April 25

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Decision Making Techniques. Becoming More Decisive

By Alison

April 25, 2019


If you struggle with decision making, then some of these decision making techniques might be helpful.

There are a few options that I would like to share with you.  And no, one of them does not include asking someone else to make the decision for you!

Ask Yourself Questions

Trying to get to the root of a decision may require us to be a little creative.  I like to question a lot of things and some of the most insightful questions include:

  • What am I going to get out of this?
  • If I didn’t do this, what would happen?
  • What could I achieve?
  • Would I regret not doing this?

Asking questions not only allows us to think of all the positive things, but it also helps to identify those areas that might be holding us back.  Looking at questions like regret can help us to consider how not taking a decision can have an impact on our future selves.

The Pros and Cons List

This is possibly one of the easiest decision making techniques there is.  Literally take a piece of paper, draw a line down the middle and on one side write ‘pros and on the other side write ‘cons’.  Then knock yourself out by thinking of all the positives (pros) and the negatives (cons) that could happen.  Sometimes seeing things in black and white on a piece of paper is really useful.

The decision is then made based on how many pros or cons there are.  Interestingly enough sometimes we can put a con that can be turned into a positive.  It really does require a lot of honest soul searching.

The pomodoro technique can assist with decision making

The Pomodoro Technique

As a lover of all things Pomodoro I would be remiss in not mentioning this.  Sometimes the best decision technique is to give yourself some time and space in which to make the decision.  But over analysing the situation needs to be avoided.

Refer to my article How The Pomodoro Technique Can Help You Achieve More for a detailed description of this method.

Set a timer and give yourself a limit during which you think about all the possibilities and the problems.  Commit to yourself that once the timer goes off a decision will be made.  This creates a sense of urgency and it is amazing what we can decide when we really need to.

This is a time bound form of decision making techniques.

Talk It Through

Sometimes just having the opportunity to talk the issue through with someone can help clarify the mind.  They may be able to come up with options that you have not thought of before.  To really get the benefit out of this technique, find someone whose opinion really matters to you and who has some knowledge on the particular area you are seeking guidance about.  Someone who is really honest and you trust completely.

Remember, it is not for them to make the decision, that remains with you.  What you are looking for here is a different perspective.  Be mindful that it is better to ask one person.  Avoid asking too many people, as that can just cause confusion.

This approach is more helpful with those who are comfortable with some decision making.  At the end of the day you are looking for a decision that you believe in, not what you think someone else wants you to do.  This should definitely be avoided.

Reduce The Importance

When we think about needing to make ‘big decisions’ we are actually putting pressure on ourselves.  Look at the issue for what it is without getting caught up in the distraction of too many ‘what if’s’.   Also don’t think of the decision as being final, think of it as an exploration.  Remember to put the situation into perspective.  What is the worst thing that could happen?  For many of us, it is not a life or death situation.

As Rob Moore in his book Start Now, Get Perfect Later, a big decision is in fact just a culmination of a lot of smaller decisions.  Put it into perspective and the big decision will not be so daunting.

write it the challenge it

Write It Then Challenge It

The difficulty in making decisions can be hampered as a result of our previous experience or fear.  This is closely entwined with our belief system.  In this technique simply write down any thoughts that you have that are preventing you from acting.  Then look to challenge each belief.  For example I can’t do this because I will fail – pretty negative right, but a very common fear especially among those that find decision making hard.  The next thing is to consider is ‘so what if you fail’.  The main thing is that you have tried.

So things don’t always work out, but to a certain degree there are always times like that.  The important thing is that we learn from the experience and accept that these things do happen.  It does not make you a bad person.

Limit The Choices

If we think about it we can exclude quite a lot of choices by putting them into order.  We can discount things that are on the extremes of our preference until we get to the core.  Put all the choices out in front of you and then narrow the choice down by quickly thinking about things that are definitely not of interest.  Think Marie Kondo and her decluttering approach – does it bring you joy?  Does it serve a purpose?  Is it useful?

Another method of limiting choices I picked up from Joseph R Ferrari.  In his book Still Procrastinating: the no regrets guide to getting it done.  Ferrari in avoiding ‘choice overload’ advises grouping your options into shared characteristics.

The example he gives is making a decision to change your job.  First of all categorize the jobs into ‘full-time’ or ‘part-time’.  Then ask yourself whether you want something sedentary (a desk job) or something active.  Keep categorizing until you have narrowed down your options.

Create Habits

I mentioned in my previous article Do You Struggle To Make A Decision? that by having the same drink each day I took away the decision of what I was going to drink each morning when I woke up.  Although a fairly simple example, the introduction of habits can remove indecisiveness as the decision has already been taken.

If we broaden this out to goal setting we can see how we can achieve even the most audacious goals.  Say you would like to write a book, then a useful habit to adopt would be to commit to writing for an hour each morning as one of the first tasks that you do.  Thereafter there is no decision to be made each day, the decision is already made.

By setting yourself writing time on a consistent basis, it does eventually become a habit.  As a result progress is made against the goal.  For example at the beginning of this year I decided to make writing a priority.  I decided to set up my website as a vehicle to publish my writing so that gave me an incentive.  Furthermore I challenged myself to write three articles a week – which becomes more specific.

The outcome is that in the majority of cases I do write three articles.  Some weeks it might just be two.  But, the important thing is that I write each day regardless.  To me it is more about getting into the right mind-set.  It does not need to be perfect – otherwise I would spend all week writing and have nothing to show for it at the end.  The important thing is to get things published.  Do you see the difference?

Summary

I have provided eight different decision making techniques here.  Some you may find easier to do than others.  If making a decision is hard for you, then the best advice I can give is to start small.  The important thing is to practice making decisions.  The old adage of practice makes perfect could apply although I would prefer to think of it as practice makes it better and easier.

If you have tried any of these technique, or have another technique that you have successfully used in the past, I would love to hear about it.

Feel free to leave a comment in the box below.

Other Relevant Articles

Start Now, Get Perfect Later

Why Are Decisions Difficult To Make?

How The Pomodoro Technique Can Help You Achieve More

About the author

For years, despite career success, I was plagued with inner doubt. I worried about what other people thought. I became anxious about doing things wrong, felt out of my depth, and struggled with imposter syndrome. Above all, I feared failing. So, I worked long hours to prove myself worthy. It was exhausting, and it took a toll. My relationships suffered - my husband and I were becoming virtual strangers - and I had no social life. When the ravages of my doubts began to affect my health, I knew something had to change. I know there is a better way to live. Let me show you how.

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