Top 11 Decision Strategies for Success
A study from Columbia University found that we have to make about 70 decisions per day.
Some of these decisions are minor, like what to wear, what to eat, or who to respond to first when you open your email.
Others are tough, like what school should you send your kids to, do you take the job offer across the country, or do you buy that investment home.
Big and small decisions expend a lot of your willpower. It’s called decision fatigue.
Today I’m sharing with you ten tips for how to make good decisions.
I do my best to implement as many of these methods as possible. If you look at any successful person, you’ll find some or most of these decision-making qualities…
Tip #1: Successful People Turn Small Decisions Into Routines
Dr. Travis Bradberry says, “One of the best strategies successful people use to work around their decision fatigue is to eliminate smaller decisions by turning them into routines. Doing so frees up mental resources for more complex decisions.”
The example Dr. Bradberry likes to give is Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg. “Jobs famously wore a black turtleneck to work every day. Zuckerberg still dons a hoodie. Both men have stated that these iconic images are the simple result of daily routines intended to cut down on decision fatigue.”
For me, I like to dress for success every day. That means a suit — three-piece, almost always. It tells everyone I meet that I’m on point, one to be reckoned with. But really, it’s about convincing yourself. It subtly sends messages to my own brain that I am important, I am worth it, and this day — every day — is a day worth dressing snazzy for.
Tip #2: Successful People Have a Morning Routine
Having a routine takes less pressure of deciding how to run your day.
Every single morning, I start my day with a morning power routine. For me, that means meditation.
When I go to bed, my phone goes into airplane mode. That way, I have no subconscious distractions, thinking any messages are going to come through, and I can let my brain actually shut down. I set my alarm — which still works in airplane mode — and I wake up right when it goes off. (I won’t check my phone until at least an hour after I’ve been awake. Getting into your notifications, messaging, news apps… it starts a hyperreactive loop that you don’t need to begin your day with.)
After my alarm goes off, I get up, brush my teeth, and come back to my bed to begin my meditation. I put on a mask and noise-cancelling headphones, I sit upright in my bed, and I spend 15 to 20 minutes in a meditative state.
For anyone new to transcendental meditation, it helps to start with a mantra. But I’ve been doing this for eight years now — I’ve become so good at it, I go into “no thought.”
I can meditate anywhere at any time. I find the practice wakes me, gives me energy, makes me alert, and makes me focused.
Regardless of whether I’ve slept poorly, still feel tired when my alarm goes off, whatever the issue may be, this gives me the tools I need to start my day.
Tip #3: Successful People Make Big Decisions in the AM
As bestselling author, Daniel Pink, said on Twitter: “Doctors are significantly more likely to prescribe unnecessary antibiotics in afternoon appointments than in morning appointments.”
According to Pink, the average person’s mood bottoms out approximately seven hours after waking, between 2 and 4 pm.
That’s when the incidence of on-the-job errors spikes — most notably at hospitals.
“My daughter had her wisdom teeth taken out a few months ago,” Pink says. “I said, ‘You are getting the first appointment of the day.’ ”
Tip #4: Successful People Listen to Their Emotions
“Don’t make permanent decisions based on temporary emotions.”
It can be hard to recognize when you’re emotionally charged up in a heated moment, but successful people practice managing their emotions.
Dr. Bradberry says, “Strong decision makers know that a bad mood can make them lash out or stray from their moral compass just as easily as a good mood can make them overconfident and impulsive.”
Allow your emotions to drive your desires. Listen to them to know how you feel, perform an action that allows you to release all that energy, and move forward with a clear head. Get your emotions in check before you lash out.
Tip #5: Successful People Evaluate Their Options Objectively
If you want to avoid making a bad decision, weigh your options against a predetermined set of criteria.
Not only does this take out some of the subjectivity, but it makes deciding easier.
This is one reason why HR departments and hiring managers like using unbiased grading systems like Topgrading when evaluating potential hires.
Tip #6: Successful People Sleep on Tough Decisions
If you can can sleep on a tough decision, do it.
Sleep allows your emotions to run their course. You’ll wake up feeling more mental clarity. You also get the added benefit of tip #3, proving that decisions in the AM are typically better.
Tip #7: Successful People Don’t Wait Too Long to Decide
It’s important to gather information before making life-changing decisions, but successful people put a limit on how much time they give themselves to gather said info.
Otherwise, you run the risk of analysis paralysis.
So set a deadline next time you’re gather info on a big decision and stick to it.
Tip #8: Successful People Exercise to Re-Energize
Stress produces cortisol, the fight-or-flight chemical in our bodies.
When you’re tasked with making a big decision, typically your cortisol levels spike.
Cortisol makes thinking clearly and rationally tough. When you’re struggling to make a decision or you’re feeling stressed, try exercising.
Even just 30 minutes of exercise is enough to get an endorphin kick that will bring back your mental clarity.
Tip #9: Successful People Always Go Back to Their Moral Compass
Having a moral compass or set of values you can return to whenever you’re tasked with tough decisions is key.
Without a home base to return to, you’ll feel lost and more stressed, further diminishing your ability to make good decisions.
Tip #10: Successful People Ask Other Successful People for Advice
When making decisions, it’s easy to get influenced by confirmation bias.
That’s when you choose an alternative and then gather information to support that decision, instead of gathering information and then choosing a side.
One way to beat confirmation bias is to get an outsider’s point of view. This second opinion will help you see your blind spots.
Tip #11: Successful People Reflect on Old Decisions
Mark Twain famously said, “Good decisions come from experience, but experience comes from making bad decisions.”
Successful people rarely make the same mistake twice — or at least actively try not to.
That’s not to say they don’t make mistakes at all. But successful people tend to have what’s called a growth-mindset, meaning they’re open to learning to do something different next time they’re faced with the same challenge.
In contrast, people who keep making the same mistakes, tend to have fixed-mindsets. I used to have this issue. For decades, before I left my banking career behind, I had no direction or purpose in my life. All I cared about were the material successes of life, or lofty, undefined goals. I became an alcoholic and drug addict because I couldn’t pull myself out of the mistake loop I was in.
But if I can pull myself out of the depths of failure through series and continuations of good decision-making, that means you can, too.
Keep these eleven tips in mind, as you go through life, and the next time you have to make a tough decision.
Editor, Brian Rose Uncensored