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6 Reasons We Make Bad Decisions, and What to Do About Them

2,000 decisions per waking hour

Research has shown that the typical person makes about 2,000 decisions every waking hour. Most are minor ones and we make them automatically. But many have serious consequences.

That's why making good decisions is arguably the most important habit we can develop.

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6 Reasons We Make Bad Decisions, and What to Do About Them

6 Reasons We Make Bad Decisions, and What to Do About Them

https://hbr.org/2019/08/6-reasons-we-make-bad-decisions-and-what-to-do-about-them

hbr.org

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Key Ideas

2,000 decisions per waking hour

Research has shown that the typical person makes about 2,000 decisions every waking hour. Most are minor ones and we make them automatically. But many have serious consequences.

That's why making good decisions is arguably the most important habit we can develop.

Decision fatigue

Our ability to perform mental tasks and make decisions wears thin when it’s repeatedly used.

Identify the most important decisions you need to make, and, as often as possible, prioritize your time so that you make them when your energy levels are highest.

A steady state of distraction

Our brains process five times as much information today as in 1986. Thus, many of us live in a continuous state of distraction and struggle to focus. 

To counter this, find time each day to unplug and step back from email, social media and news.

Lack of input

Introverts are usually reluctant to speak up in a meeting until they know precisely what they want to say. But they may have some of the best ideas to contribute.

So when scheduling a meeting, send out a meeting agenda 24 hours in advance to give everyone time to think about their contributions.

Multi-tasking

Performance, including decision-making effectiveness, suffers by up to 40% when we focus on two cognitive tasks at the same time. 

When you need to make important decisions, commit to several blocks of time during the day to focus deeply on the task at hand.

Emotions

Our emotions, especially during moments of peak anger and happiness, can hinder our ability to make good decisions.

Pay attention to your emotional state and focus on the character strength of self-control. Resist the temptation to respond to people or make decisions while you’re emotionally keyed up.

Analysis Paralysis

The more information we have to consider, the longer we typically take to make a decision. 

While the decision-making process should be thorough, the best way to make good decisions is usually not to take more time or to look at more information. Instead, review the pertinent information you need, set a deadline to make a decision, and then stick to it.

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A similar strategy is to do some of the smaller things the night before to get a head start on the next day.

Pay Attention To Your Emotions

...and you'll able to look at decisions as objectively and rationally as possible.

Strong decision-makers know that a bad mood can make them lash out or stray from their moral compass just as easily as a good mood can make them overconfident and impulsive.

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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. 

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