Make your decision-making effective

We all make different decisions every single day either big or small. Most of the decisions made on a daily basis are relatively inconsequential or small and are made without us paying much attention to them. Whereas making some of the big decisions like career related choices or work/business related matters can be tough and can have a major impact on our personal and professional lives.

Why decision-making is important?

Your competency is often measured by the quality of decisions you make and the outcomes achieved in your life or work. Whether you manage a team at work place or manage an organistation, your success depends on you making right decisions and learning from wrong ones. No matter how big or small a decision is, it is important to have a clear intention for why you are choosing a specific course of action. Our lives are an accumulation of the decisions we make both big and small. Making the best decisions becomes important in many disciplines. But not everyone is well equipped with good decision-making capabilities especially when it comes to making tougher ones.

Difficulty in making decisions

Throughout our lives, we come across situations, where we need to make hard choices, especially when the decisions we need to make are life-altering, it gets much harder. In other words, making such decisions makes us uncomfortable as we tend to think what we choose will say something about what we are and what we value. Some of us get anxious when making these decisions by weighing the merits of each option back and forth in our mind thereby making us indecisive. Some of us are used to having a need to rationalise each possibility before deciding on the best course of action. When faced with too many options, we just cant make a choice. Difficulties in making decisions can lead to stress, anxiety and depression and if left unchecked, can distort your perception of the world of yourself.

The reasons behind such indecisiveness is largely due to doubt or regret or the element of uncertainty and is mostly rooted back to certain personality traits and cognitive biases. For example, people witch strong need to reach a conclusion in a given situation tend to engage in black-and-white thinking, while ambivalent tend ṭo be more comfortable with uncertainty. Sometimes, the internal biases hold you back from making decisions. We all have them and they can affect our “big picture” decisions for better or worse without we realising it and would often impact our decision-making capabilities. These biases can lead us to judge a situation too quickly. Here are some of the most common ones.

Status-Quo bias

Change more often is not preferred, so if given a choice, many stick to what they know as they are comfortable with and are afraid to deviate from them. They make past choices as established custom and do not go by logic or rationality or relevance while making a decision. To overcome this, believe that change can be good and start with small changes and be open to doing things differently.

Confirmation bias

We all like being right. But sometimes we ignore information that challenges our beliefs. We don’t want ṭo seek the information that opposes our views thereby creating a bias in the decision taken. To balance out your prejudice, it is always better to consider the information even if that opposes your views.

In-group bias

We tend to feel more comfortable with those who have things in common with as we feel more understood and accepted. We begin to treat these people more favourably or become more aligned to such a group. In other words, we start judging a book by its cover. To break this bias, try to interact genuinely with individuals outside of your group. You might have more in common and can transcend surface-level differences.

Anchoring

When we place too much emphasis on certain piece of information, we tend to use that as a reference point to measure the remaining information creating the anchoring effect. In order not to let this happen, take time to evaluate by considering various aspects instead of rushing into a decision.

Being aware of your own biases will help you view your situation more objectively and to gain clarity around the decisions you make.

How to make effective decisions?

All of us have innate desire to be able to make better decisions and to protect ourselves from the wrong ones in order to create a bright future. But many factors; conscious and subconscious affect our choices and we need to know the ones that will help us improve our decision-making. Here are some ways to improve your decision-making.

Identify the triggers for indecisiveness

If you have difficulty making decisions – there is a chance that you are afraid of something. Figure out the reasons behind those fears to recognise triggers that cloud your mind. Is it a fear of failure? Or fear of missing out? Or is it because of your insecurities? By knowing the reason behind your discomfort, you can figure out how much sense it makes and whether it leads you to making the right decision. It would be a positive mental shift in seeing options as ‘ good’ and ‘bad’, to just choice A and choice B. Train yourself to think pros and cons with out being emotionally affected. Be aware of your triggers and practice challenging your previous choice patterns.

Squash all the biases

With biases we become prejudiced and make decisions without proper clarity. Simple errors lead to poor decisions due to our emotional ambiguous state. It is important to spot these errors and omit them to make better choices. You need to consider the likelihood of all particular outcomes. Instead of taking into account every possible outcome, look at the ones that are most likely to happen. You need to guard yourself against biases to think clearly when making decision.

Gather right information

Assuming that you know everything about a choice that needs to be made may not lead you to right decision. You can only make a decision based on the best information you have at the time. That is why it is important to gather right facts as many as relating to what you are contemplating on. Question your assumptions instead of jumping straight into something without properly considering the facts. All big choices have consequences and could result in more failures and regrets. If you rely on your assumptions, you run the risk of accepting a bias. The more you explore the background information, the more reliable your decision will be.

Consider what is at stake

Do not allow others’ agenda to sway you from making the choice thats right for you. You should be making difficult decisions with yourself in mind. Ask yourself:”will I like myself after making this choice.” Anyone can tick all the boxes in terms of a solution, without taking into account how that decision may make them feel about themselves. Consider how you’ll feel about yourself when you’ve made that choice. If you choose the easier, unassertive option, you risk a drop in self-esteem. Trust yourself enough to believe your decision is well informed and good.

Entertain doubt

Once you made a decision, it is easy to find evidence to support it. confirmation bias will ensure you find more and more reasons why you are right. So Instead of trying to prove your potential decision is right, prove it wrong. Look for reasons to doubt it, of you can’t find any then you can have confidence that decision you are making is a good one. Test your decision against multiple scenarios and if it still looks the best choice from different perspectives, go with it.

Identify alternatives

Don’t prejudice outcomes. There are always more variables to consider. The more alternatives you consider, the more likely you are to arrive at a better decision. But with too many, you may find it too hard to make your decision. Keep them limited. Step back and identify alternatives to seek others’ view points. Listen to arguments and probe for understanding. There may be valid perspectives you hadn’t considered, which could pave way for right course of action. Looking for alternatives creates different points of view, new insights and new choices.

Don’t overanalyse

Sometimes people mull over too many dimensions and are unable to choose a course of action. There’s this or that person to consider, the consequences that might arise, and sometimes it might be the fear of making mistakes, or fear of what others might think and so on. The flip side of over analysing is that we fail to identify what is outside our control. Take decisions based on what feels right, with proper assessment of the best available information instead of overanalysing.

Finally, Trust your instincts in making your decisions based on right principles and establish clear objectives that identify with your desired outcome or that which provides solutions to your problems. Decide on the lines of whether to if your decision is efficient and effective.

Next time around while making a decision that is crucial to you follow these steps to make better decisions. Once you’ve made your decision, act on it. Make your decision measurable and achievable.

Simplify your perspective

“with simple thinking, we can maximise our focus with minimum distractions.”

Many things influence our lives and decisions we make. The primary influences being the perceptions and most of the times, the mistakes of perception leads to our complex thinking. we get used to the complex processes, procedures and matters in our day-to-day tasks which in turn add to our complicated thinking. We acquire habits, possessions, relationships, needs, etc., which are part of richness and enjoyment of life — but also are the reason of the complexity of our thinking.

We get continually bullied by opportunities which seem to be attractive and get pressurised by them thereby making our lives more complex. Sometimes fear of boredom leads you into a complexity of temptations and pressures of ‘have to do things.’ This makes our thinking a complex process driving us to busyness, approval of others, anxiety, performance and control.

Some of this complexity is created by us and some we accept and take on as part of our daily lives. Having things to take care of, people to deal with or processes to attend to, our thoughts create clutter giving rise to complicated ideas and create confusion and disappointments. We get caught up in the day-to-day complex tasks we have to get done and often run out of time to do the things that really matter and those that are essential.

We get so comfortable things being familiar and certain way that we don’t want to find simpler way of doing things. Simplicity in thinking is something that is deliberate and intentional and should be a choice you make. By adopting to a ‘simple perspective’ in your thinking, you can free yourself from all the distractions and you can maximise your focus on that which is essential, can eliminate complexities, create effective solutions and can reach your objectives or goals much faster.

Simplicity makes it easier to do things. But finding a simpler way is usually not that simple.

The perspective of ‘simple thinking’

Complex is something which is hard to understand, explain, or deal with and leads to inefficiency, wastage of time, attention and mental energy in unnecessary things. But there is always a much simpler way of doing things. The perspective of ‘simple thinking’ and doing is always possible and is very important to improve efficiency and to reduce stress, anxiety and frustration. By identifying areas, matters and procedures which seem unnecessary and replacing them with simple processes, you can learn to take action much faster.

“When we begin pursuing a more simple, intentional life, we obtain a new perspective.”

Perspective of ‘simple thinking’ is a value, a habit and an attitude of mind as much as it is a process. You accept something complex because you are not looking for simple solutions and your outputs also tend to be complex. Simplicity will not happen unless you are prepared to work hard and make a real effort to achieve it. The emphasis needs to be on simple perspective at every moment of your decision-making process.

‘Is there a simpler way to do this?’

‘Is this really necessary?’

‘Does this add to simplicity or complexity?’

By having the intention of making something simple, you can prioritise your actions towards simple processes.

Ways to achieve a ‘simple perspective’

Many of us consider thinking as a complex process because we have never made any attempt to make it simpler. We tie ourselves up in complex rules when in reality, most of our practical thinking takes place in ‘simple perspective’ and is mostly based on self-organising system of brain. So, We can design simple tools for thinking to improve productivity in number of ways and for a more focused effort.

You need not always depend on major changes to make things simple. You can Make slight changes in small things to simplify your efforts of doing difficult things.

Here are some small changes that can be made to achieve ‘simple perspective’ in your efforts of achieving your tasks.

One thing at a time

We are capable of thinking many things at the same time. But if you find matters getting too complex, then it is always better to pay attention to only one thing at a time. It does not mean that you cannot do more than one thing at a time — but you choose not to for the moment.

Express in words

Complexity is difficult to cope with while it remains out of consciousness and you will find it difficult to arrive at decisions. When something seems complex and difficult, verbalise why you are making that choice, the reasons behind your decision. This can simplify and clarify your decision-making process.

Unbundle

Complexity arises when you are trying to deal with more than one matter at same time. If there are two separate issues, separate them out and deal with each one on its own. Analyse and break it down to deal with it one at a time.

Take small steps

If the task is complex, it can be broken down into tiny steps. Certain tasks may seem impossibly complex on the whole, but if broken down to small steps, each step can be simple and doable. It is simpler to focus on the next step than to focus on the entire task.

Use concepts

Concepts are a broad and general way of simplifying things. They simplify the action into stages. Making use of concepts in thinking can simplify your efforts. Once the concept is formed, the details of the concept will still need to be worked out but they set the direction of the action.

Think in stages

Always have a clear objective in mind and figure out how to reach the objective.

• The direction to reach your objective.

• The concepts that can be used in order to move in that direction.

• The ideas that can be used to put those concepts into action.

Thinking in this kind of framework helps you arrive at possible action alternatives to achieve your complex tasks.

Do things slowly

If your mind is minimally occupied, as in doing things slowly, it will be more able to have new ideas. This also helps the mind to clarify or simplify things and requires discipline and concentration.

Shedding

Things which were needed at one time may be no longer needed. Shedding approach simply involves throwing things out and putting nothing in their place. Sometimes things are ‘unnecessary’ or ‘redundant’. If these things add to clarity they should be retained, but if they add to the complexity of the situation, they should be shredded and thrown out.

Clarify

Clarity and simplicity go together. What is the situation? What do we really need to do? What is going on? Questions of this sort can clarify and provide thorough understanding of the situation or process. The perspective of simple thinking comes from thorough understanding.

Set routines

As a self-organising information system, our brain allows incoming information to organise itself into routine patterns. Once we identify with these patterns, we flow along with them without much effort. Setting up routines can simplify your perception and action.

Finally,

Be determined to seek simplicity.

When things are highly complicated we do often wish for simple perspective. But when things are not complicated we rarely strive to make something simple. Always find simpler ways of doing things. Make the ‘simple perspective’ as part of your normal thinking process to free up time, reduce stress and to make better decisions.

Put yourself in ‘simple perspective’

• Be determined to make an active effort to make things more simple.

• Be motivated and creative to arrive at a possible simple, effective and practical solution to a problem.

• Have the willingness to simplify process instead of coping with complexity.

• Look for simple alternatives and be willing to invest time and effort in that search.

• Spell out in words what you are seeking to achieve. This creates a path to move in defined direction thereby avoiding unnecessary.

• Design the ideal simple process and then seek to work incrementally step by step.

• Consider all the things you are busy with right now and consider how few of these are really necessary.

• Take notice of your habits and cut back on clutter, distractions and focus on the essentials.

“Simple can be harder than complex. You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.” – Steve Jobs

Disconnect from distractions

The ability to produce quality work and the ability to quickly master hard things is an important requisite in today’s work environments. The process of using rapidly changing technologies requires that you hone the ability to learn increasingly complex set of relevant skills. To be able to transform these skills into valuable results, your attention needs to be focused without any distractions. But in today’s technologically advanced world, producing quality work at an optimal rate has become a difficult task as we embrace distractions at various levels and this decreases our ability to do high quality and meaningful work. The main culprit being the culture of connectivity where one is expected to respond quickly to a mail or to a message. Checking mail and social networking sites, surfing the web, and visual mediums have become major obstacles in cultivating a deep work habit.

Here are certain behaviours that distract you from quality work.

Multitasking

Trying to accomplish multiple tasks simultaneously, your attention remains divided. There will be a residue of your attention that remains when you switch from one task to another. Those who experience attention residue after switching tasks are more prone to distractions.

Constant need for connectivity

Workplaces with trends like active presence on social media might create more opportunities to collaborate but they do so at the cost of many distractions. We increasingly becoming the victims of online distractions. They fragment our time and reduce our ability to concentrate. They tend to pull your attention thereby weaken your willpower to focus on important things.

Unstructured thinking

Without any built-in goals, rules and challenges you cannot produce work of real value. When you lack planning and cannot figure out what you should be working on and for how long results in shallow work and short-term gains.

Busyness

By sending and answering mails at all hours, scheduling and attending meetings constantly, instant messaging within seconds when someone poses a query —all these behaviours make you seem busy but do not always result in high value work.

Lack of priority

Our dependence on connectivity results in paying attention to irrelevant things. When you lose focus on really important things, your mind tends to fix on what could be wrong instead of what’s right giving into frustration,stress and triviality. These shallow concerns take up most of your time thereby keeping you away from doing quality work.

Many of us assume that we can transform our working life from distracted to focused overnight and that we can switch between a state of distraction and one of concentration as needed, but once you are wired for distraction, you begin to crave it and it becomes difficult to bring your focus back with one time decision to think or work deeper. Your brain becomes accustomed to on-demand distraction and is hard to change the habit even when you want to concentrate. You will struggle to achieve higher levels of concentration unless you disconnect yourself from these distractions.

You have to make your deep work a priority to meet your personal and professional goals. By integrating the habit of doing high quality and meaningful work into your schedule and supporting it with routines and rituals, you will be able to achieve your concentration ability.

The following strategies can help you maximise your personal ability to produce quality work. By adapting to some personal work habits, you can take more effective action towards your goal of achieving real results.

Schedule your work

Scheduling eliminates shallow obligations by having a highly valued professional or personal goal. By dedicating some clearly defined stretches of time to vital tasks, you can leave the time for not so important ones. By developing routines, by making sure little bit gets done on a regular basis, you can fit deep work habit whenever you can into your schedule. To make most of your time, build rituals of the same level of strictness.

Focus on your ‘priorities’

Your work should be aimed at small number of important goals. Simplifying and focusing on priorities will improve your intensity to get valuable results. Identify a small number of outcomes to pursue with your quality work hours. Spending more time doing quality work may not generate lot of enthusiasm. Instead have a specific goal that would return tangible benefits.

Work on the ‘lead measures’

Lag measures describe the thing you are trying to improve and lead measures are the hours spent working on your important goals. Lag measures cannot immediately generate a noticeable change in your ability to reach your goal. You cannot change your behaviour as the performance that driven them is already in the past. Lead measures on the other hand, turn your attention to improving the behaviours you directly control in the near future and will have a positive impact on your long-term goals.

Keep a scoreboard

By recording and tracking the hours spent doing quality work or your lead measure, creates a sense of competence and drives you to focus on these measures even when there are distractions. Keeping track of quality work hours with simple tally of tick marks maximises your motivation. Your scoreboard can help you understand what leads to bad days of work and most important, to figure out how to ensure a good score for the days ahead. This way, you can disconnect with your distractions to keep a compelling scoreboard and can create a pattern of accountability.

Set deadlines

Set expected time of completion for your important tasks on your priority list. You can motivate yourself by setting a countdown and can work with greater intensity and with no distractions. You can plan on taking occasional break from focus to give into distractions. By providing interval training for the attention centres of brain, you can minimise the number of times you give into distractions.

Apply the ‘law of vital few’

Many different activities can contribute to you achieving your goals. According to the law of vital few, only twenty percent of theses activities provide the bulk of the benefit. By listing some of your distinct and beneficial activities for each of your life goals, the top two or three such activities only make most of the difference in whether or not you succeed. Try to list only those which are specific to your goal.

Structure your ‘leisure time’

Don’t use networking tools for entertainment when it comes relaxation as they weaken your mind’s general ability to resist distraction thereby making it difficult for you to concentrate later when you really want to. Structure your leisure time by filling your free time with something of more quality than instead of allowing your mind to be lost in unstructured web surfing and other distractions. If you give your mind a quality alternative, you’ll end the day more fulfilled and can begin the next day more relaxed.

Finally,

strengthen your distraction-resistant muscle by practicing productive meditation. You can do this when you are occupied physically but not mentally by focusing on a single well-defined professional or personal problem or a hard task. When faced with hard tasks, your mind will attempt to avoid them by looping over and over again on what you already know. By structuring your thinking, you will be able to redirect your attention to the next step and will be able to set a specific target for your attention. This way, you can strengthen your distraction-resistance and sharpen your concentration.

Conclusion

Distraction remains a destroyer of deep and meaningful work. Try and optimise your efforts and keep them structured by following above mentioned strategies.

Take back the control of your time and attention from the many distractions that attempt to steal them by making your deep goal a mental priority.

Get into your “Productive State”

Most people have too much to handle and not enough time to get it all done or to be able to fulfil their commitments. People add to their stress levels by taking on more than they can handle. Various options and opportunities bring with them the pressures of decision making. These pressures make people frustrated about how to improve their situation. By learning productivity you can organise and prioritise better and you can get your time back so you can focus on making progress and helps you improve your situation.

Planning and scheduling your tasks helps you gain more focus. In the process, you can create a positive work atmosphere and lifestyle practices that foster clarity, control, creativity and relaxation.

Better organisational techniques like planning and preparing can enhance your productivity levels. Thinking in more effective ways to handle different work situations can make things happen sooner, better and more successfully.

There is no single technique or tool to perfect organisation and productivity. However, there are certain simple processes that we can all learn to use that will improve our ability to deal more proactively and constructively. These tools can help you focus your energies strategically to create better thinking habits and working environment which otherwise keeps most people from burning out due to stress.

It is possible for you to have an overwhelming number of things to do and still function productively and be fully present in the moment.

Here are some simple practices which can motivate you to become more productive.

Figuring out ‘why’

Why do you want to be more productive? Why are you putting up with a situation in your workplace? Do you want to be better at your job or do you want to get more things done and do more with your time?

Until you have the answer to your ‘why’, there is no possible way to come up with appropriate actions.

By having an answer to your why has following benefits:

• You can define success.

• You can make hard choices and take decisions.

• You can gather possible resources.

• You can be motivated and can have better focus.

Many people forget why they are doing something and what exactly they are trying to achieve – and a simple question like, “ Why am I doing that?” Can get you back on track. Finding the answer to your ‘why’ opens up wider possibilities and expands your thinking.

Figure out your purpose

All of us want to be better at what we are doing. So the main goal should be to find your purpose. To know and to be clear about the purpose can enhance your focus. Because it is easy to get caught up and let your real and primary intentions slip. Your purpose becomes a reference point for your time and energy spent.

Once you have the purpose defined, you can align your resources and can make your decision-making easier. Often the only way to make hard choices is to come back to the purpose of what you are doing. Just taking two minutes and writing your primary reason for doing something makes things clearer and clarifies your focus.

Find your time leaks

Doing things that bring you progress, getting better at your work, investing in compound time to develop your skills, and picking up healthy habits make you productive. Find out where your time is leaking in the process. Think of your top priorities and determine those activities that help you achieve or take you closer to your goals. That is your meaningful work. The rest are meaningless activities that steal your time.

Focus on what matters to optimise your efforts and where to allocate your time more efficiently. Being aware of all the activities that bring you closer to your goal and being aware of the ones that stall your progress help you get your time back.

Create and stick to your to-do list

Organise your daily tasks in order to get things done. Don’t get carried away by writing too long to-do lists. Being busy is not the same as being productive. Overloading your lists is not an effective to-do list format. If you always start with the easiest or most convenient ideas, you will end up pushing the best ones down the list.

Make sure that your to-do list has a purpose and other meaningful activities. Define your tasks related to your goals and order them by importance. If you do not manage to finish them all, move unfinished tasks to your list for the next day. Rinse and repeat. If you carry some tasks on for too many days in a row without working on them, get rid of those tasks completely.

Declutter & Prioritise

Decluttering your routine lets you devote your time to meaningful work. Write down your distractions and find multiple solutions to reduce them. For each distraction, figure out as many solutions until you find the one that works.

Prioritise your tasks according to your goals and choose those that most benefit your purpose.

It will be difficult to cut down your priorities when you have more on your plate to do than you can comfortably handle. Prioritise on the basis of your long term and short term goals, accountabilities, values, areas of focus and current projects. Combine the things you want to do with things you should do.

Get your routine done

It is very easy to start a task you want to do. But what about those tasks you have absolutely no motivation to do? The ones you procrastinate far too long over and never get around to doing? Putting off important tasks can rob your hours of achievement and can become a chronic cycle.

Slacking off and doing unimportant tasks, putting off other tasks makes you habituated to the same process. Then, the loop continues to repeat. You are avoiding the task either because you are not organised or because you are prioritising low value work. To avoid procrastination, identify what you are putting off and do those tasks right away. If getting started is the hardest part, set a designated time slot to do the task.

Stay consistent

The majority of us fail at building life-changing habits because we start strong and give up easily. You need to put effort into accomplishing your goal. Even he tiniest of efforts, when consistently done, brings good results.

Figure out which skill to work upon in order to reach your goal and the task you need to do everyday. Once you have zeroed in on the skill and activity, mark the days you will be working on it and focus on growing your progress on the same. Do not break the chain of progress so that you become consistent with your talent/ skill.

Use your gap time productively

Gap times occur between meaningful activities. Optimise your gap time so you can further develop the skill you need to make you productive. Gap times are small breaks in your schedule or at work, or when you are on long breaks from your work.

Be as strategic about your breaks as you are about your day in general. To use your gap times productively, think about small projects you can accomplish like learning something new, planning your week/day, cleaning up or even working on your other ideas.

Finally, Stay focused.

Think about the last time you felt highly productive. You probably had a sense of being in control without too much stress. You were probably highly focused on what you were doing and you felt you were making progress.

Next time around if you get far out of that state—and start to feel out of control, stressed out , unfocused and bored—get yourself back into your “productive state.” Hopefully the above methods can inspire you to become more productive and work towards attaining your goals.

Ten Techniques To Stop Procrastinating

Don't let procrastinating take over

The comfort zone is a psychological state in which one feels familiar,safe,at ease,and secure.

If you always do what is easy and choose the path of least resistance, you never step outside your comfort zone. Great things don’t come from comfort zones. -Roy T. Bennet.

#1 Take five minutes, right now, to identify what you are putting off.

#2  Do one of those tasks right away. Action eliminates anxiety.

#3  If getting started is the hardest part, set a designated time slot to do the task.

#4  Beat boredom by using your mind by thinking something challenging.

#5  Imagine you have only few years to live.

#6  Don’t worry about perfection. What counts is quality of effort, not perfect results.

#7  Avoid using phrases like “I wish..” , “I hope..”, “May be I’ll..”. Instead say “I will”.

#8  If what you are putting off involves other people, consult with them.

#9  If you fear the consequences for this action you’ve been avoiding, ask yourself, ” what is the very worst things that could happen if I did it today?”

#10 Vividly picture how free you will feel once the task is completed. Free from anxiety.