How to Make Better Decisions – Starting Now

 Illustration showing the thought process when making better decisions


Brain fog, analysis paralysis... The effects of information overload are real. But there are ways you can avoid having your brain curl up into a noodle because it has too much to deal with.


Is there a science to decision-making? Should you simply try to strike a balance between detailed comparisons and gut instinct? Or can you actually fill a sort of mental toolbox with tools to help you cut through information and arrive at better decisions?


Know thyself


Award-winning life coach, TEDx speaker and author Paula Quinsee, who has helped many individuals and teams to thrive in their professional decision-making, says consumers are bombarded with information these days. Knowing what is useful and what you can just tune out is tough, especially at work. So it pays to sharpen that inner voice or intuition.


Knowing how to go about making decisions is key. "Ask yourself whether you're a big-picture person or a detail-focused person," she says. And consider how your strengths could work against you when making a big decision. Quinsee suggests that the detail-focused could get stuck in a kind of "analysis paralysis", in which they question and doubt themselves, because their main strength is excellent attention to detail. Instead of making a mistake, they will research their topic ad nauseum so that they don't miss a thing.


This in turn leads to a situation called "information overload", or brain fog, where the amount of input they've assimilated on a topic exceeds their brain's processing capacity at the time. A reduction in decision-making quality is often the result, where they're simply not able to see the wood for the trees.


Big-picture individuals, on the other hand, may be able to make better decisions in a shorter space of time due to their inherent ability to step back and survey a situation in its entirety. It's a bit like looking at a maze from above, where it's impossible to miss the way out. However, the risk is that they could miss important details in the process.


Observing which of these types of decision-makers you tend to be could go a long way towards helping you figure out how to tackle decision-making situations – without losing the plot.



Down with data bombardment


There are also tons of ways to improve your decision-making game at work.


A Harvard Business Review article by Paul Hemp titled "Death by Information Overload" suggests taking a look at tools like TheBrain, digital memory software that visually saves and categorises related pieces of information; or Twine, a bookmarking tool that channels content with topics of interest to you. Then there's the Priorities app, which delays email alerts when you don't want to be interrupted. Essentially, these tools promise respite during that critical time of angst when you're mentally weighing up a product, service or idea against another.


Quinsee also advises using online communities built around specific topics or inquiries, often with Facebook or LinkedIn Groups as the gathering point, to tune out what you don't need and allowing you, instead, to zone in on what you do need. Or try collaboration software tool Slack for its powerful ability to keep all aspects of your communication on a project in one dedicated place rather than scattered randomly across notebooks, Post-Its and WhatsApp voice notes.


"What we don't realise is that information overload is often the result of multitasking, which causes our brains to use up fuel so rapidly that we can feel both exhausted and disoriented early on in the day. In fact, scientists have found that it is better to tackle one task or decision at a time thereby reducing the brain's need for glucose and helping us to think more clearly for longer," Quinsee says.



More an art than a science


If you find yourself at the higher end of decision-making at work and your calls are the ones that can make or break businesses and careers, an executive coach can be a huge help.


Executive coaches are probably the "human version" of an online shopping comparison tool. Faced with big, complicated decisions, you can consult your coach to assist you in breaking a decision down into bite-sized chunks so that you can ultimately feel at ease about its outcome.


And they will help you see that even big decisions are not cast in stone. Making an investment in your personal mastery and emotional intelligence can prevent those aspects of ourselves that we generally consider strengths from tripping us up when it comes to decision-making.


"There's always an element of risk in making a big decision," advises Quinsee. "But, over time you will learn to trust yourself, believe in yourself, notice potential red flags and listen to your intuition if something doesn't feel right."


Speaking of online comparison tools...


Within our global culture of comparison, thriving companies are those that provide potential customers with all the data they need – in the form of a chart or tool – to make it easier to make fast, but good decisions. Such online comparison tools can reveal, for example, whether a higher-priced product or service is truly better value based on its main features without downloading data on you like a ton of bricks.


It's all about recognising what kind of decision-maker you are, learning how to make the best possible decisions within the workplace and remembering that when it comes to important lifestyle choices, there are a range of value-adding online comparison tools out there to help you up your game in your purchasing decisions, too.


Perhaps decision-making is not such a science after all, but rather a learned process that can become an art over time if you know to lay the various options alongside each other and tap into that little voice inside.


Read more:

Paula Quinsee
Death by Information Overload
Information Overload: Why it Matters and How to Combat it
5 Steps to Good Decision Making
Why the Modern World Is Bad for Your Brain


This article is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as financial, legal or medical advice.

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