Decision Making

There is not a day that goes past that we don’t make a decision of some kind. Many of our decisions are trivial. Decisions like shall I hit the snooze button on the alarm or shall I get up or what shall I have for lunch.

However, making good decisions about important subjects is an essential skill that will reduce stress, avoid procrastination and help you get things done.

Good decision making is a skill. A skill that some are better at than others. 

Just because someone can make a good decision quickly doesn’t mean that they are a genius. They are using a process which allows them to quickly make the right decision and a process that fortunately can be learned.

I came across a decision-making process by Dr Pam Brown which presents 7 practical elements to making a good decision quickly and confidently.

The 7 Elements are:

1.    Outline the goal and outcome

2.    Gather data to support the decision-making process

3.    Develop alternatives

4.    List the pros and cons of each alternative

5.    Make the decision

6.    Immediately take action to implement it

7.    Learn from and reflect on the decision making

Let’s explore each of these a little

Outline the goal and outcome

Don’t try and make decisions on the hoof. It is important to outline what you are trying to achieve from this decision and before making any decision we need to outline what we are trying to achieve and what the likely outcome will be. Get clear on exactly what it is you are trying to achieve and what is the most likely outcome of this decision. The more clarity you can add to your goal and outcome at this point the better your choice will be at the end of the process.

Gather data to support the decision-making process

To make a good decision, you must gather data which allows you to make a good decision. Gathering data preferably from more than one information source will let you to make good choices and to speed up the decision-making process. We all now have the most fantastic tool available for gathering information, the internet. Be careful though when gathering data that you don’t get paralysed by analysis. Gather relevant data and collect enough data to aid the decision-making process.

Develop Alternatives

Making good decisions seldom happens if you only consider one option. Utilising your goal, outcome and the data you have gathered, list the alternatives that spring to mind immediately. Explore these a little further and determine whether any other options are appropriate. When you have a list of possible alternatives, then narrow your decision-making process down to a manageable number of alternatives. There is no definitive number of alternatives that you should consider but narrowing your search to 3 good options will allow you to get to a decision quicker and with more confidence.

List the Pros and Cons of Each 

Now that you have a manageable number of alternatives you can start to list the pros and cons of each. A simple way to do this is to take a sheet of paper divide it down the middle, one sheet for each option and list as many pros and cons as you can think of for each. Doing so will assist you in the next part of the process as you can lay each piece of paper beside the other and quickly review the pros and cons of each.

Make the Decision

Now you have the alternatives and a list of the pros and cons you need to evaluate each and decide which option most closely meets your goal and desired outcome. It is possible that each alternative goes some way to achieving your goal and desired outcome and this is where your list of pros and cons comes into its own as it will allow you to objectively make an informed decision knowing not only the good points of the decision but also the likely downsides. Your tolerance to risk will also play a factor in this part of the process. If you have a high tolerance for risk, you may select an option which has the biggest pro but also the most significant risk. An alternative with high risk may still be the best alternative for you. This part of the process allows you to make an informed decision.

Immediately Take Action to Implement It

Once you have decided which alternative best meets your goal and desired outcome, then you need to take action immediately to implement your decision. Taking action immediately helps you to avoid procrastination and from going through a constant process of analysis of the options or going back to earlier points of the process of gathering more information. Taking action is an essential part of the decision-making process and when action is taken the decision is reinforced in your mind and helps remove doubt.

Learn and Reflect on the Decision Making

Not every decision you make will turn out exactly as you thought it would. There is risk in making decisions, but there is also learning. Evaluate the outcome of each decision against your original goal and review what worked well, what didn’t work so well and let this feedback assist you in making future decisions. The more decisions you make, the more feedback and learning you have to make even better decisions in future.

If you struggle to make decisions utilising the process above will assist you in making good decisions with confidence.