5 TACTICS TO IMPROVE YOUR DECISION EFFECTIVENESS
Decisions, decisions, decisions. If you feel overwhelmed by the number of decisions you need to make on any given day, you’re not alone. According to a study by Cornell University, the average adult makes 35,000 decisions each day, including 226 on food alone! If you want to increase your productivity; to get more done with less effort, then increasing your decision effectiveness is essential. This could mean making better decisions, fewer decisions, or both. In this blog, I share my five favorite tactics to do just that.
1. Trade decisions for habits
For most of us, brushing our teeth is not a decision, it’s a habit. It stands to reason then, that the more decisions you can turn into habits, the more productive you will be. If you’re ever going to simplify your work wardrobe, now’s the time. Perhaps you can narrow down to two or three options for breakfast and lunch; we waste enormous amounts of time thinking about what to eat, only to end up eating the same things anyway. If you want to exercise first thing in the day, leave your shoes near the bed and step into them as soon as you wake up. That, way you don’t have to negotiate with yourself every morning.
What recurring decisions could you turn into habits right now?
2. Make one decision to eliminate 100 more
The father of modern management, Peter Drucker, once said; “Don’t make a hundred decisions when one will do.”
An executive I know used to sign off every international travel request in his business unit; some 250 separate decisions a year, simply because that was the policy he inherited from his predecessor. After discussing this tactic with him, he delegated authority for these decisions – within clear boundaries – to those managers actually undertaking the travel. In effect, he made one decision to eliminate 250 more. His decision actually led to a decrease in travel expenditure because managers felt more accountability, and he got back dozens of hours to spend on decisions much more deserving of his attention.
Think about the decisions that consume your time and attention for very little return; what one decision could you make right now to eliminate 100 more?
3. Engage in favorable risk-reward decisions
Lots of our productivity is lost by engaging in decisions that are high risk, but relatively low reward. Recently, I was speaking with an executive who was complaining about the dozens of hours she had wasted trying to mediate a conflict between two colleagues. Not only had she made no progress, but both colleagues were now upset with her! As we spoke about it, it became very obvious that she should never have gotten involved in the first place. Her colleagues were not really open to a shared solution or taking any kind of personal responsibility; they were trying to win a battle and she got caught in the crossfire. She agreed that, in retrospect, even a cursory assessment of risk-reward would have led her to a very different decision.
How could you engage in more favorable risk-reward decisions?
4. Make reversible or low stakes decisions quickly
Many of us spend the same amount of time agonizing over reversible or low stakes decisions, as we do with decisions that are much more significant, particularly if we work in a culture with perfectionistic tendencies. Next time you’re faced with a decision, do a simple calculation in your head; can you turn the situation around quickly, without any lasting damage, if the decision proves to be suboptimal? If the answer is yes, get on with it and save the serious deliberations for decisions that have much higher stakes.
What low stakes decisions currently consume too much of your time?
5. Pay attention to your intuition
This last tactic may sound a little bit esoteric, but many leaders I’ve worked with find it a really useful complement to the more logical tactics above, as do I. Technically speaking, intuition is the ability to ‘know’ something without analytical reasoning. From a scientific point of view, what we call intuition likely happens through the brain’s hippocampus and through our digestive system; hence the term ‘gut feeling’. To apply this tactic, simply check in with your head and stomach as you deliberate over your next big decision. Ask yourself, “how do I feel about this course of action? Is it a good use of my time and energy?” Then pay attention to whether you’re getting any signals in your body; that may be your intuition talking.
To increase your productivity, you need to increase your decision effectiveness; either by making better or fewer decisions. I hope this blog will help you to do both.
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