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The 4 Step Process to Make More Effective Decisions Every Day

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decision making

How many times have you been invited to a meeting without any clear purpose or direction? Maybe there’s a theme or a general topic of conversation, but there’s no specific agenda and no definitive deadline for making a decision. These types of meetings are the worst, not only because they take valuable time away from productive tasks, but also because they make decision making harder.

Similarly, how many times have you been tasked with a project or asked to do something but were given little instruction on how to accomplish that task? You may have some idea of where to start to look for advice, but you are definitely not the most skilled person for the job, and you will lose a lot of time in the research and planning phase.

What if I told you that there was a straightforward process you could follow on a daily basis to help make more effective decisions more quickly and with less mental anguish? Well, there is. Thankfully, the skills required to plan effective meetings or develop project plans with little stress are very similar.

Here are four steps for streamlining the decision-making process in your own personal and working life:

1. Talk to the right people

Too often, people set up regular meetings for no other reason than to “touch base” or “catch up”. To cut out these unnecessary meetings, make sure you talk to the right people that will be the driving the decisions. If you speak with the right people and there still isn’t a clear reason for the meeting or event, cancel it or politely decline the invitation.

Similarly, if you are working on a project on your own or in a small team and you aren’t sure about the best course of action, make sure you speak with the right people that can help you with the process. This may mean pulling in an expert from outside, or someone from another department to lend a hand. Make sure that for every decision that is made there is one person that is ultimately responsible for the outcome of that decision.

“It is your moments of decision that your destiny is shaped.” – Tony Robbins

2. Outline the key internal challenges, opportunities, risks, and rewards

Once you’ve spoken with the right people and identified a need for making a certain decision, take the time to review key challenges, opportunities, risks, and rewards associated with the decision. What are the biggest challenges to success and the largest opportunities for growth? If it is the wrong decision, what would be the potential fallout? If it is ultimately the right decision, what could be the reward?

3. Do your homework

Assess every angle of the situation. Not only do you have to identify key internal challenges, you must now think about how this decision could be affected by outside factors. What challenges might you face from competitors, from customers, from others in different departments within your company? Try to develop contingency plans and build those into your decision making so that nothing comes as a surprise.

Homework doesn’t have to take a long time, but it should be rigorous enough to allow you to understand what might happen if everything starts to go wrong. This will allow you to remain persistent despite the challenges you will undoubtedly face.

“A good decision is based on knowledge not in numbers.” – Plato

4. Own your decisions

Once you’ve had a chance to talk to the right people, outline key challenges, and do your homework, it’s decision making time. At this point, it’s imperative that you own the decisions you make and back them up with resolve and determination. The persistence you must follow through on your decisions will come from a deep understanding of the business problem that you have built during the Outline and Homework phase.

These two phases help you visualize the potential challenges you will face and understand the current context and environment you are now in. While this understanding is key to making effective decisions, this final stage, what is often referred to by U.S. Navy SEALS as “Extreme Ownership” is key to making tough decisions more easily and effectively. So, own your decisions wholeheartedly, and be willing to face the result (either good or bad) no matter what.

An easy way to remember this process is to think of the acronym “To Do”.

  • Talk to the right people.
  • Outline the key challenges.
  • Do your homework.
  • Own your decisions.

Human beings make thousands of conscious decisions a day. On top of that, we make just as many unconscious decisions about what we choose to do in the form of habits that have been built up and strengthened over time. Integrate these four steps to more effective decision making, and you will be well positioned to make better, smarter decisions on a regular basis.

What are some things you do to make better decisions? Comment below!

McVal is the founder of We Write For Growth, a platform for businesses to connect with talented writers and researchers and growth hackers. He is also the author of How to Make $2,000 a Month Online and Start Up your Life: Why we don’t know what we want, and how to set goals that really matter. McVal writes about motivation, decision making, and strategic thinking. He graduated from UC Santa Barbara in 2011 with a degree in Spanish, and has since worked as a market researcher and business consultant in Washington D.C., New York City and London. You can reach him on Twitter @mcval or on IG @mcvaliant. 

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