How to make everyday decision-making easy
Being lost in a million options, trying to find a perfectly balanced choice always, the feeling of losing out on the other alternatives, not being satisfied ever with the decision that you just made – does that sound familiar?
Happens to me a lot and thought to share the 7 ways that I use to cope with confusion and frustration in the entire decision-making process.
I have spent a lot of time struggling to make simple decisions – ‘Which denim jacket to buy’, ‘What restaurant to go for dinner’, ‘Which hair colour would suit my hair?’ and so on. These are simple everyday decisions, but not being able to make a decision is a genuine problem that I face.
And I think there are others like me who might experience the same. I am not even talking about the right choices, but merely making a choice that you are 80% content with, is sometimes difficult. That last bit that I subtly added in there, that is where the problem lies – ‘being content with’.
If you know about the decision paradox, you’d know that no matter what you select, you’d never be content with your final selection as you’d always experience this feeling of missing of out on the ‘other alternative’ and what if it were better than the choice you made.
However, in the long run, does it even matter? Probably not, what does matter though, is the time that you wasted in making those simple decisions that you could have productively utilised writing a poem, exploring a theatre, reading an article, playing a sport, just anything that you’d want to do.
Everthing you do, has an opportunity cost of time, so choose wisely.
Given this backdrop, I thought why not, just have a simple rulebook, that can guide me to make a better choice and not be burdened by the decision paradox.
So here are my 7 simple ways that have helped me make better decisions faster.
#1. Take the first option you see that fits your criteria almost 70% – 80% and go with it. Easy.
To explain you with my story, just today evening, I decided to have some dumplings for dinner,and as strange as it may sound, I have never had them in a restaurant setting ever and luckily, I found a cosy little place selling handmade dumplings with a decent ambience and pricing – so it just fit my criteria perfectly, and the obvious decision should have been to go there right?
Wrong! Not to me, because something in me told me to explore a bit more, walk down the road a few blocks to see what other options do I have – I couldn’t find anything similar.
Note that now I have a benchmark and everything that I would find I shall start comparing it to this one. More often than not, I’d not be able to find something similar or better (experience says that). The first one is just going to be the best one – there are a lot of psychological reasons to this than factual a) I have now missed the boat – in this case I already walked two blocks and going back was not possible b) there is a confirmation bias that it is better than other options you’d encounter, and is difficult to overcome that in that heat of the moment.
Anyway, now I keep walking towards my second option which I had in mind – just that I didn’t check the directions and then ended in the wrong place – so was a bit frustrated now, and I ended up buying some average Sushi from an ordinary place.
So the lesson learnt is I could have had a good experience eating what I wanted to – dumplings, had I selected the very first option which met most of the criteria.
Also, that would have saved me time and the mental struggle.
#2. Be clear about what you want and stick to it
This one is simple, just don’t juggle too much – it drains your mental energy and leads you to confusion. Keep it clear in your head what you want at a high level – not being too fussy about the details but just knowing the broad headlines of what you want. If you find it difficult, just close your eyes and imagine yourself wearing, buying, staying, playing, just doing that and living it – you’d know what you are expecting and now look around – does the reality match your expectation?
Restricting your choices does wonder for good mental health – instead use that energy on other important things
#3. Decide on how much time you’d like to spend on that activity
Especially when it comes to restaurants and shopping, set a time-limit by which you would decide on something – be it anything, doesn’t matter – the important thing is to decide by then.
Time pressure is an effective tool as it forces us to cut through those million useless thoughts and focus on that one thing that matters and take a call.
For example, for shopping grocery, I will set a time to complete the shopping in under 30 mins, and if I spend more than that, I’d have to cut on the other more important things.
#4. Develop certain principles that can help you navigate through options easily
For example, I have learnt it the hard way that I value quality more than cost. So I will avoid buying from a factory outlet even if it is cheaper. It is cheap for a reason. Another principle is to not buy without trying it or not to rush through purchasing decisions as that can work against you.
These are simple tips that I am sure, even you would have mastered through years of decision making.
It’s estimated that the average adult makes about 35,000 remotely conscious decisions each dayhttp://science.unctv.org/content/reportersblog/choices
#5. Use a funnel approach
If you have a broad range, select the first category that comes to mind and then try using filters (just like the ones you have on apps) to narrow your search. This approach will allow you to look in the right direction and come to the outcomes faster – we all do this, but sometimes I think we get lost especially in a new environment when presented with a plethora of options which are designed to confuse you in the first place.
#6. Keep it clean and organised
Now that you know what you want, you have narrowed your options and have decided on the criteria; it’s time to be methodical while approaching the problem.
For example, when my husband and I, we were looking for a house on lease, I had created a small note of which locations, what apartments we’d be inspecting, what is the rental, what amenities are available and what the commute time to work would be. And not a mental note but an actual record on my organiser that we share to help understand the details of the developments made on the decision so far.
You don’t have to pressurise your short term memory into remembering all these details later, as you can always revisit the notes, and it also helps you to think clearly. Another similar tool that I use is mind-mapping and I do it the conventional way using a paper and a pen – making connections, understanding the distances, relationships, patterns much better. Try it out if you haven’t done this ever.
#7. Now this one is a classic – Listen to your gut
It’s what everyone’s told you so far, and it’s cliche, but the very fact that it is famous is because it works. And it works, because there is science to it – your subconscious figures out the finer intricacies of the matter that is sometimes invisible to the naked eye. Bizzare right, what your eyes can’t see, your brain can – like it has eyes of its own. It just does the math quickly to know where this would click or not.