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How to Make Difficult Decisions

Automate some easier decisions

  • Select from only a handful of lunch options that you rotate each week.
  • Use a shipping service to get common items like paper towels directly to your house.
  • Consider asking the wait staff for dinner recommendations so you don’t have to stare at an overwhelming menu.
  • Connect the apps you use and automatically move information between them.

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How to Make Difficult Decisions

How to Make Difficult Decisions

https://zapier.com/blog/difficult-decisions/

zapier.com

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Key Ideas

Milton Friedman

Milton Friedman

"The best measure of quality thinking is your ability to accurately predict the consequences of your ideas and subsequent actions."

Think in Years, Not Days

Before jumping to a conclusion, think about the long-term consequences of your decision.

We may respect those able to fling themselves into a hard problem and make a quick choice with seemingly little thought, but making a meaningful decision needs to be done with care for the long-term effects.

Understand Decision Fatigue

It’s important to be aware of what state of mind you’re in before tackling a hard choice.

Decision fatigue happens when the mental energy required to weigh the tradeoffs of our decision becomes too much for us to handle. 

Fewer Decisions

Perhaps the easiest way to make sure we can face a hard decision with our full attention is to simply make fewer decisions.

Think of people like Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, and Barack Obama, who limit their wardrobe choices to a few staple pieces, in order to save mental energy for important decisions.

Automate some easier decisions

  • Select from only a handful of lunch options that you rotate each week.
  • Use a shipping service to get common items like paper towels directly to your house.
  • Consider asking the wait staff for dinner recommendations so you don’t have to stare at an overwhelming menu.
  • Connect the apps you use and automatically move information between them.

Do More With Less

You might think you need as much information as possible before you’re able to make a choice, but too much research can hurt as much as it helps.

Gathering too much data and asking for too many opinions can lead to mental overload, analysis paralysis, and ultimately making the wrong choice.

Get An Outsider's Opinion

The power of the outsider comes from escaping the cognitive biases we all fall victim to. 

Main benefits:

  • Reducing your overconfidence about what you know.
  • Reducing the time it takes to make the decision.
  • Bringing light to our thinking errors.

Stay away from the ‘What if’ game

Psychologists call this phenomenon Counterfactual Thinking and it describes how we dwell on the outcomes of actions we didn’t actually take.

At a certain point, you need to trust you’ve put in the thought and work to make the right decision and just commit.

Jim Taylor

Jim Taylor

"The bottom line of decision making involves determining which potential decision will offer the best possible outcome based on what we know now."

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Multiple systems of the mind

The mind seems to involve various simple systems throughout the body that are not always in agreement. Some systems are shortsighted, some care about relationships, and some prioritize the future of humanity.

We are not always aware of each mechanism. Sometimes we make decisions carefully and other times intuitively.

Nudging methods

  • Highlighting the decisions of others you consider influential. Reading “Most other guests staying at this hotel reuse towels,” may make you feel compelled to align your behavior with the majority.
  • “Injunctive norms” focus on how one should act in a particular situation. “Reusing towels meets a high standard for environmental responsibility,” highlights self-imposed standards. It involves a belief about right and wrong that consider abstract concepts.

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90% of your daily decisions happen automatically, many shaped by your environment. Thus, most decisions are a habit, not a deliberate choice.

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Design your life like a choice architect:

  • Encourage smarter decisions you want to do by making them more accessible.
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Richard Thaler

Richard Thaler

“First, never underestimate the power of inertia. Second, that power can be harnessed.” 

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Desire or Fear

When you consider your decisions, are you motivated by desire or fear?

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Internal or External

When you consider making a decision, who do you turn to?

  • If you seek your point of reference internally, you will make the decision for yourself.
  • If you seek your point of reference externally, you will reach out to people for their feedback and validation.

Possibility or Necessity

What drives you in your work?

  • If you are a possibilities person, you focus on the possible choices in a situation. You are likely curious about the potential your job has for growth.
  • If you are a necessity person, you are content not to think outside the box. You prefer being shown what to do and enjoy knowing how to do your tasks well.

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