Better, Less Stressful Decisions

Better, Less Stressful Decisions



“The risk of a wrong decision is preferable to the terror of indecision.”

– Maimonides



Making decisions is an essential part of life.  Whether job related or personal, our lives are defined by our ability to make decisions.  On the job, regardless of position – laborer, administrative, worker, manager or executive, we are all expected to make decisions.  On the personal side, we are faced with making countless decisions daily.  Everything about our present selves boils down to the decisions we’ve made in the past.  While we may all be a product of our environment, we are a product of our decisions.


In its simplest sense: Decision Making is the act of choosing between two or more courses of action.  In many cases there may not always be a correct decision among the available choices.  There may have been a better choice that wasn’t considered or pertinent information that isn’t available.  Many individuals believe it’s important to keep a record of important decisions and the reasons these decisions were made.  Why keep a record, so that improvements can be made in the future.  The record may also provide justification or reasoning if something goes wrong.  Hindsight might not be able to correct past mistakes, but it will aid improved decision making in the future.


There are no hard and fast rules for decision-making.  There are, however, a number of models, theories, principles, etc.  For most of us it’s our tendencies that play into how we decide.  Our tendencies are simply the result of our beliefs, experiences and intuitions. 


Belief = acceptance of something to be true or real


Experience = knowledge or skill acquired


Intuition = feeling, instinct, perception


All too often we drive, not only ourselves crazy, but everyone else around us.  Decision making shouldn’t have to be so difficult.  Is it our beliefs that make it so hard for people to make decisions?  Some people put off making decisions by endlessly searching for more information.  These are the over thinkers and those prone to analysis paralysis.  Some people seek the recommendation of others and others and others.  These are potentially the procrastinators and just slow to act.  Some people resort to decision making by taking a vote, sticking a pin in a list or tossing a coin.


Regardless of the effort or method of making a decision, it must be accepted that some decisions will not be the best possible choice.  Let’s take a look at some techniques that can be used to make decision making a little less stressful.  Although some of the techniques may be for an organization or group, they can be easily adapted to an individual.




5 Techniques for Making Decisions Less Stressful


1. The 2 minute rule

Force action through a self-imposed deadline.  Does not have to be 2 minutes, but does need to be a relatively short deadline once you’ve acquired and reviewed the necessary information.  For some of you, the 2 minute rule may apply to gathering the necessary information.  This simply helps eliminate the potential for procrastination and the dreaded analysis paralysis.

It’s important to note here that I am not implying that you should be impulsive.  Weigh your options, and think things through, in a reasonable amount of time.

2. Think black and white

Think of your options in terms of black and white or good and bad.  Again a simple technique to quicken the decision making process.  Human nature, all too often, provides us with more choices than we need.

Too many choices can overwhelm and lead to analysis paralysis.  Simply weed out the less optimal choices and make that decision.

3. Focus on the present

We can often become overwhelmed with the big picture, trying to see how our decisions will affect the future.  This can be mentally draining.  Save your energy, focus on the task at hand and make the best possible decision.  Make the best possible decision that will make the next step(s) easier.

4. Choosing your battles.

Jonah Lehrer, author of How We Decide, points out that we are constantly bullied into feeling like trivial decisions are incredibly important.  Many people confuse the array of options and excess of information with importance.  This then leads the brain to conclude that this decision is worth lots of time and attention.

5. Use a decision notebook.

This technique comes from Nobel Prize-winning psychologist, and author of Thinking, Fast and Slow Daniel Kahneman.  The process is relatively simple and extremely worthwhile.  Whenever you’re making a consequential decision, take a moment to think, write down what you expect to happen, why you expect it to happen and then actually, write down how you feel about the situation, both physically and even emotionally.  Just, how do you feel?

The consequences are high quality decisions.  By writing out the reasons you’re doing something, will become a source of “accurate and honest feedback” on your decisions. 


It’s important to remember that even if you blow it, you’ll learn from your mistakes—growth happens when we’re challenged.  Ask yourself “what’s the worst that could happen if I make a wrong decision?”


“Sir, What is the secret of your success?” a reporter asked a bank president.
“Two words.”
“And, sir, what are they?”
“Good decisions.”
“And how do you make good decisions?”
“One word.”
“And sir, what is that?”
“And how do you get Experience?”
“Two words.”
“And, sir, what are they?”
“Bad decisions.”
– Unknown author


How do you feel when making decisions?  Do you fall in analysis paralysis or procrastination?  Share your decision making ideas with us.


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