As humans, we make 100s if not 1,000s of decisions every day. Ranging from what to wear, what to eat, what to read, what to post, what to share, what to write, what to say, who to text, who to hire, who to fire, when to start, when to leave, and the list goes on. Your decision lists are as long as your days and by the end of the day your willpower is depleted and many times your most critical decisions have gone unaddressed.
We have to be careful in our decision making because studies show that we only have a set amount of daily willpower. When our willpower runs low it becomes excruciatingly hard to exercise self-control and execute effective decision making.
These 5 tips have worked wonders in my decision making ability as I run my business and have to constantly size up opportunities, assess challenges, and create content. Perhaps they can serve as catalysts for your professional or business growth.
1) Quiet the left brain.
The left side of our brain is more logical, analytical, and objective. The left brain is the culprit that will give you 101 reasons why your decisions won’t work or aren’t right. Find ways to shut up the left brain by keeping it busy on tasks like driving, running, or cleaning (the more routine the better) then your right brain can finally chime in with some creative solutions to your decisions. I prefer to mute my left brain while on the treadmill or working out.
2) Be intentional.
Before you go through the process of quieting your left brain, make sure you decide which decisions you are going to mull over during that time. Choose 1-3 decisions (write them down or take a mental note) and commit to thinking through each decision while the left brain is in autopilot during the selected task. Keep a notepad or your smartphone handy to capture your thoughts and/or next steps. You’ll also be surprised how removing yourself from the laptop or office will make your thoughts flow more freely. I typically take decisions about client opportunities, new presentation topics, and blog ideas into the gym and am always super surprised how well this strategy works for me. Give it a whirl.
3) Start early.
The morning is typically the time of the day where you will have the least interruptions and the most willpower since you are starting fresh. Leverage the fresh. Make a list of the decisions you have to execute on the night before. Then in the morning before opening email or anything else, review that decision list and execute. Making bigger decisions early will also help create solid momentum for the rest of the day. I perform all of my creative writing in the mornings starting at 5:30am.
4) Predetermine the expected.
Predetermine your response to the decisions that you know you will make on a daily basis. In an effort to limit the amount of decisions they make, many of today’s top entrepreneurs and executives have limited their shoe and suit selections or have the same thing for lunch everyday. Eliminating the internal negotiations that come with “what should I wear” or “where should I go to eat” will free up more decision making bandwidth that you can allocate to the more critical decisions. I predetermine my workout and street clothes the day before. #NerdAlert
5) Leverage your unconscious.
Our unconscious mind is hyper underutilized. So why not put it to work? Review the content surrounding your decision right before bed. Then as you drift to sleep your brain can begin to work on the information you just fed it. Don’t ask me how it works…it’s science. Warning to all you creatives: this could potentially back-fire and keep you up all night. But it’s worth it if you can mow thru your big decisions. I am still mastering this technique but I have definitely found my unconscious mind helpful in untangling some perplexing problems as I drift to sleep.
Question: What are your decision making best practices?