Every day we make thousands of decisions, most of which we barely acknowledge. What to eat for breakfast? Which clothes to wear? Which route to take to an appointment? But not all decisions are equal and many of the decisions we make in our personal lives and in business can have major implications. We have all made decisions we regret, so what can we do to ensure that bad decisions are a thing of the past? Understanding the main contributors to poor decision making can help — here we explain the five key issues:
Avoid making decisions based solely on emotion.
Emotions can influence us greatly in decision making so it’s important to acknowledge what you are feeling when considering your options. Ask yourself to name the emotion or emotions you are feeling. This will give you pause and help you avoid making a major decision in the spur of the moment based on frustration, fear, or some other emotion that may be clouding your judgement.
Analyse information but be sure to act!
We have all heard of the term analysis paralysis and it is indeed a real thing. Today, there is so much information available that it is easy to become overwhelmed with data to the point of continually delaying action as new information comes in. Business leaders must make sound decisions in a timely manner. Market opportunities, for example, may not be able to wait until all available information is in, because that may never happen. It’s important to recognize arriving at the point of “good enough”, as in “the information we have is good enough to make the decision”. Then make it and move on.
Don’t make decisions in a vacuum.
There are many situations in which business leaders may feel the weight of a decision rests solely on them, but several opportunities may have presented themselves to solicit input from subordinates, peers, and others along the way. When considering an important decision ask yourself if you have ensured that those likely to provide valuable input have had the opportunity to do so. In meetings, for example, ensure that you actively solicit information, rather than wait for it to be offered, otherwise valuable insight may never see the light of day.
Get rid of distractions and focus.
It may seem obvious, but it’s important to be able to focus properly on the decision at hand and not be distracted by other less important issues. Setting priorities is a key part of being productive and efficient, but it is never more important when a major decision needs to be assessed and made. Put all other issues out of your mind and focus. This may require disengaging from technology for a time in order to free up your mind to properly think.
Avoid making decisions when tired.
Of course, this may be easier said than done. How many of us are not tired at the end of a challenging working day? However, it’s never a good idea to make an important decision when you are truly exhausted or on the brink of burnout. Burnout is an official medical condition and it can absolutely impact our decision-making capabilities. If getting a good night’s sleep or taking a week off does not help you feel rejuvenated, try to avoid making important decisions until you have taken steps to recover.
At the end of the day, we are the sum of our major decisions. Where to go to school, what to study, whom to marry, whether to merge with company X, Y or Z, are all just a few of the types of decisions that can shape our lives. Understanding how to avoid making bad decisions will go along way to helping us make solid, informed decisions we can feel good about.