Everybody’s felt stuck on a decision at some point.
Sometimes, even small choices overwhelm you, leading to mental fatigue and brain fog if you have to make enough of them. To cope, you rely on the luck of the draw or ask good friends what they think is the best option.
While those decision-making processes get the job done, there are often more effective and reliable ways to get unstuck. Some things you can’t take lightly, especially when they involve serious consequences or impact other people.
Learning how to be more decisive can speed up the process and lead to smoother, more informed outcomes.
Why is it so important to be decisive?
People make about 35,000 decisions in a day. Some are simple, like whether to order an iced coffee or a latte. Others are much harder, like whether to leave your job for a new one or ditch a toxic person.
With so many choices, day in and day out, it’s no wonder you sometimes wrestle with uncertainty. But whether facing impulsiveness or hesitancy, learning to make better decisions can enhance many areas of your life. Here are some reasons why:
1. Saves time
In her book How to Decide, strategist Annie Duke found that the average person spends:
- 150 minutes per week deciding what to eat
- 50 minutes per week deciding what to watch on Netflix
- 90–115 minutes per week deciding what to wear
The time you spend making decisions adds up, even if it’s only a few minutes every day. Learning how to make small ones quickly gives you that time back to work on more important things.
2. Helps you reach goals
You can only visualize a goal for so long. Eventually, you need to act on it, and sometimes it’s tough to finally jump in. Not only does effective decision-making start the process, but thinking ahead provides the insight you need to start in the right direction.
3. Improves your mindset
Author Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen.” This might not always be true, but deciding on a big life change does help to manifest positive outcomes and take advantage of potential opportunities. Making a choice you feel confident about gives you a growth mindset and positive mental attitude.
4. Increases adaptability
Life is going to throw you curveballs. Honing your ability to decide lets you adjust your plans and goals quickly to stay on track, even when things go wrong. And being adaptable is an important skill in the workplace and elsewhere.
5. Aids leadership
There are times when you need to settle an issue on behalf of others. Knowing how to choose with precision and consideration in times of high stress without second-guessing inspires confidence and trust in others — key characteristics of a good leader.
6. Offers peace of mind
Being indecisive prevents you from living in the moment. You can’t concentrate on the here and now because you’re always stuck on your next move. Making a decision removes that distraction and helps you be more present.
7. Leads to better outcomes
Decision-making teaches you to take action after thoughtful consideration and prioritize strategy over impulsiveness. This makes it easier to avoid negative consequences because you’re more likely to make the best choice.
Characteristics of a decisive person
Being decisive directly relates to other positive traits:
Self-confidence: When you’re more decisive, you believe you have the skills necessary to execute a plan, increasing confidence.
Balance: You find a happy medium between impulse and analysis, paying attention to detail without getting bogged down.
Willpower: Once you choose a direction, you stick with it, demonstrating commitment and willpower.
How to deal with indecision daily
It’s hard to acknowledge and mend your own uncertainty, especially if you don’t know what to look for. It’s often easier to spot it in others than yourself. But if you’re feeling stuck in an endless cycle of research, consultations, and “what if” scenarios, you’re probably struggling with indecision.
Take a step back to evaluate what’s happening and question why this process is hard for you. Here are some ways to self-reflect and take steps to finally decide:
Try journaling for a few weeks to take stock of your process. For decisions of all kinds, ask yourself:
- Which were easier to make?
- Which were the hardest?
- Were you under pressure?
- Were other people’s opinions a factor?
- Did you fret over the possible outcomes?
- What was the worst-case scenario?
After a while, you’ll start to see patterns identifying the source of your difficulty, like perfectionism or a lack of confidence. And once you know the problem, you can take steps to address it.
2. Determine if it’s worth it
Ask yourself if putting time and effort into extra consideration is worth it. If the issue has long-term personal, social, or financial implications, being thorough might be the best way to go. But for low-value options, if you can easily bounce back from a wrong choice, it’s better to save your energy for big decisions.
3. Take care of your mental health
Wanting to make the perfect decision can be a major source of anxiety. But when you’re stressed, those feelings short-circuit the prefrontal cortex, which is the decision-making area of your brain. Poor mental health impairs your ability to actually make a choice.
4. Look beyond the data
You want to make an informed decision, and that naturally requires information. But data without analysis and critical thinking are just numbers, and basing a choice exclusively on data doesn’t always lead to success.
Some research shows that information overload makes decisions harder. You need to evaluate the information to ensure it’s relevant to your situation and keep yourself from getting stuck overthinking and overanalyzing the problem — and sometimes, that’s too much to handle. If so, trusting your gut is the right way to go.
8 hacks to be more decisive
Like any skill, learning how to make decisions takes practice. It’s a muscle. The more you work at it, the more powerful it gets. If you’re stuck in analysis paralysis, give these techniques a try:
1. Start in your comfort zone
Working at your own pace, set aside some time to review upcoming choices, no matter how inconsequential, and establish which path is best for you. This helps you get used to the process.
2. Make small decisions fast
Start with baby steps. You make thousands of small daily choices, like your lunch order or next binge-watch. Use them to build fundamental skills.
For smaller decisions, try committing to a choice in less than a minute. This forces you to speed up and consider all sides faster. As you practice, you’ll become more confident and comfortable. Build on these small wins to work your way up to more important ones.
3. Build yourself up
You need to let go of the expectation that everything should always work out. You can thoroughly evaluate your options and still reach a dissatisfactory conclusion. It happens to everyone.
Instead of engaging in negative self-talk, focus on the fact that you’re making a decision in the first place, trying something new, and perhaps learning a valuable lesson. Failure doesn’t have to be negative, as long as you have the right attitude.
4. Get feedback
When you’re working on new habits, outsider feedback helps you gauge progress. Ask friends, coworkers, or a coach to evaluate your abilities. They can help you identify patterns, like decision fatigue or overly relying on others’ opinions, for you to work on.
5. Don’t fear mistakes
You can’t let the fear of a negative outcome prevent you from making a choice. Bad decisions define you only if you let them. Sometimes it’s best to take the leap and see what happens.
Allow yourself to be imperfect. Mistakes and failures are powerful teachers you should embrace as a natural part of life. They’re opportunities to learn so you make better choices moving forward.
6. Try different processes
Is your trusty pros and cons list not working for you? Are your friends not giving the in-depth advice you’re looking for? These might not be the right tools for the job. If you’re stuck, try a different approach, like a decision matrix. Switching things up could be the key to a breakthrough.
7. Learn how to narrow down your options
Having fewer options to choose from streamlines the decision-making process and helps you avoid analysis paralysis. Practice evaluating your options and quickly eliminating those that are impractical, don’t align with your personal values, or require resources you don’t have. This saves time and headaches.
8. Visualize the outcomes
Go through the options in your mind and picture every possible result — good, neutral, and negative. Catalog how each result makes you feel, along with the pros and cons, and use that information to make your final decision. You might surprise yourself with how you react to certain outcomes.
What is the role of decision-making in the workplace?
Decision-making — like self-discipline, communication, and time management — is a valuable soft skill in the workplace. Employers attach great importance to transferable skills, and developing them can future-proof your career.
Becoming an effective decision-maker means you’ll:
- Stand out as a leader and inspire trust among your coworkers
- Be known for your self-confidence
- Prioritize tasks and get more done instead of over-analyzing
- Reduce stress and feel disciplined, organized, and confident
- Place your professionalism front and center for all to see
Being more decisive in the future
Not making a choice is a decision in itself, but it’s one few people are happy with. It’s the choice to play it safe — to avoid growth and opportunity.
That stagnation may work for a while, but change is inevitable. Learning how to be more decisive gives you more control as you grow and priorities shift. It takes hard work, time, and practice, but making better decisions is worth it.