Don’t let yourself get bogged down with analysis paralysis.
7 min read
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The average person makes a ton of mind-blogging decisions every day, so learning to make decisions more quickly can save valuable time and energy. Here’s the thing, though. Making decisions faster isn’t always about adding new hacks to your arsenal. It’s subtracting certain things from your life to enable the fast-decision-making process. Here are ten things to let go of so that you can make faster decisions.
1. Making decisions on the fly
There are times when you have to make a split-second decision. But usually, everything you need to decide on can be done in advance. The key is booking time to think.
I like to plan out my calendar on Sunday night. Several people at the office like to plan out their calendars for the following week on Friday afternoons. When you choose to mark your calendar doesn’t matter as much as the fact that you make it a consistent habit.
Try it, and you’ll find that making decisions ahead of time prevents decision fatigue, leaving reserve energy to make critical decisions. Plus, researchers have found that the most accurate decision-making occurs between 8 a.m. and 1 p.m. regardless if you’re chirping with the Meadow Lark or a Nightingale.
“Contrary to what we tend to think, it is almost impossible to calculate future outcomes because people and life are very unpredictable,” writes Ilene Strauss Cohen. “Therefore, making decisions is usually a crapshoot.”
“Don’t get me wrong,” she adds. “It’s still useful to have confidence in the decisions you make, but it’s important to be aware that you have no control over the outcome of them.”
Her advice? Stop overthinking things.
Think about it: You’re deciding what meals to make for the week — in my case, with winter in full force, I decided to make vegetable soup for dinner. As I was writing my grocery list, I got a phone call from a friend and took off at a moment’s notice. Guess what? I totally forgot half the things I needed to purchase when I got to the store and didn’t have all the ingredients to make the meal when returning home.
When you’re working on something important, eliminate distractions when it’s time to make a decision. You know the drill — turn off your phone, work in a quiet space and focus on one thing at a time. Time management is key.
4. Choosing something because you’re “supposed to”
I’m in no way advocating that you ignore your responsibilities. But don’t waste your time and energy on things that you feel pressured to do.
For example, you may be tempted to relocate your startup to Silicon Valley. But, is this thought a necessity or just something you’ve been talked into by other entrepreneurs? If a relocation (or other decision) is not a necessity, then you can ignore it.
Personally, this is something that I’ve been working at for years, and I think most entrepreneurs are in the same boat. It’s hard not to have comparisons when you see other businesses thrive while yours may be struggling.
I know this is easier said than done. But, get over it and make the best decisions for you today. Or, if you need a more inspiring quote, follow the words of advice from Tina Fey: “Don’t waste your energy trying to change opinions — do your thing — and don’t care if they like it.”
6. Ignoring your instinct
I’m sure you’ve heard this before. When put to a head-to-head test, a Stanford psychologist found that you need to listen to your gut. In fact, 68 percent of the time, intuition led to the best decisions.
There is a caveat, though: Listening to your gut is most effective when facing personal decisions, such as deciding where to move. For more complex decisions, you should still carefully weigh the pros and cons.
How should you listen to your gut? Well, it comes down to whether or not you feel expansive, meaning excited or powerful, or contractive, which leaves you with a sensation of dread or heaviness.
Arguably the biggest reason why you procrastinate on making a decision is that you’re afraid, and there’s a good reason why.
As Tim Rettig explains in a Medium post, “You have the control to make that decision, but you don’t have control over what happens next.” For instance, you may quit your job to finally go for your dream of starting your own business. You do everything by the book. But, what if a recession hits just as your business is gaining traction? That’s going to impact your business. It’s also completely out of your hands.
The solution? Don’t consume yourself with what happens next.
8. The trivial
One of the most effective ways to combat decision fatigue is to stop sweating the small stuff.
For example, stop spending half an hour figuring out what to wear for the day. In the grand scheme of things, this is a rather unimportant decision that drains your mental energy and wastes time. That’s why you can decide and prepare your wardrobe for the week in advance. Or go the Steve Jobs, and Mark Zuckerberg route and have a signature look.
“Perfectionism prevents you from improving and discovering new opportunities,” writes Deanna Ritchie in a Calendar article. “And, it also wrecks your productivity since you’re spending too much time second-guessing yourself.”
How can you overcome perfectionism? Well, Ritchie suggests:
- Surrender to the fact that you’re not perfect and accept that your decisions are part of the process.
- Set goals, you’ll actually achieve.
- Embrace feedback.
- Use “hypothesis testing.” For instance, write a blog post and don’t proofread it. You’ll discover that despite any mistakes, it’s not the end of the world.
- Stop dwelling in the past or obsessing over problems that don’t have a solution.
Related: You Don’t Need to Be Perfect
10. Limiting yourself to “yes” or “no”
Finally, realize that not every decision you have to make is a “yes” or “no.” Instead, consider alternatives or compromises.
Let’s say that an employee or business partner wants to meet for lunch tomorrow. You already have plans, so you automatically want to respond with a flat-out, “no.” Before rejecting that time request, consult your calendar. Do you have availability next Tuesday? If so, offer that date instead. Better yet, share your calendar with people so that they can see when you’re free to meet.