Decisions, Decisions, Decisions – Part 1

In last week’s post, Multiple Choice Gone Mad, the topic of being inundated with choices was addressed. The questions posed were: “How can we reduce the number of decisions we make daily? Is this even humanly possible? What tips do you have for making this happen?”

The discussion produced a variety of tips and perspectives related to decision making. In addition, a couple of posts from blogs I read regularly added another dimension to approaching decision making. The tips below and in next week’s Friday post come from these sources. Some of the points overlap, but all provide solid ideas worth consideration, especially if overwhelmed, busy and stressed commonly describe your life.

  1. Don’t waste decisions on the trivial. Eliminating possibilities and options where possible is good advice suggested by Mel Corbett. For example, a year ago I underwent a simplification process that involved reducing my wardrobe (I only wore about 20% of it anyway). Because I have less to choose from, my time is not spent on what I consider a trivial decision. I realize this example does not fit everyone, but everyone has some way to minimize trivial decisions.
  2. Optimize decision making. Because this is a new way of thinking for me, I’ll let Mel Corbett’s words explain this point. Mel said, “Optimizers make a decision based on minimum requirements and a maximizers compare all the options to find the best. It’s harder to choose the best vs. which one meets your basic needs. The optimizer’s decision is less complex than the maximizers, leaving her more decision making ability than the maximizer.”
  3. Let others make their own decisions. As a mom, this point goes to the heart. I try to help my boys make good decisions and all too often end up doing their thinking for them. Instead, I need to do what Mark Allman recommends, which is to “not take or accept making decisions for other people. Part of their growth is making decisions, so don’t do it for them or let them push it to you.”
  4. Get help when appropriate. Many of our decisions fall into areas about which we know very little to nothing. When this happen, leaning on an expert is a good idea. Whether choosing a new cell phone or buying a vehicle, consult the ones who have been there. This can mean finding a trustworthy salesman (they do exist), or it can mean reading user reviews online. There are a variety of ways to receive experienced advice to help make decisions.
  5. Schedule decision making. As noted in Multiple Choice Gone Mad, the more decisions we make in a day, the more run down we can get, and the less able we become to make good decisions. Be aware of when you are mentally at your best, and try to make big decisions at that time.
  6. Simplify. Simplifying is a very personal and individualized process. What one person considers simple, another may consider overwhelming. Whatever “simplify” means for you, pursue it. There are a variety of resources under Simplify in the Victory! section of Struggle to Victory to aid you in this pursuit.
  7. Prioritize. Loren Pinilis posted a terrific article that clarifies this point nicely. In Why Covey’s Big Rocks Illustration Is Wrong , Loren explains that sometimes the best decision means choosing not to cram yet another “pebble” into your “bucket.” Kelly Combs in Choose Well also emphasizes prioritizing decisions and even takes the point to another level by discussing temporal versus eternal decisions. Making the eternal decisions first shapes all else in our lives.
  8. Create margin. This begins with learning to say “no.” Over-commitment plagues our society like a disease, and people live stressed and overwhelmed as a result. Create margin by choosing to let space exist. Dr. Richard Swenson has several books on this topic, including Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives. Swenson’s books provide a plethora of tips and ideas for creating margin.
  9. Systemize where possible. This point speaks toward habits. Find decisions that can be done almost automatically. For example, I have 5 social networks I follow, and I have a system for checking them regularly. Because socializing is not my area of strength, I must deliberately follow a system for doing so. This helps reduce my decisions in that I don’t have to fight with myself to complete them; I simply follow the system I have in place.
  10. Group decisions to avoid needless repetition. What decisions do you make over and over again that could be grouped together and made at once? Choose on Sunday evening what you will wear for the week. Cook a week’s worth of meals every Saturday. I group decisions with meal planning by scheduling meals for a month at a time. Making similar decisions at once can help keep the “What’s for dinner tonight?” type of frustration from hitting you day after day.

Look for additional suggestions next Friday in Part 2. While this week’s tips get at practical “how to” ways of making better and possibly fewer decisions, next week’s list goes deeper into methods and reasons behind the decisions we make.

DISCUSSION: What tips will you begin to immediately incorporate? What additional advice do you have for applying any of the above tips?

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