Each day, we make a lot of decisions—upwards of 35,000, according to some sources—and we worry a lot about making the wrong choices. As a result, we waffle, contemplate, overthink, and procrastinate to delay deciding.
All this back-and-forth depletes our time, energy, and mental resources. It also increases our stress—and can even limit our innovation and productivity by stalling our forward progress.
But we can decide to do it differently. These six strategies will help you make better decisions, faster.
1. Simplify and Eliminate
Our mental energy and self-control take a hit with every decision we make, leading to “decision fatigue,” according to research from Kathleen Vohs, Ph.D., and others. And that fatigue causes us to make poor choices as the day goes on.
Avoid it by simplifying choices on less important matters and limiting the criteria you consider on others, says Eva Krockow, Ph.D., Assistant Professor in Psychology at the University of Leicester, who studies decision making. For example, when picking a restaurant for the staff lunch, choose the menu with the most vegetarian options to accommodate dietary restrictions and then let the other factors go.
2. Go for a Walk
Walking indoors or out can inspire divergent thinking that helps us better evaluate multiple options and come to strong conclusions, according to research from Stanford University. Even a quick five-minute stroll can provide creative insights and hunches that will aid in decision making without the angst.
3. Override Your Need to Know More
Every decision involves some uncertainty and risk. But waiting to compile more data to understand every potential outcome can thwart innovation and lead to expensive delays, often without yielding any great insights, says Gary Klein, Ph.D., author of several books, including “Sources of Power: How People Make Decisions.”
“There is always something more we want to know,” says Klein, “but we have to recognize that gathering more information often won’t help us.” Instead, closely analyze the material you do have and make a decision based on that, adapting as you go.
4. Be a Satisficer
Go for good enough. No solution will be perfect. But perfect isn’t necessary as long as you are getting your essential desires or needs met, says Krockow. So, pick the option that best aligns with your needs and objectives and move forward.
5. Meditate on It
Fifteen minutes of mindfulness meditation can help you avoid making a bad decision even when you’ve already invested time and resources, according to a study from Wharton School. So, get still and notice your thoughts without judgment. Don’t worry about sunk costs, just observe your thoughts and feelings. This kind of mindfulness practice also improves clarity and calm, which can help you ease the stress of hard choices.
6. Imagine the Future
How will the outcome of this decision impact what you do next? According to research from the University of California, Berkeley, imagining a sequence of future consequences can keep you from taking shortcuts now that could jeopardize long-term success.
By inviting your imagination into the decision-making process, Klein says you can identify the sequence of potential successes and pitfalls and override the immediate impulses and distractions that can get in the way of good decision making.