As a teenager, I’ve been one of the most indecisive people I knew.
Even the simplest decisions such as what to eat for dinner, where to meet up with friends, or which movie to watch took me an incredible amount of time.
No matter how simple or redundant the decision itself was, I was great at overcomplicating and wasting my time.
Back then, I wasn’t aware of the importance of time and energy, so I didn’t do anything to become a better, more efficient decision-maker. Instead, I thought that I’m a rational person as I didn’t make inconsiderate decisions.
The Personal Growth Toolkit
Grab our free eBook with 42 effective & actionable tactics, resources & tools to elevate your life.
While my version of overthinking was an extreme one, I’m not the only person who struggled with poor decision making.
Most people are bad decision-makers and waste an inconsiderable amount of time on insignificant or even redundant decisions.
And the main reason why decision making is so important is because we make thousands of micro-decisions every single day.
Every day, we decide:
- what to wear
- what to eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner
- how to start our days
- which to-do to tackle first
- what to shop
- and so much more
And while many of these decisions are automated, we still have hundreds of unique, new decisions to make every day.
Less choices mean better decisions
The more choices you have, the worse the result of your decision will be.
When we can’t decide, we usually try to come up with even more choices. We think that we might be missing out on an even better option and look for more alternatives.
That’s also called FOBO, fear of better options. We often try to maximize our options thinking that this would lead to the best possible outcome.
The reality, however, is a different one: Too many choices often lead to indecision or even frustration.
The scientifically proven truth is that more choices lead to worse decisions.
Sheena Iyengar, a professor at Columbia Business School, conducted an experiment in a supermarket: She set up a jam booth and displayed either six or 24 different types of jam.
While more people stopped by at the booth with 24 options, six times more people actually bought jam when they only had six options.
Limiting your options can not only lead to an increase in revenue, but it will also help you save time, energy, and probably even money.
And above all, it will help you to make quicker, better decisions.
The fewer options you have, the better the outcome.
How to use it:
Whenever you need to make a decision, limit your options.
You don’t need to choose from ten pairs of jeans to find the perfect match, just try three options.
You don’t need to choose from hundreds of books to decide on your next read, create a list of three.
Next time you need to make a decision, no matter how small or big, start by defining options and make sure to keep it to as little alternatives as possibles.
Decision making can be so much easier if you have less options.
The earlier, the better
At the end of a day, your willpower is used up and you make worse decision.
The more decisions we make throughout a day, the harder it becomes to choose.
This is also called decision fatigue and a highly relevant phenomenon in various fields:
Companies and stores use decision fatigue because they know that you’re likelier to make a buying decision when you have less willpower.
Willpower is a battery: If it’s empty, you need to recharge it through a break, some snacks, or an energizing activity. If your blood sugar drops, you’re less likely to make a decision at all.
That’s why you find a restaurant in every IKEA store: If you visit a typical IKEA store, you walk past thousands of products. After a while, you face decision fatigue because you saw so many alternatives. After a quick visit at the restaurant (which is usually placed in the middle of the store), your blood sugar levels are filled up and you can keep shopping.
How to use it:
Don’t try to make important decisions late at night. Instead, spend your evenings with relaxed, calming activities.
If you need to make an important decisions, do it as early as possible. Use your fresh, energized mind for important decisions and don’t waste it on mundane activities.
And if you need to decide throughout a day, at least give yourself a short break, grab a little snack and relax a few minutes before making an important decision.
Fewer people make better decisions than big groups
In 2014 a study by Princeton University proved that small groups make quicker and better decisions than big ones.
The reason is simple: When different people make a common decision, two types of information are considered:
Correlated information: Things that are accepted by or known to all members.
And uncorrelated information: Facts that are only known to some group members.
Both are equally important, but the larger the group is, the more likely it is that correlated information will outweigh uncorrelated facts.
If the decision is highly important, all stakeholders should have a saying.
But if possible, less voices can lead to better decisions.
How to use it:
Whenever you need to make a decision with a group of people, ask yourself whether it’s possible to abandon a few members.
Sleep over it
When in doubt, we often recommend people to sleep on a decision, yet there’s also scientific evidence to prove that sleeping over a decision might be helpful to make a better choice.
According to Harvard Business Review, our conscious attention is limited, that’s why it makes sense to make use of our unconscious.
Even when we sleep, our unconscious mind is busy looking for solutions to our problems. And quite often, this helps us to come up with new, innovative solutions to existing problems.
How to use it:
Sometimes, it can be helpful to give yourself some time to process a decision while you sleep. By doing so, you can let your unconscious mind work in your favor and come up with new solutions.
Whenever you need to make an important decision and struggle to do it, allow yourself to sleep on it at least once before making the ultimate choice.
Toss the coin
Quite often, a simple coin toss can be the most effective way to choose from two options.
Yet, tossing a coin is not about devoting responsibility. It’s about listening to your intuition.
If the decision is important to you, flipping a coin will help you to find out what you really want. Once you flipped, you’ll eventually find yourself hoping for heads or tails.
Listening to your intuition and finding out what you want is much easier if you can’t control the decision.
How to use it:
Keep a decision making coin in your wallet and use it whenever you’re in doubt or just can’t decide what to eat for dinner.
Flip your coin, close your eyes, and listen to your inner voice.
Sometimes, you can make your life easier by accepting “good enough” instead of hunting for better, bigger decisions.
Quite often, your intuition will help you make the best decisions, not more alternatives.
Limit your decisions: Mark Zuckerberg
That’s also why Marc Zuckerberg is always wearing the same shirt. He says that he has so many important decisions to make that he simply can’t waste his energy on such decisions.
Take some time to realize how much tiny decision you have to make every day. Once you realize which decisions cost you energy, try to build habits to eliminate those decisions. The more habits you have, the more of your daily life is structured and automated, the more willpower you save for the important decisions.
More alternatives mean worse decisions, limit your options.
Don’t try to make important decisions at the end of your day.
When making important decisions, limit the number of people involved.
Sleep on a decision to let your unconscious mind help you.
Toss the coin and listen to your intuition.
Want to continue growing?
Grab our free Personal Growth Toolkit with 42 effective & actionable tactics, resources & tools to elevate your life.