Nothing is more fundamental to career success than decision making skills. Whether you’re talking about who to hire or which new product to introduce, decision making is at the core of what we do. Which is why it’s so amazing how little time we actually think about decision making in practice. We’re so busy, we seem to just react as opposed to actually thinking. Here are four very practical tips, designed to make you a more effective decision maker.

  • First, before you make any decision, ask yourself, is this decision truly important or is this just something I have to get done? I call this the 80 20 rule.

80% of what we do is just stuff that has to get done. It’s not unimportant, but it’s not of strategic importance either. The 20 percent includes decisions pertaining to the most vital people, tasks and projects you face. These are the biggest drivers of your future success. If you don’t think through the 80/20 you risk over investing time and decisions of lesser importance.

  • Next, having determined the importance of a given decision, think about the head and the gut.

The head refers to using a logical and systematic approach to decision making. While the gut refers to a faster intuition based approach. Generally speaking, the gut is safer for decisions in the 80% group. And the head is better for decisions in the 20% group. We have a tendency to use intuition too much, because we’re so busy. The problem is that the gut can be very biased, based on past decisions. The error we make is assuming that the current situation is too similar to past situations.

Which makes us believe we can safely use solutions we’ve used in the past. When in doubt, check your assumptions. Then use your head to start thinking about how the new decision is unique.

  • Third, if you go the thinking route, using your head instead of quick intuition, use a decision making process model. It’s amazing to me how often we don’t use a specific process model or methodology for important decisions.

For example, here’s one version of a very famous, and simple model. Define the problem, generate alternatives, evaluate options, execute the decision.

There are many easy to use models like this out there, and they will help you avoid missed assumptions, and premature decisions, so find a model.

  • Finally don’t make decisions by yourself. Use a devil’s advocate. This is a person willing and able to question you. Willing to think about your assumptions. Willing to debate a little to check the quality of your logic. A devil’s advocate is always useful, assuming you have time. But they are particularly useful for big decisions.

Don’t be afraid of a little honest debate

enerally speaking, it will increase the quality of your decisions. Few things are as fundamental to your career as decision making. I want you to start being a little more thoughtful. Think through the importance of any given decision. The use of intuition versus systematic decision making. The need for a decision making process. And the value of a devil’s advocate. If you do, soon enough you’ll be on your way to making more thoughtful and effective decisions.

CTTO for the images used.

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