my lunch, I opted for the coleslaw. Is this the best option? I do not know. But at least I no longer sit over the menu trying to place an order.