Decision-making doesn’t always come easy. For me, it took many years and a great deal of practice to feel comfortable and confident of the choices I’ve made and acted upon. In that time, through trial and error, some suggestions from productive friends, reading a lot and effective therapy to combat anxiety and depression, I’ve come up with the following list of 15 tips that work well for me. Maybe they’ll help you as well.
1. Set aside some quiet time.
If you’re contemplating making a major decision, there’s no point attempting to do so surrounded by distractions, ringing phones, nonstop emails, the constant buzz of chatter from those around you. Likewise, avoid working on important decisions when you’re tired, hungry, don’t feel well, or are emotionally upset, physically overworked or under a great deal of pressure and stress.
Pick a time and a place where you can be undisturbed while you embark on the process of decision-making. It needn’t be lengthy to be effective. If you know you’ll need more time, set aside a chunk of time on another date. Schedule decision-making time, if that’s what it takes. Just be sure you’re in a place that’s quiet where you can devote your attention to the decision you must make.
2. Clarify your thoughts.
Undoubtedly, there’s a lot going on in your head, much of which has nothing to do with the decision you’re trying to make. Clear the noise by doing some meditation, deep breathing exercises, yoga, prayer or whatever helps you clarify your thoughts. A calm and centered mind is the best foundation for effective decision-making.
4. Be clear about your goals.
Often, there are multiple goals swirling in your head. You might be confused and want to quit the decision-making process because you can’t decide which goal should rise to the top. Take some time to think about what it is you want, what you’re willing to work for and what result you want to achieve. Such goal clarity is necessary to arrive at a workable, sound decision.
5. Give yourself a timetable.
Decisions must have a timetable. Otherwise, action will be put off, delayed in favor of other distractions and activities. The more difficult the decision, the greater the likelihood of it slipping away without a timetable to adhere to. At the very least, give yourself a progress check at regular intervals, so you can gauge how well you’re doing and adjust as needed.
6. Gather information.
Not every decision can be made without further research, gathering information, checking sources, lining up resources and allies, as appropriate. Any major decision requires a certain amount of information that you may need to locate. Be sure information gathering is part of your decision-making process on important matters.
7. Recognize bias.
Sometimes, you’re not aware that you hold bias in certain areas. Everyone has bias, so this is nothing unusual. However, if you fail to recognize your bias, your choices will reflect your bias and not be as effective as they could be. If you need help in this area, ask a trusted friend to tell you what they believe to be your biases, so you can make allowances for that prior to making a weighty decision.
8. Strive to be objective.
Objectivity is paramount when it comes to making crucial choices, some of which may be life-altering. In addition to recognizing any bias you have, also strive to be objective in your decision-making process. This is a neutral zone, an interim step you settle on before you go further into what choices you’ll make.
9. Consider what your instincts tell you.
Some call it a sixth sense, while others say it’s relying on your gut. Listen to what your instincts tell you, for they’re often right when it comes to what’s best for you or what you should be paying attention to before making a key decision.
10. Lay out the facts.
Put everything you know about the decision you need to make regarding your selected goal down on paper so you can look at it objectively. Don’t skip this step, because to do so will distort your decision. You need all the facts before you can go on.
11. Weigh pros and cons.
Every decision has pluses and minuses to consider. Some are obvious, while others can only be discerned through a careful analysis of the facts, other knowledge gleaned from experience, the advice of trusted friends, loved ones or family members, co-workers and experts. You’re getting close to the point where you’ll be able to decide, so make sure to weigh the pros and cons of the action you’ll take.
12. Envision the consequences of your actions.
Look ahead and think about what will happen if you take this course of action you’re considering. See in your mind the consequences of this decision. If what you envision is acceptable, even desirable, this will help solidify your choice. If it’s negative, are you willing to go ahead anyway? Is the likely outcome worth the risk or fallout for the ultimate good?
13. Think how your decision will square with your values.
You might feel pressured by others (your boss, co-workers, friends, loved ones or family members) to make a decision that doesn’t feel right. That’s because it doesn’t square with your values. If you go ahead and fall in line with what others say you should do, you’ll be dissatisfied with the result. Always be true to your values, since they’re the core of who you are. Any decisions you make should align with them.
14. Factor in follow-up.
Remember that whatever decision you make isn’t the end of the process. Also important is taking the time to follow up on your chosen actions. Did they turn out as expected? Did you meet your objectives and arrive at your goal? If this is a decision you’ll likely make again, is there a way you can improve upon it? Can you revise the current action to make your choice better?
15. Make an informed choice.
After going through each of these steps, you’re ready to make an informed choice. Proceed with resoluteness and select what you’re going to do. This is what the decision-making process entails and you’ve conducted yourself thoughtfully and thoroughly. Make your choice.
16. Act on your decision.
You’ve selected your choice and are now ready to act on your decision. Keep in mind that thoughts without action are ineffective. You’ve come all this way and put in the due diligence to arrive at a decision. Now, it’s time to get to work and act on your decision.