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Three priceless decision rules

I had been flipping through the menu for several minutes, struggling with my indecision. Each dish was attractive in its own way. It seems like you have to order everything … It seems to you that this stupid decision should not even be considered? Quite possible. Nevertheless, I bet you yourself have encountered similar difficulties, […]

I had been flipping through the menu for several minutes, struggling with my indecision. Each dish was attractive in its own way. It seems like you have to order everything …

It seems to you that this stupid decision should not even be considered? Quite possible. Nevertheless, I bet you yourself have encountered similar difficulties, if not the choice of food, then something else.

Every day we spend an exorbitant amount of time and energy, choosing between equally attractive options. However, despite the fact that they seem to be equivalent, each of them attracts us in its own way, which forces us to compromise, even if we just make a choice between coleslaw (easy and healthy), salmon (harder to digest protein) and ravioli (tasty, but contains a lot of carbohydrates).

Even if such mundane decisions take so much time and effort from us, what can we say about the more serious situations that we face daily in our organizations. Which product should I continue to produce, and which should I stop? In school days was this my choice to write my essay or order it? Who to hire and who to fire? Should I start this difficult conversation?

And each of these questions is followed by an infinite number of others of the same. If you have a difficult conversation, then when? And How? Which is better: call him, meet in person or write a letter? Talk to him in private or in private? What information should be communicated to him, and which is better to conceal? And further in the same vein …

How can we learn to deal more effectively with all sorts of difficult decisions? To do this, I use three methods, two of which I set out in my book, The Rule of Four Seconds, and the third I discovered no more than last week.


The first method is to use the power of habit to significantly reduce the fatigue associated with routine issues.

The bottom line is that if you make a habit, for example, always have a salad for lunch, then you no longer have to make decisions on this issue. This way you save energy for other things.

This is an effective method when it comes to predictable and routine decisions. But what about unusual situations?

The second method involves the use of an “if / then” algorithm to simplify spontaneous decisions.

Imagine, for example, a situation where someone is constantly interrupting you and you don’t know how to react to it. In this case, my rule would sound like this: if a person interrupts me twice in a conversation, I will make a remark to him.

These two techniques: the power of habit and the if-then principle will help speed up the many typical and routine decisions that we face in life.

However, the problem remains of large, strategic decisions that can neither be predicted nor turned into a habit.

Last week I was at an away meeting with the leadership of a high-tech company. It was at this meeting that I found a simple way to deal effectively with difficult choices. The company faced difficulties, the consequences of which could not be predicted.

Questions of this kind were on the agenda: in which products to invest more, how to respond to threats from competitors, how best to merge with a recently acquired company, in what part to cut the budget, how to organize an accountability system, and so on.

It is such decisions that can be delayed for weeks, months, or even years, hampering the development of the organization as a whole. They cannot be turned into a habit or resolved using the if-then algorithm. And most importantly, these are questions for which there are no clear and obviously correct answers.

Company management is inclined to hesitate in making decisions of this kind, collecting more and more data, weighing the pros and cons many times, attracting additional consultants – in general, putting off the decision in the hope that sooner or later there will be a clear answer.

But what if we take as a basis the fact that such an answer simply does not exist? Perhaps this will accelerate the decision-making process?

So I thought, sitting at this meeting, where again, for the umpteenth time, we were discussing a sore point – what to do with a certain business, when suddenly the general director interrupted the debate, loudly declaring: “It’s now a quarter past four. We must work out a solution within the next fifteen minutes. ”

Wait a minute,” the CFO objected, “the question is not simple. Maybe we should return to discussing it at dinner or at the next meeting? ”

The CEO was determined: “No, we will make a decision in fifteen minutes.”

And you know what? We did it

So I found my third decision-making method: use a timer.

If the problems you are facing have been studied enough, the choices are equally attractive and no clear answer has been found, recognize that it is impossible to determine the right course, and just make a decision.

Of course, it would be nice to first check its effectiveness – for example, create a trial version by investing a minimum of money in it. But even if you cannot do this, a decision must still be made. The time you save by abandoning fruitless evaluations and discussions will be of great benefit to you in terms of productivity.

Wait a minute, you argue, if you spend more time on it, sooner or later the right answer will still be found. It may very well be. But, firstly, you will lose a lot of precious hours, days and weeks in anticipation of “enlightenment”, and secondly, the correctness of this one and only decision will teach you and in many other cases to hesitate in empty hopes for a clear answer.

Make a decision and move on.

Try this method now. Choose a solution that you have been putting off for a long time, give yourself three minutes – and you will succeed. If you are inundated with unresolved issues, take a piece of paper and make a list of them. Set the time in advance for yourself and, in order, one by one, take the best of all decisions currently possible. Making decisions – any decisions – will give you the opportunity to breathe a sigh of relief and continue moving on. The best cure for congestion is continuous progress.

As for my lunch, I chose a cabbage salad. Is this the best option? I do not know. But at least I’m no longer sitting over the menu trying to make an order.

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