Decide once then forget it

#13. Stop putting off decisions, worry less

The problem with our decision-making

The default way that we make decisions is to half-decide something then continually assess whether it was the right decision to make, sometimes flitting between the two.

This is true for trivial decisions as well as important ones.

  • Standing in the supermarket, we ask ourselves: “what shall I get for dinner? Chicken goujons or chicken kievs..”
  • Deciding what project to work on, we continually debate between two or three or even more, preventing us from making serious progress in any.
  • Deciding whether to talk to someone; ask a friend something personal, ask a boss for a raise, ask a girl on a date. The decision can turn over and over in our minds.

This approach is inefficient and mentally draining.

The solution:

  1. Make the decision
  2. Commit to it
  3. Forget it

If it’s a trivial decision (eg. Dinner), make it then and there. It’s not going to make a huge difference either way.

If it’s a serious decision, schedule a time when you will sit down and focus on it. The amount of time should be proportional to the importance of the decision.

Use whatever techniques help you to come to the decision: write a list of pros and cons, write a stream-of-consciousness reflection, talk to yourself in the mirror or into a video on your phone. However you approach it, commit to not stopping until you have made your final decision.

Once you make the decision, take the necessary actions and don’t look back. Don’t waste time re-assessing whether it was right or not — trust your judgement in the moment you made the decision.

You will make mistakes. That’s inevitable whether you try this approach or not.

But this will develop your decision-making muscle. You will have increased decisiveness, you will waste less time and with practice you will make better decisions.