Whether you’re a New Year's resolution maker, breaker or avoider, there’s one thing we can all agree on: Making good decisions is a challenge we all face. As more and more business is done online, and as we continue to rely on a constantly changing stream of information, every single one of us can benefit from taking a step back to review the ways in which we make important decisions and then striving to use better practices that result in smarter decisions.
Let’s look at four surefire ways you can improve your decision-making skills in the new year:
1. Stop Using An Either/Or Mentality
Getting stuck in the binary rut of "I must do this or that" can blind you to a host of alternatives—options that might be better than what's on the table in front of you. This is particularly true when you’re facing a tough decision and neither of the options you see is appealing. In this case, it can be extremely beneficial to force yourself to develop and consider more courses of action.
Try creating some alternative approaches and then thinking them through. Push yourself beyond the easy, obvious solutions to your problem, and use your available resources to help you evaluate these new options. Invite input from your staff as well; you may find that solutions will come from unexpected sources. You’ve hired bright people to be a part of your team, so use them! Having more options can definitely help you make better decisions.
2. Employ The 10-10-10 Strategy
Credit here goes to Suze Orman for this brilliant technique that helps you evaluate your decisions more effectively. Here’s how it works: Think about the effects of your decision in 10 hours, 10 months and 10 years. We tend to put a disproportionate amount of weight on the short-term effects of our decisions, and this strategy helps us evaluate the long-term ramifications as well.
It may be that you’ll feel stress or anxiety about a decision in the short term, but in 10 months or 10 years, that decision may end up yielding profoundly positive results. Force yourself to think about the long haul rather than the immediate, often fleeting emotional effects of your decisions, and you'll find things may just fall into place.
3. Use Microtesting
Once you’ve made your decision, explore all the ways that you can test its soundness. Think about all the things that can go wrong, and see if you can make it happen fast. It sounds counterintuitive, but pushing yourself to see the weaknesses in your decision can ultimately help you find the way to make the decision work for you.
Don’t congratulate yourself prematurely for having made a choice, however; rather, you should make your decision and then immediately start working on anticipating the potential problems. Practicing your responses to crises will help you perform better under pressure and equip you with a game plan for the inevitable times when things go wrong. You can plan for success by anticipating failure.
4. Implement A Stop Loss
We all hate to be wrong, and that can end up costing us big time. It’s simply human nature to make a decision and feel compelled to see it through to the bitter end, but it’s important to learn how to mitigate your losses when a decision turns out badly. A stop loss is key: You pick a threshold that triggers a change of plans and then stick to it. Whether it’s a period of time, or a success marker that must be met in order to continue, or even a dollar figure that caps the amount of money you’re willing to lose, implementing a stop loss forces you to act based on a concrete result rather than on emotion.
Improving your decision-making skills can be the single most rewarding exercise you take on for the new year, and it can have a bigger impact than you realize. We are distinguished from our peers by the actions we take, and taking the time and making the effort to improve the ways in which we evaluate options and consequences, anticipate problems, and assess the decisions we've made will help us start off 2014 primed for success.
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