By the end of the day, do you ever feel completely burned out from making decisions? Are there times when the thought of making another choice causes you stress? You’re not alone.
The truth is, you make thousands of decisions every day. From choosing what you’ll wear to work, to debating whether to send that email, almost everything you do involves some level of decision making. In fact, researchers from Cornell University found that people make an average of 226.7 decisions a day about food alone (Wansink, 2007). No wonder we run into decision fatigue every once in a while!
While small choices might not have much of an impact on our daily lives, bigger decisions can be mentally draining. In fact, many people hate making decisions simply because they’re worried about choosing the wrong one. So rather than moving one way or the other, they sit in a state of paralysis doing nothing.
But I’m going to let you in on a little secret: doing something is almost always better than doing nothing. Why? Because letting yourself get stuck in that uncomfortable state of limbo only causes anxiety and unrest.
So to prevent that unnecessary discomfort, I’m here to share with you some tried and true strategies to make good decisions both efficiently and confidently every day.
Whether you’re deliberating a career move, contemplating a big purchase, or deciding where to travel for your next vacation, read on. Because this post will help you make that decision with ease.
How to make a decision quickly and easily
Are you wondering if you should leave your job? Have you been contemplating an overhaul of your lifestyle and eating habits? Are you debating whether to expand your family? It goes without saying that these kinds of life decisions are difficult to make. And because of this, they often coincide with feelings of stress, worry, and the dreaded “what-ifs:” “What if I make the wrong choice?” or “What if I don’t succeed?” and “What if I’m unhappy?”
We’ve all been there, and it’s not easy. But fortunately, there are several strategies to help quiet those inner concerns, focus our priorities, and boost confidence in making the best decision possible.
Avoid Analysis Paralysis: Set A Time Limit
It’s no secret that I love my research. But sometimes I get completely overwhelmed by my findings, which leaves me feeling frozen. I start putting unnecessary value in every little detail I discover, even if they don’t really matter.
If this ever happens to you, try setting a time limit by which you must make your decision. Allow yourself a reasonable amount of time to think about the pros and cons, talk with someone else, and/or do a bit of research. But once you reach your deadline, that’s it; it’s time to make your decision.
Ask For Advice
I find that asking a friend for advice is particularly helpful when I’m overwhelmed by what should be a simple decision. This often happens when I’m feeling overwhelmed, or if I’m dealing with several stressful situations simultaneously. It’s at times like this when one more choice pushes me over the edge, and I start blowing everything out of proportion.
This happened to me last week. I was overwhelmed with getting my ducks in a row for the start of the new semester, and I had a last minute piece I needed to write. The office of communications is doing a spotlight on new faculty this spring, and I just needed to write a blurb to introduce myself, my research and my general interests. Easy right? Apparently not…
On a normal day, this should have taken me 20 minutes. Well, by the time two hours had passed and I still hadn’t written anything, I gave in. I called up my friend and asked for advice. I told her I was feeling overwhelmed and that I couldn’t decide what to write. We talked through my ideas, she quickly helped me focus them, and I was done in 15 minutes flat.
So if you find yourself overwhelmed by a decision, try calling a friend. They can help you break through the trap of over-thinking, and get to the heart of the solution quickly.
How Would You Advise A Friend?
While there are many benefits to checking in with a friend, sometimes it’s even more effective to ask yourself for advice. And this is especially true when you’re grappling with a decision that doesn’t have a right or wrong answer. Why? Because treating the situation from the outside allows you to step back from the issue and see it more objectively.
For example, I was contacted the other day to write an op-ed piece for one of the Boston newspapers. Of course, this is a great opportunity that I’d love to take. But at the same time, I’m already bogged down with my workload, and I’m not sure if agreeing to the request would be a good decision.
I asked a couple of friends for their opinions, and while they offered their two cents, it always came back to, “Make sure you feel comfortable with the situation. Be certain that it’s a good decision for you.”
Taking this to heart, I decided to give myself advice. I considered what I would tell a friend in a similar situation, I worked through the pros and cons, and I came to a decision with which I was comfortable.
Consider the Pros and Cons
There’s a reason why this decision making strategy is a classic; it works really well. Occasionally when we’re faced with a difficult decision, we feel pulled in opposite directions. Our heart might feel one thing while our mind tells us something completely different.
When this type of situation arises, it’s often helpful to create a list of pros and cons. This simple task provides clear facts directly in front of you. And when they’re right there in black and white, it’s difficult to ignore them. Once your list is complete, decide which option is most beneficial to you and go with it.
Try The 10-10-10 Rule
Have you heard of this rule before? I came across it reading Susan Welch’s 10-10-10: A Fast and Powerful Way to Get Unstuck in Love, at Work and With Your Family.
In the book she writes:
“Every time I find myself in a situation where there appears to be no solution that will make everyone happy, I ask myself three questions:
What are the consequences of my decision in 10 minutes?
In 10 months?
And in 10 years?”
I find this mindset particularly helpful when making big decisions. It’s effective at helping me look past the immediate impact and see how these choices will influence my life – positively or negatively – in the distant future as well.
In fact, I called upon this strategy as I further debated my op-ed decision above; while accepting the offer may add further stress to my current situation, 10 months and 10 years down the road, I will be glad I took the opportunity.
Making A Purchase
In addition to making life decisions, big purchases – whether it’s contemplating a new pair of high-end shoes or which family car to buy – can also create a lot of deliberation. And this is especially true when it’s a big-ticket item that you’ll have for a while.
So what can you do? How can you feel confident in your decision?
Reflect on what you really want, and set a budget
Let’s say you’re contemplating a new mattress, for example. As you create your parameters, you would consider the size, the firmness, whether you want memory foam vs. pillow top etc. Additionally, make sure you have a specific budget in mind. By creating these strict specifications, you’re already limiting your options considerably, which renders an easier choice in the end.
Search for those specifications online, and check out the reviews
By searching the specs online, you’re able to quickly weed out the hundreds of other options that don’t meet your criteria. This saves an incredible amount of time and energy, which is always a plus in my book. Why bother looking at pillow top mattresses if you know you want memory foam?
After you find some potential winners, check out the reviews. I don’t know about you, but I find incredible value in reading reviews. It’s a great way to learn about the quality of the product, the company, and the customer service, all of which are critical when making a big purchase.
Go out and compare
Once you’ve limited your possibilities to a small handful, it’s now time to see them in person. If we stick with my mattress analogy, your next step is to visit different mattress stores. But remember, when you head out, be sure to stick to your initial requirements and budget. It’s easy to get swept away by the bells and whistles, especially if you’re working with a salesperson.
Once you’ve found the item that fits your requirements, falls within your budget, has good reviews, and passes the “in-person” check, then you’ve found your winner! No more analysis paralysis. You’ve made your decision.
And that’s it! Whether you’re debating a major life decision or contemplating a big purchase, there are several strategies for you to do so quickly and easily. And best of all, you can do so with confidence.
Do you ever struggle with decision making? What strategies do you use to help you decide? Have you ever faced analysis paralysis? Let me know below!
**(Wansink, Brian and Jeffrey Sobal (2007), “Mindless Eating: The 200 Daily Food Decisions We Overlook,” Environment and Behavior 39:1, 106-123)