Life presents us many opportunities to make poor decisions.
To make things worse: In business, you often need to decide FAST. At least, that’s what they say, right?
So how do you make smart decisions?
And how do you do it quickly?
Do you ever feel indecisive?
Even about the small stuff, like which shampoo to buy?
Then it’s time to learn how to make smart decisions… quickly.
It’s Saturday morning.
You just woke up, your significant other by your side. It’s a beautiful day. The sun is shining through the curtains. A new day, full of amazing opportunities!
You don’t have any plans for the day. So, you’re not sure what to do.
“Should we go to the park?”
“Or we could go to the mall.”
“Should we go get brunch first?”
Hmm… what to do?
So you scroll through your phone for a bit. Or about 2 hours. Before you know it, it’s noon… and you still haven’t decided what to do for the day.
Now you’re starting to feel guilty. Why? Because it feels like you’re about to waste a perfectly good day.
But now imagine this…
You wake up and DECIDE to have lazy Saturday. You take it slow. You watch a show in bed. Make some breakfast. Get lunch when you get hungry.
It would feel very different, right?
No, “Ah man I wish it wasn’t so late already…”
Instead, you simply enjoy doing nothing for a change.
Do you see the difference?
When you DECIDE to do nothing, you can enjoy a lazy Saturday. If you don’t decide, you feel guilty because you “wasted” a day.
Now, obviously, this is a small decision. It’s pretty inconsequential. But when you can’t decide on the small stuff, you often can’t decide on the “big stuff” either.
Big decisions like…
- “Should I go to college?”
- “Should I get married now or later?”
- “What career should I pursue?”
- “Should I quit my job?”
- “Should I move?”
And what happens when you’re indecisive? You put off important decisions. You collect more and more and more information… but you still never decide.
This is exactly how being indecisive makes us unhappy.
Why NO Decision Is the WORST Decision
Here’s the thing:
No decision is a decision, too.
Often, it’s the WORST decision you can make.
Opportunities will pass you by. Eventually, others will just decide FOR you – kind of sucks. I don’t know about you, but I like the idea of making my own decisions.
Being indecisive just screws everything up. No, really…
New research from the University of Toronto looked at how decision making impacts the quality of life.
Now, the study focused on people with OCD. But what they found was very interesting..
The OCD factor was completely irrelevant. Indecisiveness can predict your quality of life even if you have no other OCD symptoms at all.
The conclusion of the researchers? Indecisiveness is an important factor that determines your quality of life.
The more trouble you have making decisions, the unhappier you’re likely to be. So, learning how to make smart decisions quickly… is a smart decision!
In fact, it’s a fundamental life skill. Because, well, life is all about making decisions. Big and small.
But WHY is it so hard to decide?
Why We Can’t Decide (and What You Can Do About It)
Everyone makes thousands of decisions every day. Some decisions are “no-brainers.” So much so, that we’re not even aware that we make them.
On the other hand:
The important decisions are the ones that don’t just affect you – they affect the people around you, too.
The most difficult decisions have consequences far into the future. There are so many “ifs,” “buts,” and “maybes” to consider that it makes your head spin. The most important decisions are often the most complex. That’s why they’re so tough.
Plus, big decisions often feel irreversible. This only puts more pressure on you to make the RIGHT decision.
That’s when we agonize over the best course of action for hours, weeks… years.
Does this sound familiar?
Well, you’re not the only one.
Most people are not as decisive as they probably should be. This is a well-known psychological phenomenon known as Status Quo Bias.
William Samuelson from the University of Boston and Richard Zeckhauser from Stanford University discovered it back in the 1980s.
They realized that most real-life decisions have a “status quo” option. Meaning, one way to deal with it is… to do nothing.
A series of experiments then revealed that most people actually PREFER that option.
The question is why?
Well, it’s because we’re afraid of what happens AFTER we decide.
Specifically, we’re afraid we’ll make the wrong decision… and everything will go to sh*ts.
Let me give you an example:
You dream of starting your own business. So you think about quitting your job. Ideally it will mean more money AND you get to do something you love. Of course, there’s a chance your business won’t take off right away…
In fact, it might take much longer to grow than you anticipate. And that’s your biggest fear. You worry that it will NEVER take off.
Now, the smart decision here, would be to keep your job and start building your business on the side. Then you can build it to the point where quitting your job is no longer scary…
But the point is:
Big decisions are scary because we fear that we’ll make the WRONG decision that will make things worse… and that life will never get better after that.
This isn’t true, of course.
A study published in the Journal of Personality and Individual Differences found that people who are indecisive, generally OVERESTIMATE the threat of new situations.
So what can you do?
How do you make decisions without constantly second-guessing yourself?
I mean, it’s one thing to think carefully about the big stuff…
…but if you find yourself standing in cereal aisle for 20 minutes and you can’t decide which cornflakes to buy…
…it’s time you learn how to decide.
Trust me, life’s a whole lot easier that way!
The Big Shift: Stop Trying to Make the “Right” Decision
I showed you how simply MAKING a decision, makes life more enjoyable. But there are more benefits to being more decisive.
Here are just a few, nice “side effects:”
- When you decide, you REMOVE UNCERTAINTY – now you know what you need to do next.
- When you make a decision, you SAVE TIME because you finally stop overanalyzing.
- When you decide, you REDUCE STRESS, because you’ve got fewer things to worry about.
Look, I get it.
We don’t want to make mistakes. We don’t want to look stupid. We want to make smart choices!
That’s why people try SO hard to make the right decision. That’s why we overemphasize that one moment of choice…
…but when all you think about is making the “right” decision, you lose sight of something much more important:
What do you do AFTER you decide?
This is the big shift that will help you be more decisive.
Let’s say you need to pick a name for a product. This is the type of decision people spend a lot of time on. You create a long list of names. You go back and forth. You just can’t decide.
“What if I pick the wrong name?! OMG I’ll never be able to sell it.”
But let’s step back for a minute.
What determines the success of your product?
Well, lots of things:
- Does it solve a real problem for your customers?
- Does it actually work?
- How are you going to promote it?
- Do you have a persuasive sales message?
- How irresistible is your offer?
So, sure – the name is a factor. But it’s just ONE factor.
What you actually do to promote and sell your product matters 10x more than whether you pick the perfect name. I know this first hand…
I named my product for creating sales funnels Yes Engines – and nobody understood the meaning. LOL. So yeah, I picked the wrong name. But the product is still amazing – and profitable.
So why get hung up over the decision to choose a name?
Instead, you should shift your focus:
What are you going to do to MAKE it a success?
Picking a name is just an example. But this is true for pretty much any decision:
Decisions are not endpoints. They’re STARTING POINTS.
In other words, there are always more decisions to come. So, rather than trying to make the one right decision…
…focus on what you can do afterward to make your decision right.
Everyone makes bad decisions every now and then. It’s bound to happen. When it happens to you, there’s only one thing you can do: focus on how you can make the outcome better.
What I’ve found is that indecisiveness is often a sign that, for some reason, you don’t believe you’ll be able to make it work.
So, as woo-woo as it sounds, indecisiveness is a problem of limiting beliefs. When you have the confidence that you can make it work, you stop stressing over every little decision.
Once you realize this, you can stop racking your brain. Many decisions are too complex to analyze anyway. And heck, even when you make the “right” decision, it’s no guarantee you get the perfect outcome.
Sure, draw up a decision-matrix. But if it’s a close call, you might as well roll the dice. Or just listen to your gut.
I always keep this in mind. It’s my #1 tip for being more decisive.
With that said…
Here are a 7 more rules I try to follow to make smart decisions quickly.
7 (More) Simple Rules That Will Help You Make Better Decisions
At the end of the day, making smart decisions is about being objective.
As objective as we can be, anyway. We all make emotional decisions and then rationalize after the fact. At least to some degree.
But ideally, we want to minimize the need for that. So here go 7 more rules for better decisions:
Rule #1: “I can’t decide.” VS. “I don’t care”
There’s a difference between indecision and indifference.
If you just don’t care about something, it’s okay to NOT make a decision. Don’t use your brain power for stuff that doesn’t matter to you.
So, if I can honestly say, “I don’t care about this decision” then I don’t bother with it.
Decision fatigue is a real thing. So I don’t like to use my brainpower for stuff I’m indifferent about.
Rule #2: If it’s a big decision, sleep on it.
There’s varying research on this. But in my experience, “sleeping on it” helps me be more confident in my decisions.
Clearly, I don’t suggest you put off important decisions forever (see Rule #3). But when it’s a big decision, and you’re torn… that’s when it’s best do give it a good night’s sleep.
Rule #3: When you can’t decide, set a deadline
And when you still can’t decide the next morning, put a deadline on it.
Especially, when you’re indecisive by nature, you’ll often find yourself putting off important decisions indefinitely.
Set a deadline and decide.
Rule #4: At the moment you decide, be aware of your emotions
I try to avoid emotional decisions.
Why? A recent Harvard study showed that when you detach from your emotions, you’ll generally make better decisions.
So, however you’re feeling in the moment, take into account how this might affect your decision. The first step is being aware of your emotional state.
Are you angry? Are you sad? Are you euphoric? Make sure your decision isn’t based solely on how you’re feeling in the moment.
This works even when you’re feeling indecisive. Ask yourself whether your hesitation is due to…
- Justified fear (because you’re not well prepared or missing crucial information, etc.)
- Unfounded anxiety (because you just FEEL worried)
If it turns out you’re really not ready to decide, get the information you need. If your anxiety is unfounded, go ahead and make a decision already.
Rule #5: What’s the worst that could happen… realistically?
In tournament poker, there’s a concept that players use called “Risk of Ruin.”
Basically what it means is: What’s the chance this play could eliminate me from the tournament? The worst case scenario, so to speak.
Whenever I’m making a decision, I take a moment to think about this. What’s the worst thing that could happen?
If I know I won’t be devastated, even with the worst outcome, I don’t stress about the decision nearly as much.
Rule #6: Don’t sweat the small stuff
A good friend used to tell me:
“Don’t sweat the small stuff. Oh and: It’s all small stuff.”
This always rings true. Most decisions that are keeping you up at night aren’t that consequential. And seriously, the really small stuff – like which toilet paper to buy – why are you even stressing out about it?
Ideally, you want to turn small decisions into ROUTINES.
For example, I always wear the same black v-neck t-shirt. Okay, sometimes I wear a bulletproof vest to go to the library.
Rule #7: Does it pass the 10-10-10 test?
The final rule I want to share is one I learned from Suzy Welch:
It’s simple but powerful.
Whenever you’re faced with a decision, ask yourself three questions.
- “How will I feel about this decision in 10 minutes?”
- “How will I feel about this decision in 10 months?”
- “How will I feel about this decision in 10 years?”
This will quickly clear up your confusion.
What I love about the 10-10-10 rule is that it will help you make sure that all your decisions are in-line with your, values, principles, and big goals.
How to Practice Being More Decisive, Starting Today
Being more decisive is a habit.
And like anything else, building a habit takes practice.
I suggest you practice on the SMALL stuff. You know, like all those cleaning solutions that recommend you try them on a small, hidden area first.
Practice making quick decisions at the grocery store.
Then make quicker decisions in other areas of life.
You’ll practice your decision-muscle. Soon, you’ll stop second-guessing yourself about every little thing.
Finally, always remember:
It’s better when you decide.
P.S. Do you know someone who’s indecisive? If you think this will help them, please share it. Thanks!