“Good decisions come from experience, but experience comes from making bad decisions.”
I love my wife but she’s a nightmare when it comes to making a decision — and I’m not talking about big decisions, I mean deciding what to wear, what to watch on TV and where to eat etc.
Making decisions, even small ones like the ones mentioned above can be stressful for some people. But some successful people make decision-making look easy and more often than not they make smart decisions.
So, how can you start to make smart decisions? To help you, we’ve pulled together some top tips.
1. Avoid Decision Fatigue
Some studies estimate that adults make around 35,000 decisions a day whilst children make around 3,000.
If you use a muscle too much, it gets tired and can’t function effectively.
The same applies to decision-making — we only have a finite ability to make good decisions.
Decision fatigue can make you lose focus and harm your productivity.
It’s why lots of successful entrepreneurs remove small decisions, like what to wear or eat by planning and sticking to a routine.
Steve Jobs famously wore stonewashed jeans, black turtleneck and New Balance sneaks every day to cut down on decision fatigue.
Mark Zuckerberg is usually spotted donning a hoodie. This helps him to save valuable time and conserve energy for the decisions that matter. In other words, unlike my wife, he doesn’t sweat the small stuff.
2. Make the Big Decisions in the Morning
Much like the eating the frog analogy (do your most important task of the day first thing), it’s best to make the big decisions early in the morning when your mind is fresh and postpone the smaller decisions until later in the day.
Another thing that successful people do is prepare the night before and take care of some small things like laying out what clothes they are going to wear.
With so many decisions taking up each day, learning to prioritise them and make them effectively is essential to your success and happiness.
Tip: Avoid looking at your smartphone first thing or checking email as this can cause stress and kill your creativity. Instead, focus your energy on your most important tasks or decisions.
3. Be Aware of Your Emotions
Unlike most of us, successful people can understand and recognise their emotions — this helps them to make more rational and objective decisions.
Strong decision makers know that a bad mood can make them lash out whilst a good mood can make them overconfident and impulsive.
If you’re tired, don’t make any big decisions. Instead of reacting give the decision time and focus by sleeping on it.
Sleeping allows time for your emotions to run their course.
When you wake up, you’ll have clarity of thought and maybe a different perspective or new idea.
4. Can the Decision Be Reversed?
Amazon founder and CEO, Jeff Bezos, once said there are two types of decisions – those you can take back and those you can’t.
If a decision can be taken back, don’t waste a lot of time deliberating over it. Instead, decide, implement, evaluate and reiterate if necessary.
If the decision can’t be taken back, set a date to decide then use this time to gather as much information as you can to help you weigh up the pros and cons and make the right call.
5. Seek the Counsel of Others
Wise people take advice.
For the big decisions, you should run these past people you trust. Other perspectives help you consider your options more objectively and identify any irrational tendencies.
Bouncing your ideas off those with experience, knowledge and wisdom can often give you fresh perspectives and help to beat confirmation bias.
5 Common Mental Errors That Sway You from Making Good Decisions—from James Clear
- Survivorship bias refers to our tendency to focus on the winners in a particular area and try to learn from them while completely forgetting about the losers who are employing the same strategy.
- Loss aversion refers to our tendency to strongly prefer avoiding losses over acquiring gains. Research has shown that if someone gives you $10 you will experience a small boost in satisfaction, but if you lose $10 you will experience a dramatically higher loss of satisfaction.
- The Availability Heuristic refers to a common mistake that our brains make by assuming that the examples which come to mind easily are also the most important or prevalent things.
- Anchoring is a cognitive bias for an individual to rely too heavily on an initial piece of information offered (known as the “anchor”) when making decisions.
- Confirmation bias refers to our tendency to search for and favour information that confirms our beliefs while simultaneously ignoring or devaluing information that contradicts our beliefs.
Source: James Clear
It’s important to focus only on what you can control in life. Worrying about things outside of your direct control will delay the project. By focusing on the things in your direct control, you can make smarter decisions faster.
If you’re trying to do something new, you won’t be right 100% of the time. So embrace uncertainty and learn from your mistakes.
Our project management tool, Tameday, has been designed to keep you make the right decisions without delay and keep your projects on track. Tameday keeps every project, team, client and conversation all in one place… And it’s free to use!