I’ve been consuming a lot of content about decision-making lately. From the newsletters I read to the podcasts I listen to, people are talking about the difficulty of making decisions in increasingly uncertain times.

I’m no expert decision-maker. I agonize over some decisions all the time (hey, I was raised by a Libra). But I’ve been thinking about some tools that I can employ next time I’m faced with a difficult or overwhelming decision.

Here’s what I came up with:

Flip a coin: This is probably my favorite decision-making technique when I’m torn between two things. Even pretending that I flipped a coin usually reveals which option I really want. Just the other night, I was trying to decide from which of two very different restaurants I was going to order dinner. I was about to click “Order” on one when I realized that I really wanted the other one. If the coin flip trick reveals that you would be equally happy with either, then it doesn’t matter which one you pick so just do it! (And try not to think about what would have been with the other option—that might be a topic for another post.)

Do a gut-check: Similar to the coin flip, this one gets at what’s going on inside your head (or gut). If something just doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. My gut doesn’t often speak up, but when she does, it’s very important.

Make a pro and con list: A classic technique that actually doesn’t usually work for me, but something I don’t see often is the added step of weighting each pro and con that end up on the list to get a better idea of your values. One option might have a long list of cons, but if they’re no big deal to me, the few pros could outweigh them.

Get more information: This is tricky because I definitely suffer from analysis paralysis which prolongs the decision-making process. But in the case of being asked to make a decision before I’m ready, I see if I can get more intel before proceeding. I’ll never have ALL the facts, but if I need more to get more comfortable choosing a direction, I try to acquire that information.

Ask my board: I’ve written about having personal board of directors a couple times before. They are my sounding board! They are on my team but bring different perspectives to the table and might point something out that I hadn’t considered. (Or, they’ll validate my gut, and that’s excellent, too.)

Set a deadline: You know that analysis paralysis I mentioned? Setting a deadline is a great way to shut it down. Sometimes, I tell myself that I will research a decision for one hour or until a certain time or date, and when it comes, I have to stop researching and make a decision. Another option is to make it event-based, like after a certain thing happens (a meeting, a deadline for something else, etc.), because that event could provide necessary information that will help me make a decision.

Increase the stakes: I’ve found that I tend to struggle with the smaller decisions (like what to order for dinner or which color of something to buy), while the big ones (like where to go to college or which house to buy) are fairly easy for me to make. By increasing the stakes, I can turn a small decision into a big one and trick myself into making it an easy choice. Ways to increase the stakes include setting a deadline (see above), playing pretend (e.g., I’ll pretend a small purchase is much, much larger), or adding some other form of accountability (may require some creativity).

So there you have it! Some of my go-to techniques for decision-making! Picking which ones are best for each decision is another issue entirely…

What do you do when you can’t decide?

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