How to Make Decisions
In honor of National Fight Procrastination Day tomorrow, here are some thoughts about something we all put off at times: making decisions.
Forrest Gump might have thought that life was like a box of chocolates, but there are those of us who think it's more like a yo-yo.
You’re up. You’re down.
There are times when the string gets tangled.
And then there are occasions (hopefully rare) when everything is just one tight knot that takes incredible effort and patience to undo.
To take the analogy a step further, though, you’d have to watch a demonstration of current yo-yoing. Yo-yos have come a long way from your basic beginners’ Duncan. And that has led to a whole new level of amazingly sophisticated tricks.
But when you think about it, hasn’t life, in general, become more complicated?
With so many choices, even buying toothpaste, could be overwhelming. Anti-plaque toothpaste. Whitening toothpaste. Desensitizing toothpaste. Toothpaste with baking soda. Toothpaste with fluoride. Even anti-calculus toothpaste for those of us with math anxiety (sort of).
How are we supposed to make big decisions – like whether or not to go back to school, what major to choose, if online learning is the right way to earn a degree – when even the simplest ones have become complex?
All that complexity and stress just makes us put the decision off.
Tomorrow is National Fight Procrastination Day.
In honor of National Fight Procrastination Day tomorrow – and to help you stop putting off some of those big (and little decisions), here’s one option offered by Zen Habits blogger Leo Babauta.
See decisions not as final choices, but experiments.
Babauta says that one way to take the stress out of decision-making – and thereby simplify the process – is by conducting experiments instead of making decisions. Seeing decisions not as final choices, but as experiments.
"The anxiety (and paralysis) comes when people are worried about making the perfect choice. And worried about making the wrong choice,” says Babauta. “Those are two outcomes that aren’t necessary to make a decision, because if we conduct an experiment, we’re just trying to see what happens.”
With an experiment, you run a test, and see what the results are. If you don’t get good results, you can try another option, and run another test. Then you can see what the outcomes of the choices are (the information you didn’t have when first thinking about the decision), and can make a better-informed decision now.
Test the water. Try one online class.
For example, if you don’t know whether you should take a certain job, Babauta says to take it and see. “Worst-case scenario is you don’t like it and will have to find another, but that’s not bad, because now you have that information, when you didn’t before.”
The same could be said if you don’t know whether you should commit to an online degree program or not. Try taking just one online class and see how it goes.
Babauta admits that sometimes experiments come at a cost. An online class isn’t cheap, but at the end of the term, you’ll have valuable info — did you like online learning or not? He also says that experiments might take time: weeks, months, or a year. “But that’s a tiny amount of time in the space of a lifetime, and those bigger experiments are worth learning about.”
Failure is not an option.
If you buy into this approach to decision making, here’s the best part: there’s no failure. After all, it was just an experiment.
So go ahead and make decision.
You can do it in honor of National Fight Procrastination Day.
But you can put it off only until tomorrow.
What do you think about seeing decisions as experiments instead of final choices? Do you think it could help facilitate decision making?
Image Credit: Ariel.chico