Try These Tips To Make Tackling Tough Decisions Easier And More Strategic

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May 17 2024, Published 8:10 a.m. ET

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Every day, women make decisions, big and small, and some millennials’ increasing dislike of stressful decisions is no secret. The American Psychological Association evaluated post-pandemic decision making, revealing that 46% of millennial respondents have found making daily decisions “more stressful.”

Decision fatigue describes the reduction in cognitive ability to make decisions, as a consequence of making so many. Psychiatrist Lisa McLean MD told the American Medical Association, “by the time the average person goes to bed, they’ve made over 35,000 decisions and all of those decisions take time and energy, and certainly can deplete us.” With so many daily decisions, the associated physical and mental tiredness may come as no surprise.

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Nell Wulfhart, a decision coach, notes there are two categories of decision makers: the “chronically indecisive” people who struggle with every minor decision, or the generally good decision makers who still find themselves stuck. Wulfhart adds that you don’t have to be fearless, but notes that fear of regret channels the fear associated with the decision-making process. “They’re so afraid of making the wrong decision that they don’t make any decision.”

Is there a way to make these decisions easier? Wulfhart set some key tips to simplify decisions and approach them head on:

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1. Minimize time.

“It’s more likely you’re spending too much time making a decision than not enough time,” Wulfhart says. Cutting decision making time is a change that can be implemented immediately, increasing quality of life, mental energy and time. Wulfurt notes that “for all small and most medium decisions, the length of time you spend trying to make the decision, has no correlation to the result.” Instead, using that time to implement the decision is a more worthy cause.

“You can spend six months deciding whether or not to start a side hustle, or you could just start the side hustle… the amount of time you spend making the decision, that time is gone forever.”

Consider whether short-term decisions can be made on the same day, or within minutes. For bigger decisions, choose the length of time you think you need to make that decision, then challenge yourself to halve it. “If it doesn’t impact you in a month from now, you should not spend a lot of time making it.”

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2. Lay out all the options.

Many people fail to recognize that there are actually more than two choices you can make. Wulfhart describes the importance in analyzing all possible options, even the less conventional or that you may not have previously considered.

There are also red flag phrases to catch. If you think you “could” make something work or “live with it”, Wulfhart says they are examples of “trying to talk yourself into something (and) probably not what you should be doing or what you want to do.”

3. Separate the decision from outcome.

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“We can control the decision but we cannot control the entire outcome,” Wulfhart stresses. We will always strive within our power to make the outcome successful, but acknowledging a lack of control can take a lot of associated fear out of the process. Aspects including the day-to-day reality of a new job or moving cities, are factors you are unable to understand the impact of, until the decision has already been made. 

“It can be helpful when you’re making a decision to remind yourself that you made the best decision you can at the time, with the information that you have and then the outcome is something separate from the decision.”

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4. Cut back on overthinking and prioritize taking action.

Time disrupts effective decision making, but also, lack of action. Where decisions are overly researched, people are more concerned by planning a corresponding action correctly, instead of ensuring that action takes place. Separate your mind and body with less thinking and more doing Wulfhart suggests, “Take action first and worry about the confidence part later.”

“If you feel confident in the decision you make at the time and work hard at the outcome, after that it is out of your hands. If a decision does not work out, it is not a reflection of you.”

5. Consider your values and where you want to be

Some people benefit from making future and value focused decisions. Where outcomes may be uncontrollable, you can still make decisions based on long-term personal or professional goals. Wulfhart encourages clients to map out their dream life, which can therefore inspire big decisions to plant the seeds of progress towards these goals, instead of making lateral moves. “Make decisions that are going to take you to the place you want to be, rather than decisions that feel good for now”. Then work hard at the decision you make, to make these outcomes a success

One final piece of advice from Wulfhart: “Most of the time, the thing that you want to do, is also the thing that you should do.”

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By: Emily Wilson

Emily Wilson is an Australian Freelance Writer, Producer and Non-Profit Director based in London, UK

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