The dynamic, fast-paced battleground of today’s business world is a place where important decisions often have to be made quickly, and the high-tech, globalized nature of modern businesses means that these critical junctures sometimes occur on a twenty-four-hour cycle.
Dwelling too long on these rapid-fire decisions leads to wasted time and energy, and can ultimately prevent you from choosing the best option.
While the expanding prevalence of the internet provides a wealth of tools and opportunities for new businesses, web-based or otherwise, it brings with it a flood of information that can be overwhelming to fledgling companies.
Managing this flow of information and using it to make critical, well-informed decisions is the key to success in the contemporary market. Here are some starting points for developing effective decision-making practices and avoiding “Analysis Paralysis.”
1) Don’t Overthink Your Problems
Studies coming out of UCSB have shown that instinctual decision making prevents many of the pitfalls that come with overly analytic approaches. Though a degree of analysis is always a good thing, there are limits to its efficacy.
As anxiety mounts and we begin to second guess ourselves, we become more likely to “choke” under pressure. Trusting yourself to make important decisions without expending too much mental energy will generally yield good results.
While some tasks are suited for deep analytical thought, others, like riding a bike, require a reliance on “implicit memory,” and actions that are totally ingrained in muscle memory will only be impeded by applying conscious attention to them.
Psychologists refer to a state of “flow” in which a person applies just the right amount of attention to the task at hand, and becomes fully engaged in it. Too little or too much attention can lead to distraction and anxiety.
Needless to say, we can apply these same principles in business.
If a decision seems simple, let it stay simple.
2) Face Important Decisions Early
Willpower, or our ability to make and adhere to decisions, is a resource that can be used up like any other. The American Psychological Association suggests that even seemingly irrelevant tasks, unrelated to business, require an expenditure of this research which can wear down our ability to think critically later on.
While common wisdom may suggest that we leave important decisions until the end of the day, to provide as much time to think about it as possible, it is more effective to face these decisions head on, while we’re still fresh.
Filling the day with small, seemingly easy decisions will lead to short-term inability to make the hard, important decisions. If you choose to procrastinate, the pressure of important decisions will come when you are least able to successfully overcome it.
3) Be Open to Change
The Harvard Business Review puts adaptability at the forefront of important competitive advantages. In rapidly changing markets, players must engage in planning processes quickly and effectively, and the right choice in one moment may be different in the next.
Don’t be afraid to change strategies as the situation demands, and develop your business in a way that allows you to make these changes.
Altering plans can be expensive and time-consuming, but it may be better in the long run than sticking to a faulty program. Constantly looking for one perfect solution to each problem will produce greater anxiety in the long term than being agile and adaptable as the situation develops.
A large initial pool of options will be beneficial, but be sure to trim away the fat as the critical decisions approach.
4) Prevent Information Overload
While the always-online, constantly-connected nature of modern business has its advantages, the repercussions of non-stop information flow on productivity are severe.
LexisNexis reported that in 2010, a majority of white collar workers “admit that the quality of their work suffers” because they have too much information to sort through.
Limiting emails and other communications to information that pertains to the task at hand will help you, your coworkers and employees stay focused.
On a related note, while many claim to be able to multi-task effectively, most modern research suggests that doing so decreases overall performance. Staying focused on one task will help you remain organized and cut down on the time lost while switching between tasks.
Originally published at medium.com