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How To Make Great Decisions Under Stress

Run your decisions by someone calm

When you're stressed, talk to a calm and trusted friend that can reveal the blind spots you may not have considered.

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How To Make Great Decisions Under Stress

How To Make Great Decisions Under Stress

https://www.riskology.co/decisions-under-stress/

riskology.co

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Key Ideas

Stress and smart choices

When we are in a stressful situation, we are prone to make poor choices.

Even a little stress can influence our decisions and make us slip up.

Stress motivation

Don't let stress motivate your decisions. When you're feeling the most stress, you'll also feel the biggest urge to make a poor choice.

If you do make a decision while you are under stress, ensure to re-evaluate it when you are calm.

De-stress regularly

When you're under regular stress, you'll never get a chance to make good, rational choices.

If you set aside 30 minutes each day to relax, you will be in a better state to make smart choices.

Run your decisions by someone calm

When you're stressed, talk to a calm and trusted friend that can reveal the blind spots you may not have considered.

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Understanding Stress
  • Dealing with Stress is imperative as it is unavoidable in modern life.
  • Our work, family and our finances create daily stress and other external factors (like politics and terrorism) co...
Your Perception About Stress

With stress, the mind and the body are intrinsically linked. You can view stress as something that is wreaking havoc on your body (and it can) or as something that is giving you the strength and energy to overcome adversity.

Exposure to Stress

Regular exposure to stress in small quantities can prepare us to handle a big stressful event in our lives. Prepare yourself for stress by self-education about the stressful event, by doing some physically stressful activities like completing a marathon, or something you dread, like giving a speech.

Repeated exposure to mildly stressful conditions can alter your body’s biological response to stress, making you manage stress in a better way.

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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...

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.

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Bias is everywhere

Being aware of your own biases doesn't mean you will be free of them. You need a system that will help prevent your proclivities from taking control.

You're not as smart as you think

It wasn't an individual that got people to the moon. It was all of NASA. 

There should be recognition of how many people really should be involved and the need for mechanisms to deliver smarter decisions.

There is safety in numbers
According to Heath, one study at a mid-sized high tech company showed that a group of leaders thought decisions were six times more effective when they considered two alternatives instead of one. Instead of asking a group for its decision, request the two top choices.

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Milton Friedman

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

Milton Friedman
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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Separate decision quality from results

People have a natural tendency to conflate the quality of a decision with the quality of its outcome. They're not the same thing. 

You can make a smart, rational choice but still ...

Luck and Incomplete Information

Why don't smart decisions always lead to good results? Because we don't have complete control over our lives — and we don't have all of the information. 

You can opt not to drink on New Year's Eve, for instance, but still get blindsided by somebody who did to drink and drive. You made a quality decision, but happenstance hit you upside the head anyhow.

Thinking in Bets

Becoming comfortable with uncertainty and not knowing is a vital step to becoming a better decision-maker.

What makes a decision great is not that it has a great outcome. A great decision is the result of a good process, and that process must include an attempt to accurately represent our own state of knowledge.

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A checklist for faster, better decisions
  • Write down 3 existing company goals impacted by the decision;
  • Write down at least 3 realistic alternatives;
  • Write down the most important information you...
Noise

Organizational noise comes in endless streams of information and communication. At the individual level, there is internal noise, which manifests from our biases, fears, and competing priorities...

Fear

Fear of failure, fear of making the wrong decision, and fear of our own inadequacy all affect the actions we take and quality of the decisions we make.

If you frequently question your ability to make sound decisions seek out a coach or mentor who can help you boost your confidence.

Attention

Multitasking slows us down as the brain is optimized to focus on one task at a time. Spreading our attention across multiple tasks becomes draining and leaves little energy for those tasks that matter most.

Pay attention to what you're doing. Turn off any distractions that may take your mind elsewhere.

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The rational manner

When faced with a difficult dilemma, we should carefully assess our options and spend a few moments consciously deliberating the information. Then, we should choose the best fit for our preferences...

The emotional system
It's only in the last few years that researchers have demonstrated that the emotional system might excel at complex decisions, or those involving lots of variables.

This would suggest that the unconscious is better suited for difficult cognitive tasks than the conscious brain, that the very thought process we've long disregarded as irrational and impulsive might actually be "smarter" than reasoned deliberation.

How emotional decision-making works

Thinking in a rational manner is more effective when there are limited pieces of information.  However, those focused on feelings prove far better in complex conditions

The advantages of emotional decision-making could be undone by a subsequent bout of deliberation, which suggests that we shouldn't doubt a particularly strong instinct, at least when considering lots of information.

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Default choices
Default choices

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

To make smarter choices, design smarter...

Designing your life

Design your life like a choice architect:

  • Encourage smarter decisions you want to do by making them more accessible.
  • Add friction to habits you want to quit, making them less accessible, or remove the option to perform them completely.
Richard Thaler
Richard Thaler

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

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Take control

Most of us are unable to do our best thinking when we're under stress at work. The problem is, it is often the time when we need to be at our best.

Even though we can't make stress go...

How our brains process information

Our brains process information in two ways:

  • Fast: Our fast brain is highly efficient, and makes decisions automatically by focusing on a few details it finds important, based on past experience.
  • Slow: Our slow brain uses control processing to make decisions, and takes into account more information.

Our brains spend most of their time in fast mode. However, we should avoid relying on our fast brain when we are in a new situation or when we are under stress.

How to counteract your fast brain
  • Pay attention: Your brain will default to making fast decisions, not accurate ones. 
  • Take some deep breaths. It will help you calm your nervous system.
  • Be curious. Ask yourself what story you are telling yourself. Then ask if it is true.

With practice, you can learn to control your brain's knee-jerk reactions in distressing situations.