8 genius ‘brain hacks’ to become a more decisive person

Simon Mueller and Julia Dhar have penned The Decision Maker’s Playbook – a guide designed to help readers make brilliant decisions in an overwhelming and increasingly manipulative world.

The book is packed with tools and tactics to help people stay effective, take action and lead with confidence; and who doesn’t want to live their life that way?

Whether it’s deciding between a latte or a flat white or mulling over a career change, every day, we are faced with hundreds of choices: some small, some substantial.

Making a decision – no matter how small – can be a minefield and if you’re looking to become a more decisive person, two ‘decision-making experts’ claim you can develop ‘cognitive shortcuts’ to help you do so.

Here they share 8 ‘mental tactics’ for making brilliant decisions to help you become a more efficient decision-maker in both your professional and personal life.

Overcome perfectionism

Good decisions can lead to bad outcomes, and vice versa. Aim to make the best decision with the knowledge you have at the time of decision and then try to let go. You are responsible for your decisions – but the results are only partly within your control.

Eliminate options

An overwhelmingly large number of options can be demotivating. One way to combat this is to try to eliminate as many choices as possible. Apply knock-out to eliminate as many choices as you can, then score the options (for example on a scale from 1 to 10) on a few dimensions that are important to you.

Keep decisions reversible

Take a look at opportunities that allow you to revoke your initial decision if necessary. For example – negotiating a trial period that allows you to test a service or product before you buy. Keep your options open and decisions reversible.

Timebox the search for alternatives

‘I need more information’ anxiety can be caused by not knowing whether or not you have considered all options. The best approach here is to ‘timebox’ your search. Give yourself 30 minutes or an hour and research all the options you can in that timeframe.

Get clarity on priorities

Ask yourself what you are intending to achieve with your decision. For example – if you are trying to decide whether or not to move to a different city, what aspect of the move is most important to you? Improving job prospects? Being close to your family or circle of friends? Lowering your rent? Get your priorities straight and rank them by importance.

Convert choices to habits

To cultivate habits, succeed with small achievements first and then gradually move on to forming more extensive habits, e.g. going running for 15 minutes in the morning is much more doable than exercising a full hour. Anchoring desired behaviours to existing procedures is another way to put them into effect.

Automate decisions

Pre-commit to a course of action upfront – saving for retirement is difficult when you have to make a repeated (say annual) decision to contribute to your savings plan. Setting a level of savings to be deducted on a regular basis automatically will allow you to build savings smoothly.

Tackle decision fatigue

There is emerging evidence that for at least some people, making multiple decisions over the course of the day can lead to ‘decision fatigue’. This is why Barack Obama and Mark Zuckerberg famously only keep one or two combinations of clothing in their wardrobe.

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