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Are you a decisive person? If your answer is, “I don’t know,” you’re probably not! Some people are better at making decisions than others. Some people are better at making the RIGHT decision better than others, and some people could use a little help.
Regardless of which category you fall into, as a business owner, you’re likely faced with making decisions all day long, some that could have lasting impacts.
Learn to make better decisions faster using these six steps:
1. Quit Trying to Achieve Perfection
Economist Herbert Simon wrote about “satisficing” in 1956. Basically, a satisficer takes action as soon as their criteria are met. It’s not a matter of settling for less than the best. Instead, it’s setting and sticking to criteria that you know you’ll be satisfied with once they’re met.
Maximizers are different. They want to make the best or optimal decision. Even if their criteria are met, they will keep looking for a better option. They’re never truly satisfied because they believe there’s a better option that they couldn’t find. Satisficers are happier because they spend less mental energy trying to find perfection. Constantly looking for more information comes at a cost. At some point you have to stop and make a decision.
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2. Think Like Franklin
Joseph Priestley was the nephew of Benjamin Franklin. Priestley wrote to his uncle about a tough life decision he had to make. Franklin told him to use something he called moral algebra. Divide a piece of paper in half and write the pros on one side and the cons on another. After thinking about it for a few days, when you find a pro and con that are of equal weight, cross each of them off your lists. What is left is the best answer.
3. Go with Your Gut
Psychologist Gerd Gigerenzer wrote a book called “Gut Feelings.” He said that we’re wired to make quick decisions based on limited information. “Heuristics,” as he calls it, is simply taking efficient cognitive shortcuts to make better decisions faster.
To break down all of the science, think of this: Every decision has numerous variables you could consider, but if Gigerenzer is correct, you will quickly decide which are the most important and only consider those.
You might be thinking that considering less information is quite an ignorant approach to making a decision. If that’s your view, there’s a large body of psychologists that agree with you, but Gigerenzer asked a computer to analyze which Chicago high school a pair of hypothetical parents should most consider for their child. The computer weighed 18 variables using a complicated formula. In the end it only considered 2 of the 18 variables to make the choice. Gigerenzer argues that this is proof that more information isn’t better.
4. Understand Cognitive Bias
“Tell me about your childhood,”—a common and maybe cliché question that therapists often ask their patients. As you collect experiences, positive and negative, your mind creates biases. For example, if you were mugged on a certain city street, you would likely develop a bias that would drive you to avoid that street. Or maybe you went through an awful divorce and you have trouble believing that any potential mate could be faithful. These are examples of cognitive biases.
Every decision you make, thought you have, or even word you say first went through a filter of your life experiences. Psychologist, Dan Gilbert says in this TED Talk that we aren’t very good at predicting what will make us happy because of these biases. Instead, we’re probably better off just asking somebody else what they think. In other words, if we want to make better decisions, it's sometimes a wise move to get help from others.
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5. Choose Your Timing Wisely
Should you make a big decision right after an argument with your spouse? How about when you’re not feeling well or had a long stressful day? Most people would agree that making a decision when your mind is sharpest and free of outsized emotion is the best time to commit to a course of action.
Oddly, though, we often make decisions at the worst times. If nothing else, don’t make quick decisions. To make the best decision, take a day or two before deciding. But don’t take too long. “Analysis paralysis,” or overanalyzing, is just as dangerous.
6. Decide Which Decisions Are Important
Business owner or not, you’re faced with multitudes of decisions all day, every day but not all decisions should receive equal weight. Should the brand of dental floss command the same amount of research as the make and model of your next car? Should you research the type of lawn fertilizer as much as you learn about a health condition? The answers seem clear but some decisions in business are more important than others.
If you’re a very visual person, you might put way too many hours into picking a logo while somebody else is waiting for you to secure business licenses. When you learn to prioritize decisions and only place a lot of time and energy into the ones that deserve it, you can concentrate on decisions that will truly move your business forward.
Some people are naturally gifted at making decisions. Other people surround themselves with good decision makers. Like anything else, you can grow in your ability to make better decisions but having a counsel of people to help you is just as wise.
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