9 Innovative approaches to improve your decisions

Better Decisions, better performance

Are you exhausted by the end of the day, although you spent the whole day not doing much?

It’s all the decisions you made – from the moment you woke up.

Decisions are exhausting but unavoidable.

But here’s the good news.

We can make them fewer and better.

Like a deer in headlights when faced with too many choices

In Charles Duhigg’s book “The power of habits”, he recounts a story about how Star Bucks improved their customer satisfaction by eliminating employee decisions , when interacting with customers.

How does Starbucks make us cough up 4 bucks daily, for a cup of coffee?

That is what Starbucks executives asked themselves when planning their growth strategy.

The answer was excellent customer service.

They had a very clear vision. “They were not in the coffee business serving people. They were in the people business serving coffee.”

Every employee had to go through rigorous training, starting on their first day and continuing throughout their career. The company spent millions of dollars to develop a curriculum. The curriculum is an important part of how Starbucks grew to be the giant, it is today.

Each employee had to be trained to regulate their emotions and remain calm and focused, even at the end of a tiring day.

Normally, the employees worked flawlessly. That is, until they came upon an unexpected or stressful situation – A barista faced with impatient customers or cornered by a yelling regular.

Then they floundered. They got lost in the wilderness of solutions. What should they do now? They became a deer in front of headlights.

Startbucks got around this hurdle by giving it’s employees clear instructions and routines to get over every rough patch.

This approach eliminated the decision making process. Employees were no longer bombarded with the choices they had to make. They were ready for every situation and the customer service was consistently top notch.

Reducing decisions, improves performance.

Flex your brain muscle wisely

Just like the Starbucks employees, we are faced with a slew of decisions every day. There is even a fancy term coined for it – “Decision Fatigue”.

Decision fatigue is a modern problem. People didn’t have to make all these choices 40 years ago.

What should I have for lunch?

Italian? Tacos? Indian? Egyptian?

A simple shampoo purchase, can take us a whole afternoon.

Choice is a wonderful thing. But like in most cases, more doesn’t necessarily mean better.

Our brain muscle flexes every time we make a decision. And what happens when we flex our muscles all day? It gets tired – and then we make poorer decisions as the day goes by.

The more exhausted we are:

  • The more angry we get.
  • We make poor food choices
  • Can’t find the energy to go through the day.

In short – our will power is shot.

Okay, so too many choices aren’t good. But we have plenty. What do we do with what we’ve got?

Make Fewer

1) Develop Routines:

You no longer have to make a conscious choice of when to wake up, when to have breakfast, lunch, have more water, go for a run.

All of these have a specific, carved place in your everyday life. One happens after the other. You don’t have to think about it any more. It is automatic.

Automatic = No decisions.

2) One Decision to rule them all:

What are the most common decisions you have to make everyday? Make the decision to simplify all of them.

=> What should I eat today?

Have a specific meal planned for everyday of the week and stick to it. Prefer take outs? Print out a schedule with one take out place each day.

=> What should I wear today?

Steve Jobs is famous for wearing a black turtle neck “uniform” to bring down the decisions in his life. That might not suit all of our tastes. For the rest of us, the capsule wardrobe is all the rage.

=> What should I watch on TV?

Pick a few favorite shows every season. Cut out cable. Subscribe to just the few TV channels that your favorite shows are on.

I have survived sans cable for ten years now. You can too.

=> Social Media.

This is no longer a question. It’s become a part of life. Push social media to the evenings – the reason for that? Keep reading, I’ll get to that.

Social media can suck the time out of us real fast. Set a time limit and run.

=> Shopping

  • Take a list
  • Stick to the list
  • Stick to a brand

Simple right?

3) Delegate

I always had a sneaking suspicion, my kids were somehow stealing all the energy from me. Aha, and, I was right.

How?

We make all the decisions for them.

“Can I have a candy now? “

“Can I watch TV now?”

“What can I do now?”

Questions after questions – decisions after decisions.

I swear I’m exhausted in just half an hour.

The solution?

Set a limit and delegate the decision making.

For example these are the rules we have:

  • They can have two candies a day – whenever they want.
  • They can have 9 hours of TV time a week. They choose when and how long they watch, at a stretch.

This approach has been a hit so far.

It has stopped the questions. They make the decisions now.

But they have a limit to stick to, so I don’t have to worry about too much TV time or too much candy.

Make Better

4) Set a deadline:

Sometimes it’s just impossible to make decisions.

Like, how do you make a decision between a chocolate chip cookie and a sugar cookie?

When your mind goes over and over the same issue, and you are unable to make one, just grab them both. Thank me later.

In cases you can’t have it all, give yourself a deadline.

Muddle through it, research it, investigate it.

Do what you want with it , till the deadline.

Then stop.

Pick one.

5) The coin trick:

I came up with the coin trick, way back when I was in school and it has worked every single time.

When you can’t make a decision, flip a coin.

Pfft. That was mind blowing.

No wait. Hear me out.

Instead of focusing on what you got, focus on how you feel about what you got.

Are you relieved? disappointed? Do you want to flip the coin again?

You have your answer now.

Why does this coin trick work every time?

As much as you have deluded yourself that decision making is logical – it is not. It is 100% emotional.

The coin trick for making decisions- works every time.

6) Time it right:

=> Mornings are for hard things.

You can be a lark or an owl, and have your peak performance times spread out all through the day. But all of us have been making decisions for the better part of the day, which means your brain will be tired at the end of the day.

So make hard decisions in the morning (whatever time your morning starts) and push activities like social media to later in the day.

=> Hunger kills them all.

And one of them is willpower.

No will power = bad decisions.

No will power = choosing both the chocolate chip cookie and sugar cookie – just because some one told you to.

The path is clear. Make important decisions on a full tummy.

=> Sleep on it.

Our sub-conscious mind does weird things when we are asleep.

It makes you fly through the air, fall through a void. **Weird**.

But it also does important things like – organizing our thoughts and processing our feelings.

Now that your emotions and thoughts are processed, you can make your decision in the morning – with fresh eyes.

7) Start with the ones with fewer choices

Let’s say you want to buy a car. How do you go about it.

Start with the aspect that has the fewest options – like maybe, 4 types of engine.

It’s easier to start with 4 choices , rather than choosing color – from hundreds of choices.

Too many choices will overwhelm you and is counter productive.

Ease your way through the process.

8) Divide and conquer

Too many options?

Split them into groups of two each.

Let’s say you have to make a decision between blue, white, green, purple and pink. (yes, I am terribly unoriginal.)

Divide them into blue or white, green or purple.

Then white or purple. And lastly, purple or pink.

It’s always easier when it’s one or the other.

Still stumped? Use the coin trick.

9) Be bored

Are you still struggling with that decision?

Step back. Take a break. Be bored.

You can improve your thought process and productivity, by going for a walk without music, or folding clothes without TV. It’s true. Try it.

Your sub-conscious mind will kick in and add what your conscious, logical mind can’t.

Help me help someone make fewer, better decisions. Tweet, facebook or pinterest it. Do you have any secret tricks that you use? I want to hear about it.

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