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12 secrets to improve decision making skills

Here are five ways to learn to differentiate between major and minor decisions. Save the fear of regret for when you need it, and then use ...

Here are five ways to learn to differentiate between major and minor decisions. Save the fear of regret for when you need it, and then use it to help you make the smartest possible choice.

1. It's Okay to "Satisfice"

A simple solution is to 'satisfice'; suffice with what satisfies you. Pick up the first package of pens, scan the label, and if it looks good enough, then buy it.
Happy people are those who are happy with what they have, not those who have more. So, you may not have the best type of pen out there, but if you feel satisfied, then that's enough. Voila! You've averted a decision-making struggle.

2. Narrow Your Options

Shoe shopping online? Use those filters. Set your price range, shoe size, and preferred style. Then you won't be presented with seventy pages to scroll through, and you'll find what you need quickly, without getting distracted. Even if you need more than one type of item, you should still use the filters and shop with one focus at a time. It's faster (and easier on your brain) to sort through sneakers and boots separately.

3. Ask Others For Their Opinions

Consult with a professional, such as an interior designer, if you're having trouble picking out a room color. Of course, don't be dependent. Do your own research. But once you've narrowed down your options you can take it to a trusted friend or someone with experience in that area, and then go along with whatever they suggest.

4. Set Time Limits

Johnston is a proponent of setting time limits. "If you have unlimited time to decide, you will use it to mull over every possible option. Limiting yourself forces quick and decisive thinking."
Make yourself an appropriate time limit for making the necessary decision. If you're just choosing a drink, two to five minutes is enough. If you're house-hunting on a summer home, then close on your best option by, say, April.

5. Use Your Past as a Guideline

Author and psychotherapist Dr. Robi Ludwig recommends taking a look at your previous decisions. "When we have a lot of choices, it can increase the anxiety and noise in our head. It's not uncommon to be confused about which direction to take -- what's right or what's wrong. So it may be helpful to focus on decisions you've made in the past, and use that as a guideline to help you out."
6. Cost-Benefit Analysis
Before reaching the ultimate decision, it’s important to weigh the pros and the cons to ensure that you’re making the best decision possible. This requires a cost-benefit analysis, in which you examine the outcome to every possible route (both positive and negative). This will help you see the opportunity costs, or the things you miss out on when one decision is preferred over another.
7. Narrow Your Options
To simplify the cost-benefit analyzing, limit yourself to fewer options. When more choices are presented to us, the greater the difficulty in making a final decision. More choices can lead to more regret because we consider all of the missed possibilities and worry whether we could have chosen one of the many other routes that were available. As such, narrowing your options will lead to greater peace of mind.
8. Evaluate the Significance
How much time should you spend mulling over a potential decision? Ten seconds? Ten minutes? Ten hours or more? It all depends on what’s at stake. To minimize agonizing indecision, determine the significance of a decision (How great of an impact will it have on my life? How much will it cost me?), and set a deadline accordingly.
9. Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff
If it’s something as simple as deciding where to go for lunch or what to watch on TV, remember to keep things in perspective and keep your timeframe for decisions to a minimum. This is closely tied with evaluating the significance of a decision — if it won’t affect you or others in a significant way, then don’t waste time endlessly debating between your options.
10. Do Your Research
This may seem obvious, but when it comes to making major decisions — new cell phone or laptop, car brand, etc. — putting in the time and effort to fully inform yourself about your impending purchase can mean the difference between product satisfaction and relentless frustration.
11. Get a Well-Informed Opinion
It’s more than just researching the facts and logistics of a decision — getting a personal opinion can also improve your decision-making by giving you the confidence and reassurance that you’re making the right decision. Whether it’s asking your auto mechanic friend about a car purchase or checking Consumer Reports before buying a new appliance for your kitchen, informed opinions are quite helpful.
12. Don’t Dwell on Mistakes
The greatest impediment to good decision-making is beating up on yourself for past mistakes. Living with post-decision angst and regret hurts your ability to decide on things swiftly and efficiently in the future, so instead of dwelling on errors and failures, make a decision and don’t look back once you’ve followed through.

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