8 Steps of Effective Decision-Making

Whether you frequently struggle with indecision in daily life or have recently found yourself stuck mulling over a significant choice in your life, following these 8 steps will help you to engage in an effective decision-making process.

 

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1.  LIST ALL POSSIBLE OPTIONS

Start by brainstorming all possible options and write out a list.  Be as creative as possible while brainstorming and don’t censor your ideas.  After you have finished brainstorming, look over the list and cross out any options that you can confidently decide against at this point.  Write out a new list with the remaining options that you will continue to consider.

 

2.  SET A CLEAR TIMELINE

Determine how much time to make available for the decision-making process. Set a deadline for making a decision and set a timeline for each stage of the decision-making process.  It may help to consider the following:

  • Is there a deadline for making a decision and what are the consequences of missing this deadline?

  • How important is this decision?

  • Are there any advantages in making a quick decision?

  • Will spending more time improve the quality of the decision?

Remember that sometimes a quick decision is more important than "the best" decision, and that at other times it may be more important to take your time and make a more informed decision.

 

3.  GATHER INFORMATION

Take the time to gather necessary data for making an informed decision.  If you are on a tight timeline, identify which information will be most helpful to you and then align your information-gathering efforts with these priorities.  Be careful not to fall into the trap of continuing to gather more and more additional information, which can delay acting on the available information in order to make a decision.  Setting a clear timeline, and sticking to it, will help prevent this “analysis paralysis.”

 

 Mental Health Blog Written by Jaclyn Alper, a Psychotherapist in Philadelphia

 

4.  IF POSSIBLE, EVALUATE EVIDENCE FROM SIMILAR PAST SITUATIONS

What did you base similar decisions on in the past?  What was the outcome?  Are there any lessons that you learned from past experiences?

 

5.  CONSIDER YOUR VALUES

When faced with a decision, we often receive input from others, whether or not we solicit it.  While it can be helpful to hear different perspectives, this is sometimes a barrier to effective decision-making.  The opinions of others may lead to confusion due to conflicting information, or feelings of guilt due to a sense of obligation to follow the advice of close family or friends.  It is important to remember that everyone has their own views, and their own values.  At the end of the day, you are most likely to be satisfied with your decision if you base it on your own values.

 

6.  WEIGH THE PROS AND CONS

Use a structured decision-making process by writing out the pros and cons of each option you are still considering.  Be as specific and thorough as possible.  This not only helps to organize our thinking, but is also a helpful strategy to counter emotional reasoning.  Effective decision-making involves rational thought and logic while also taking emotions into account, rather than reacting to emotional impulses or logic alone.

 

7.  MAKE THE DECISION

Having followed this process, it is time to make a decision.  Remember that deciding not to decide, or to put off a decision, is also a decision. 

 

8.  HAVING MADE THE DECISION...

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, once you have made a decision, don’t waste your time thinking about ‘what ifs’. If something does go wrong, and you need to revisit the decision, then do. But otherwise, accept the decision and move on.