How can we make more confident decisions?


There are many situations when we are trying to work out what is best to do. Should we hire a marketing firm? Should we buy that building? Should we hire that person?

In all these cases we don’t know if we’re going to be successful. And, more importantly, we’re not confident that we’re making the right call.

Is there a way we can change this – be more sure of ourselves and the choices we make when we have to?

Three approaches – perhaps even formulae – may help.

First, make sure that it is actually important

Not all decisions are worth taking time over. As we get more to do, perfectionism gets in the way of progress.

Some people try and read everything, check everything. That’s laudable, but not smart.

The smart thing to do is focus on the things that matter – and the 80/20 rule or Pareto principle is one to follow here.

Of all the things on our lists, a few matter as much as the rest put together.

The key is figuring out what those are and choosing to put everything else on autopilot. The extreme example here is people who wear the same kind of clothes all the time so they don’t have to spend time choosing an outfit.

Then, look at the choice from multiple perspectives

A good rule for meeting requests is never to accept them.

Or at least only accept the ones that we are really happy with. But how do we know that?

A common issue is that we heavily discount the future. We are happy to book a meeting in a months time that we would not book in today, for example.

So, we need to apply the 10/10/10 rule.

Would we be happy with the outcome of that decision 10 minutes from now, 10 months from now and 10 years from now?

If yes, then we should go ahead. If not – then maybe we should pass on this one.

Very few choices or decisions are really once-in-a-lifetime ones. If we take the trouble to put ourselves in the path of opportunity, these decisions come along like buses.

By only choosing the right ones, we’ll probably get to where we want to end up much faster.

Finally – is the decision going to move the most important needle?

A concept behind many successful business models is the idea of one key metric.

A community in India, for example, called the Marwaris have an ancient system of accounting that totals their sales and expenses daily to keep an eye on daily profit.

If we have a market stall and use their technique, for example, and we’ve sold less than we wanted to during the day, then we might choose to defer an expense or part pay it so that we don’t incur a loss that day.

This simple technique means that we get better at managing our cashflow. Also, making a profit every day means that we’ll be in profit at the end of the month – and at the end of the year.

In other businesses, the Net Promoter Score, the difference between the customers you have that will recommend us to someone else and the ones that will not, can mean the difference between growing and winding up.

In summary decisions are hard – but we can make them easier by focusing on the important ones, looking at them from multiple perspectives and really asking ourselves if they will move the most important needle in our business.

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