5 Steps to Faster, More Informed Decisions

By Dawna Jones

Part of Decision Making For Dummies Cheat Sheet

Can you make decisions swiftly and confidently when vast amounts of data cross your desk and inbox every day? How do you prioritize and rapidly respond in the midst of changing conditions? Well, you use the skills you already possess but may not be tapping into.

Here’s an interesting correlation: The way you process information as you drive a vehicle works for making an informed decision, as well. If you drive well enough to be 98 percent accident-free, chances are you’re already a master of processing tons of data at high speed: You select pertinent information almost automatically and then use the information quickly and accurately. If you apply that innate skill to your decision-making, you can make informed business decisions without second guessing yourself.

To sort from a sea of information, do these things:

  • Focus on the outcome.

    Being clear about the end point does two things:

    • Provides guidance for your intuition, enabling you to sift through all the available information to select what’s important for the decision you need to make

    • Gives you a solid anchor for your decisions that can accommodate opposing facts and perspectives

    If, for example, the end point is to stay under budget, then your decision and the data you use to inform your decision will be filtered based on that. If the end point is to produce a product that meets customers’ unstated needs, then all the available information will be filtered using that criterion. The outcome anchors your decision making.

  • Stop mentally concentrating on the issues and let your subconscious do the work for you.

    Your subconscious is faster than your conscious mind, and it works automatically when your focus is clear. When you turn the issue over to your subconscious, you gain speed and accuracy.

  • Question and expose the beliefs you use to interpret how the world works.

    Beliefs, otherwise known as mental models — things you believe to be true but that may not actually reflect a widened view of reality — filter reality to confirm your previous experiences.

    Questioning your beliefs permits you to improve the accuracy of your analysis, jettison past connotations, and open up new possibilities.

  • Observe your emotions.

    Step back to gain perspective and quiet the mental chatter so that you can accurately hear your inner voice. You’ll gain a wider view of the situation and be able to see alternatives.

    It’s really easy to fall prey to doubt or to rationalize your decision. If you’re feeling fearful, you may think you have only one option or no options. In climates of high fear, when the rational dominates, making an informed decision requires that you achieve a calmer state of mind so that you can access your higher mental and intuitive functioning.

  • After you analyze and review your options, select your decision, but before you commit, check in on how you feel about the option you’ve selected.

    Call it a heart check. Even when the solution is a totally new approach, you need to feel at peace with it.

Making an informed decision requires that you work with both facts (actual data) and emotional information, and that you take steps to mitigate the effect of ingrained bias. Doing so requires that you commit to mastering all your senses and intelligences so that, in chaotic decision-making environments, you’ll be able to balance data with open-minded experimentation and stay sensitive to cues that other decision-makers will miss.