How to Make Effective Decisions When You Can’t Make up Your Mind
Here is a conversation that me and my partner Lauren have every single day.
Me: What shall we have for dinner tonight?
Lauren: I don’t mind, you decide.
Me: I’m not fussed either, let me know what you want?
Lauren: I can’t decide!
2 Hours later…
Let’s get takeout!
Does this sound familiar? Have you ever taken too long to make up your mind about something so trivial? Or maybe you have a big decision like what college to go to, or what career move you want to make next?
If this is you? Then I have created this to help the both of us. This is for the indecisive people around here.
If there is something I waste more time on then it is making my mind up about something. Just like the earlier example. I am a pretty laid back guy and when it comes to making decisions I can sometimes waste my life away. Let’s take a look at two types of decisions we have to make each day. Depending on the facts available to you at the time.
There are two common types of decisions you will end up making in life. The first of these are the quick decisions. These are the ones that you make in the split of a second. You could make hundreds of these micro-decisions each day, sometimes without realising it.
When you make quick decisions it is out of uncertainty. You don’t know all the facts. This means you have to try and predict and visualise the outcome as there are too many unknowns. They are also under a time constraint, imposed by yourself or others. So you might not have time to gather all the facts you need to make an informed guess.
Some ‘Quick Decision’ Examples:
- What do I need to get for dinner tonight?
- I am late for my interview, should I speed to get there?
- My colleague has just gossiped behind my back, should I go challenge them?
- What way will I go to work this morning?
- Should I eat that Doughnut? I’ve been so healthy today.
The second type of decision you might be faced with is a large one. These are opposite to quick decisions. These type of decisions are complex and you have too many facts to consider. All the options have varying good and bad points and it’s not easy to see the best option.
Some ‘Large Decision’ Examples:
- What college should I go to?
- Should I accept that job proposal?
- How should we progress with our strategy?
- Where will we go on holiday this year?
It doesn’t matter if your decision is quick or large, they both have consequences. This means that even a quick decision that might seem small, could have a massive impact on your life. You might have all the facts or none at all but if you don’t make an effective decision, you could be regretting your choice.
What if you continue to stay in the job you hate? What if (in a moment of madness) you decide to break the law? And what if you can’t decide what to get for dinner?
When presented with a quick or large decision. You need is a system to help you make the best possible choice so you can make up your mind fast. And I have the perfect formula for you.
How to make effective decisions
I used to struggle to make up my mind for years. Until I came across this book…
MJ explains in his book the two processes he uses to make decisions. He has one process for decisions where you have all the facts, and others when you have none (or limited facts).
They are so easy to use and I am going to explain how you use each one.
Let’s start with the quick decisions we must make.
Quick decisions – Worse case consequence analysis (WCCA)
We base all our decisions on the facts we know about. You might run the pros and cons through your head quickly. Let’s say you are running late for a job interview and you have to decide. I am either going to be late and lose out on this job, or I am going to speed and try and get there on time. When faced with this type of decision, you need to think fast and you have very limited facts available.
So what could you do in this situation? MJ has 3 questions for you.
- What’s the worst-case consequence of this choice?
- What is the probability of this outcome?
- Is this an acceptable risk?
Look at the potential answers to these questions in the example above.
- I could crash my car and kill someone, or even myself!
- I am stressed about my interview, So it is probably quite high!
- Is that an acceptable risk? Hell no!
So I don’t do it. I could miss out on the job, but least I still have my life.
If you ever have to make a calculated guess because of limited information. You should use this formula. It will help you make the most effective and quick decision. This will always be risk based as you have no facts to rank your pros and cons against.
Next up, we are going to look at the decisions that we procrastinate on the most. Those big decisions that we could spend days thinking about.
How do we decide what college to go to? What holiday destination you want to go on?
Large decisions – The weighted average decision matrix (WADM)
This is the type of decision you will waste most of your time on. I know this as a fact as I used to spend hours in this camp. If I wanted to get a new phone I would read all the reviews and all the guides on all the best phones out there. This would take me hours and I was never any closer to deciding.
Gerd Gigerenzer, of the Max Planck Institute in Germany, explains in his book “Gut Feelings”. That less is more when it comes to making decisions. We want to know all the facts but there are only a few that are important to us. We need to understand what criteria must be met so we are ‘satisfied’ with our decision.
This is why I like about the weighted average decision matrix (WADM). Also known as Grid Analysis, Pugh Matrix Analysis, and Multi-Attribute Utility Theory. This method helps you isolate the important factors in your decision making.
Here’s how you use it:
- Write down all the factors relevant to your decision, big and small
- Rate all these factors by importance from 1-10
- Then rate each choice 1-10 for each decision factor
If we use the example of leaving your job to start a business.
|Factors||Leave job and start a business||Stay in my job|
|Finances – 4||2 (8)||7 (28)|
|Shelter (Home) – 5||5 (25)||7 (35)|
|Seeing my family and friends – 7||4 (28)||6 (42)|
|Living the life I dream of – 10||10 (100)||2 (20)|
|Health – 7||7 (49)||4 (28)|
Based on my matrix, I should leave my job and start a business, as its scored 210. When staying in my job only scored 153 points.
Take a look at a couple of my decisions:
Finances – I chose this one because I will still need money to live. How important was it to me though? This factor wasn’t important to me. I am not a materialistic person and am happy to live a very minimal life, so I only rated it a 4 for importance to me.
I then rated my finances if I left my job, I scored it a 2. This was because there is quite a lot of risk involved in leaving my job, so my finances are not guaranteed anymore. Then staying in my job I rated it a 7 because of the security of a regular income.
Living the life I dream of – This factor was about creating the life I have always wanted. The personal freedom and the potential for a higher income. This scored 10 for importance. This is linked directly to my life purpose and is very important to me.
When rating this against staying in my job, it scored a 2. I have a decent life with my job but it’s not the life I dream of. Then against leaving my job, this has potential to help me fulfil my dreams so it scored a 10.
As you can see with both of these examples, even though they are both important. This method helps you separate the most important factors. It’s clear that living the life I dream of was more important than anything else. This scored 100 points that pushed the result in favour of leaving my job.
Make your large effective decisions online with this simple calculator
If you don’t fancy drawing out a table each time you need to make a large decision. Then MJ has created a website that helps you do this for you. All you have to do is input all your factors start rating your options.
You can find it here.
We make hundreds of decisions each day. Some of these are quick and we don’t even realise we have made them, like deciding what way to drive to work. Then there are others that are large and we spend a lot of time thinking about them, like deciding what college to go to. When you become better at making effective decisions, you become more productive.
What decisions take you the most time? Comment below!
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