Make Better Decisions

Each day we make thousands of decisions, most sub-consciously. This morning, my wife was struggling to decide whether to have her parents pick up our daughter from school before or after her nap. “I have decision fatigue, you decide,” she said. I have been sequestered in a room with COVID for the week and all of the child/dog/life decisions that we usually share, fell entirely on her. That got me thinking about one of my favorite topics: decision making. Here are some tips on how to make better decisions:

1. Widen your perspective. We often frame decisions as whether or not, binary choices: do we fire this employee or not? Do we acquire this company or not? To avoid narrowly framing your options, try the vanishing options test: if neither option were available, what would you do?

2. Make your most important decisions early in the day. As the day goes on, our decisions pile up. By the end of the day, our reasoning and judgment are hanging on by a thread. It’s best to “sleep” on the most important decisions instead of making a choice at the end of the day.

3. Don’t lead the witness. One of the biggest villains of decision making is the confirmation bias – the tendency to seek out information that confirms your belief. The importance of asking the right, non-confirming question, is one way to overcome this bias. For example, if you wanted to know if a potential employer respected work-life balance, you would not ask, “What is the work-life balance like at your company?” Instead, ask questions like, “How many days do you eat dinner with your family? At what time? Do you work after dinner?”

4. Pull a George Constanza. Instead of looking for information to confirm what you already believe, consider the opposite of what your instincts are telling you. Ask yourself, “What would have to be true for this option to be the right answer?”

5. Remove short-term emotion. One of the easiest ways to remove emotion from a decision is to pretend you are giving advice to your best friend. If he or she came to you and asked for help with the very problem you are facing, what would you say?

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