Nobody enjoys making decisions about their own lives.
According to Rob Hatch, “decisions are distractions.” They are emotionally draining, mentally exhausting, and they can even take their toll on our physical body.
Unfortunately, we cannot eliminate all decisions. As owners and leaders, we must master the skill of decisiveness so that decisions do not become distractions for us in our businesses.
It turns out that there is a secret to crafting a faster decision-making process:
Get Out of Your Head
It is actually that simple. Decisions are fueled by emotion and supported by reasons.
If you want to decide faster, then you must stop thinking and start feeling. Just decide. Choose. And move on.
Decisive people decide first, and rationalize after. Indecisive people try to rationalize first, and then decide.
When you feel stuck about a decision, it’s most likely because you have already made the decision in your subconscious and your rational mind is trying to pull you in another direction. That tug-of-war is what leads to the hollow feeling of indecisiveness in the pit of your stomach. Shut down your brain. Go with what you feel. That’s the secret.
OK, I know… you’re an owner. You want a more concrete guide.
Here are 7 strategies for crafting a faster decision-making process. Just remember to get out of your head.
1: Clarify Your Outcome, Purpose and Values
Your outcome, purpose and values are your navigation tools. If you invest the time to get clear on these elements, you will find that all decisions become easier. Here are some questions to help you flesh out these areas.
What do you want? What is the primary result you are trying to achieve? How will this decision move you closer to that result? How will each option you are considering move you closer (or not) to that result?
Warning: when considering your outcome, beware of these 2 traps:
- The Time and Money Trap
Time and money are reasons for doing—or not doing—something, and used by people who are too cowardly to admit the truth. Whenever you’re tempted to use time or money as a reason or excuse get brave, dig deep and admit what you’re really after or trying to avoid.
- The “What If” Trap
Leave contingency planning for the legal department. The “what if” trap will send you down a rabbit hole of unlimited depth. If you do nothing else except avoid this trap, you will become a more effective decision-maker.
Decisions are fueled by emotions, and your purpose is your fuel. Why do you want your outcome? Why is it important to you?
Notice the key word here: Your purpose must be emotionally compelling to you. You cannot drive your life fueled by someone else’s purpose.
Values are the guideposts by which we set the standards of our lives. I am referring to qualities such as integrity, trustworthiness, credibility, respect, family, love, fun, customer service. Spend some time identifying and defining your values, and their order of importance to you.
The choices we make speak more about our values than anything we say, and the feeling that we are acting in a way that is incongruent with our values is the cause of much pain. Get clear on your values and check in with them at major decision points.
2: Define the Parameters of Your Ideal Scenario
The more specifically you can define your ideal scenario, the easier it will be to identify it when it arises. When you haven’t clearly defined your ideal, you are at risk of developing “shiny object syndrome” in which you mistake every possible option for a viable option.
Note that although this is related to your outcome, it’s not the same. Your outcome is the high-level result you want to achieve; the parameters is what that result looks like for you. For example, many of my clients share an outcome of “buying a new apartment for use as my primary residence.” Each of them has different parameters around their “ideal scenario” for that outcome.
3: Prioritize and Be Flexible
At the risk of stating the obvious, let me make clear that perfection does not exist.
Defining your ideal scenario keeps you focused on the viable options, but compromise and flexibility are always required.
You must identify which criteria are your “musts.” These are your non-negotiables; the elements that are essential for a viable option to reach the status of a contending option.
This also applies to the information you need to make a decision. Accept that you will never reach a point where you have all of the information or research you want, and identify the information that is crucial for you to move forward.
Whenever you find yourself delaying a decision because you are “waiting for information,” ask yourself whether this information is really necessary for you to move forward. When making decisions about your own life, “waiting for more information” is often used as an excuse to defer decisions.
Few decisions in life are final. Take imperfect action. If you make a mistake, you’ll have the opportunity to make a better decision the next time.
4: Consult a Trusted Expert
Here are the top 3 ways an expert can help you make faster decisions:
Learn from the mistakes of others.
Learn from the mistakes of others. You can’t live long enough to make them all yourself. — Eleanor Roosevelt
You cannot learn from the mistakes of others without the help of someone who sees those mistakes. Our friends and family tend to have experiences similar to ours, and cannot see the range of situations that an expert sees.
Education Regarding Relevant Criteria
Often our difficulty in making decisions stems from a lack of clarity around the specific parameters of our ideal scenario. Sometimes we don’t even know what criteria are relevant —we don’t know what we don’t know. We think we are lost in the backroads of indecisiveness, when the real problem is that we haven’t turned on the GPS.
Experts educate us about the relevant criteria and provide insight regarding the criteria that other people use when making a similar decision.
Check-Point Regarding Outcome, Purpose and Values
An expert can help you get clear on your outcome, purpose and values. She can serve as a check-point to remind you of your outcome and point out where your decision is not congruent with your stated values.
5: Avoid the Peanut Gallery
One of the biggest differences I have seen between decisive people and those who are less decisive is this:
Decisive people consult an expert; indecisive people consult everyone they know.
This is a natural instinct. Decisions trigger fear and uncertainty, and we look to our friends and family for comfort. The problem is that this approach only leads to more uncertainty. Everyone has a different opinion and perspective, and each is based only on the personal experience of that well-meaning advisor. Consult an expert, not the world.
Also, stop caring about what other people will think or say about your decision. Yes, I know you don’t care about what other people think or say. But if you did, stop. Make the decision based on what you feel, not on what others might think.
6: Set a Time Limit
Whatever the nature of your decision, no matter how big or intense, recognize this: if someone put a gun to your head and forced you to decide, you would decide quickly and firmly. Give yourself a similar urgency for your decisions and you will find yourself being much more decisive.
7: Take Action
Decisions are physical actions, not intellectual exercises.
The word “decide” is rooted in the Latin -cide, the same root as “homicide.” It literally means “to kill off.” When you make a decision, you are killing off the other options.
An actual decision requires an action that indicates commitment to the chosen path. This is the only way you can effectively “kill off” the other options.
Until you have taken decisive action, you have merely stated a preference.
This space between stating a preference and taking committed action is where “indecisiveness” takes root. Your rational mind waits for this opening and pounces with its pro/con lists and reasons.
To make faster decisions, eliminate the lag by taking committed action in the moment of decision.
The most effective decision-making processes include all of these strategies, although employing even just one of these will help you craft a faster decision-making process. Just remember to get out of your head.
What is your best strategy for taking ownership of your decisions?