How You Can Think Smarter & Make Better Decisions Every Day

From the small decisions like what to eat for dinner to the much larger things we have to weigh, such as whether now is the right time to move to a new place or buy a house, life is full of things that require us to decide things about our lives. However, it’s often difficult to reach those decisions

However, it’s often difficult to reach those decisions with confidence, especially when we’re required to make them quickly.

Why It’s Hard to Make Decisions

There are many things that can cause us to have difficulty making decisions about things that matter. Scientists from the University of California at Berkley discovered decision-making doesn’t come as easily to people who are highly anxious.

“It’s a bit like being Alice in Wonderland, trying to work out if the same rules apply or if everything is different and if so, what choices you should make.”

Specifically, people who are overly anxious have trouble tuning into environmental cues that help them determine whether or not situations are stable, and ultimately reach conclusions about how to react to situations.

Depression could also adversely affect the decision-making process. When people despair, they may have unreasonably negative views about practical options that are available to them, plus have difficulty taking steps toward solutions.

Similarly, some people dwell on the decision-making process and feel paralyzed by the fear of what might happen if they make the wrong choices. If you know making wise decisions quickly has never been one of your strengths, you’re not alone. Improving in this area won’t happen immediately, but there are tips and tools that could help you get better.

Set Criteria for Making Decisions in Advance

If you’re so scared by the possible outcome of a decision you need to make that you can’t seem to spring into action, it’s important to outline certain things that need to happen in a certain progression for you to gain the necessary information:

  • For example, if you’re trying to decide whether to visit France or Belgium for an upcoming European trip, you might say you need to first do research to see whether there is a big difference in flight costs to the two destinations.
  • Next, you want to make a list of all your must-see points of interest in the two places and see if one of the destinations has several more not-to-miss highlights compared to the other.
  • Finally, you might want to get first-hand advice from your sister who lives in France and your neighbor who lived in Belgium for three years.

Set a goal so that, after you’ve received information from all those various sources, you’ll make your decision based on what you learned. There are several criteria you may consider for your decision. They might include access to resources, the purpose behind the decision, and the number of unknown factors that exist.

Use an iOS app called Grafio 3 to swiftly make a flow chart to record your decision-making criteria. It recognizes the shapes you draw with your finger and creates crisp versions that are easy to understand and read. There’s also a voice recording feature, which could be helpful if you want to elaborate beyond what’ll fit in a portion of your flow chart.

Download: Grafio 3 for iOS ($7.99)

Also, if you’d prefer to indicate all factors in a list format rather than a flow chart, check out the Clear app. It lets you create separate lists for each aspect of your life, syncs with iCloud, and offers personalized themes.

Download: Clear for iOS ($4.99)

Get Enough Information, When Appropriate

Being well informed about the factors involved in a decision, and asking yourself related questions, can sometimes help you take action. The questions might relate to how long you’ve been mulling over the decision, whether the decision aligns with your long-term goals, and how you feel in your gut when thinking about potential outcomes.

Some research indicates when you need to decide things quickly, the best thing to do is go with your gut feeling, combined with whatever facts you have so far. That’s why you may find it’s not always appropriate or possible to gather lots of information, meaning you have to rely on what you’re feeling.

The Choice Compass app gauges the amount of blood that flows through your finger across time and uses that to give insight about your heartbeat patterns. The science behind the app suggests the information you receive could help you tap into your intuition. Maybe, it’s worth an experiment.

Download: Choice Compass for iOS and Android ($3.99)

Alternatively, when the decision you’re making is a data-driven one, rely on the Big Decisions app. It helps you clarify the things that are really important about a decision and stores all the information you collect to make it easier to access later.

Download: Big Decisions for iOS ($2.99)

Ask Friends to Weigh In

Since friends see things from the outside, they may have objective and alternative viewpoints. Ask them to let them make some decisions for you. A recent study found people are more likely to enjoy making decisions and not feel fatigued by the process if they do so on behalf of others.

Depend on Dvel, an app that asks people you know to pick between two images by voting for their favorites. Having trouble deciding between two items of clothing or two different cuisines? Just post pictures of the options and let friends give feedback.

Download: Dvel for iOS and Android (Free)

Stick to Decisions Once You Make Them

Your brain can only deal with a restricted amount of things each day. That means it’s easy to waste time and energy by forcing yourself to go through making the same decisions over and over again, or wavering from decisions after originally making them. It takes practice, but once you learn to stick to decisions after reaching them, your brain should be more able to devote energy toward new decisions.

There may also be instances where you know it’s time to make a decision but you’re actively avoiding taking that step. Fortunately, there’s an app for that, and it’s called Procraster. It guides you through overcoming obstacles that might prevent efficient decision making. There’s a built-in timer, plus charts that let you see how long it takes you to get things done.

Although the app’s intended for people who procrastinate about numerous things in life, you could use it solely to force yourself to make decisions quickly and stick to them from then on. If that’s not enough, consider recruiting a trustworthy friend to help you stay on track and not second guess yourself after a decision’s made.

Download: Procraster for iOS ($1.99)

Accept Failure as a Potential Outcome

Some experts warn if we’re extremely scared of failure, the fear may become like a self-fulfilling prophecy. Even if you do all you can to make appropriate decisions, a situation could still have an outcome you perceive as failure.

However, by freezing up and letting fear dominate your life, you might never make progress toward meaningful goals. It’s essential to do everything in your power to reach acceptance about failure being a real possibility but not one caused by of any sort of personal shortcoming.

If that mindset seems difficult or impossible to embrace, an app called Free Your Mind Hypnosis might help. It includes 11 themed hypnosis tracks. Besides one that’s dedicated to overcoming past failures, content to help you avoid worrying, stop procrastinating, and move past rejection.

Download: Free Your Mind Hypnosis for iOS (Free) | Android (Free)

How Will You Start Making Better Decisions?

Don’t allow fear of failure to prevent you from making progress.

Becoming a better decision maker is a long-term goal and one that requires a great deal of diligence. However, as the tips and tools above suggest, you should never feel completely on your own when deciding what to do.

In some cases, you may need to specify which things must occur before you’re able to decide on a matter. Input from friends could also help, along with tuning into your intuition, or reviewing relevant data.

What is your biggest mental block about making decisions? Have you overcome your thought challenges with some specific mindset? Share your experiences in the comments


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