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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14 Replies to “Decisions, Decisions, Decisions – Part 1”

  1. Kari,
    Thanks for pulling this all together. Great ideas. Loren Pinilis' comment made me go a different direction and think that sometimes if you are not forced to make a decision then don't. I have noticed when I do this at work at times it works itself all out without any input of making a decision. Sometimes people will want a decision from me so they could quit worrying about it or not having to let it be undone. At times I will not render a decision if I do not think it will add to the item in question and just wait and see what plays out. Often the question of a decision being needed becomes mute. I think sometimes when we worry about items we want a decision made so we can feel that it is dealt with instead of asking ourselves why are we worrying.

    1. My husband is great at not making a decision until he has to make one. Often, the decision is made for us when we wait. God has a way of working things out IF WE JUST LET HIM. You made an excellent point about getting at the root cause of our indecision & worry. So often, I think we do make a decision too quickly and stop the process of dealing with issues as a result. Oh my, this could get at some deep stuff, especially if we start to question how many times we've avoided things.

      1. Kari,
        It can be tough on us to wait. Not acting is hard sometimes especially when we think we must take action to force someone else to take action such as in discipline. Waiting to see if they can get to the right place by themselves is hard and is very difficult to not make a decision to act. You are right Kari; I think sometimes we make a decision so we can tell ourselves "take that, we dealt with it, hear me roar!"

        1. I definitely will make a decision to exhibit control, especially over my kids, and I need to stop doing that. Patience is a huge part of making decisions, and I think that's where wisdom comes in too. Gets at the idea of "waiting on the Lord," which is another area to deliberately work at. Always something more to work on… that's why we are always being perfected.

    2. This is so true. I used to run a large homeschool co-op with a friend of mine. Whenever someone called with a problem, I jumped on it right away and stepped in to solve it. My friend waited a day or two to call the person back and by that time the person had usually solved it by herself. My life would have been easier if i'd followed my friend's approach!

      1. We are so good at making our lives more difficult than they need to be. We forget that often, our job is simply to let God do His job. I am trying very hard to remember that, especially with my boys. Okay, so trying isn't doing… I'm going to do this!

  2. Great post, Kari. I'll be coming back to this one a few times to get everything I can out of it. This is definitely an area of my life that trips me up! I really like your idea of systemizing when possible. I'll have to try that one.

    1. Thanks Barb. I was overwhelmed by the amount of tips that were in the comments too. Lots of wise people out there! Let me know how the systemizing works if you think about it.

  3. Wow, thanks for the shout-out!
    I especially like your point about letting other people make their own decisions. I know, with my personality, that will be a struggle for me as my boys age.

    1. My pleasure! I'm am working on that point with my yougest son right now. Not working too well yet, but maybe it will if I give it more time. Perhaps I've trained him to not make his own decisions. Ouch!

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