How to Make Better Faster Decisions

My brother takes forever to make a decision. Not always, of course; it’s not like he stays naked until 3pm because he can’t decide what to wear. But he did once take two years to buy a couch. That’s not an exaggeration. From the time he decided he needed a new couch to the time he pulled the trigger on getting one, the Earth had gone around the sun twice. Do you have any idea how many miles that is?

I, on the other hand, make decisions absurdly quickly. That doesn’t mean I always make good decisions, as basically any picture of me between the ages of 15 and 25 would illustrate. (Side note: how can I have purchased so many awful outfits? Why did nobody stop me?) But at least when I leave the house looking ugly, I do it fast.

Anyway, somewhere between me and my brother is the optimal way to make decisions, quickly but without sacrificing quality. Here’s how to do that:

Reduce Your Options

Those of you who have seen my Us Vs. Them keynote have heard me discuss the psychological phenomenon called the ‘poverty of choice,’ which is essentially this – the more choices we are given, the more likely we are to choose nothing. Basically, the process of making a decision can overwhelm our brain’s decision-making center, and it decides not to do anything because that’s way easier than sifting through a million options. That’s why it takes forever to pick a paint color for your living room, because there are literally a million choices, and six of them look EXACTLY THE SAME!!!! So limit your options as much as you can. If you need some new marketing materials, get five quotes instead of fifteen; if you want feedback on a presentation, ask two people to vet it instead of six. The speed with which you will make a final decision is almost directly related to how many choices you have, so less really is more.

Decide How Critical The Decision Really Is

Unless, of course, the decision is a critical one. If we’re talking about a critical business decision or a once-in-a-lifetime trip around the world, then it makes sense for you to slow down, weigh your options, and make sure you’re getting exactly what you need. But if you’re deciding how to paint the walls in your living room and can’t decide between five nearly identical swatches, you might be better off to just pick one and see how it looks than to spend another week staring at those tiny colored squares. You can always repaint it if you need to, right? Classifying your decisions as critical or non-critical right at the outset is a great way to determine how quickly those decisions need to be made.

Don’t Worry About Pleasing Everybody

Never in my life have I managed to sit down in my living room with three other people, choose a movie to watch, and have every single person equally enthusiastic about that choice. There’s always someone who isn’t really excited but willing to go along for the ride, or someone else who only halfway pays attention because they didn’t really want to watch a movie in the first place. That always happens, and it always happens with other types of decisions as well. If there are only two people involved in the process, then it might be more important to slow down and choose something that satisfied both of you as much as possible. But if there are twelve people weighing in, just go ahead and assume that a couple of them aren’t going to be 100% on board, and don’t kill yourself trying to please everybody when that usually isn’t possible.

I hope that helps. Now if you’ll excuse me, my brother just texted to let me know that his refrigerator is broken and he needs to get a new one. I need to drive down there and help him out before his daughter dies of starvation. Don’t worry, Samantha! Uncle Jeff will be there soon to make sure you still have all the yogurt and chicken nuggets you can handle!

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