This article was written by G. John Cole, a digital nomad and freelance writer.
There’s a lot to be said for trusting your gut instincts in business. But if you perpetually allow yourself to be guided by your emotions, you are sure to run into trouble before too long. Humans are, by nature, emotional creatures, and we don’t always recognize the power of our emotions.
Either we act too quickly before we allow the impact of new information to settle in, or we are swayed by elements that we don’t even notice are there. For example, one study showed that sunnier mornings seem to push up stock market prices.
People also have a tendency to panic when confronted with too many options or too much information. Or to only listen to advice that backs up what they were planning to do anyhow. Learning to arrest this process can lead you into making wiser, more fruitful decisions.
The First Step to Making Better Decisions
But if you don’t even know when you’re making a decision based on emotions rather than objective fact, how can you prevent yourself from doing so?
The first step is to slow down.
Rushing will necessarily involve making uninformed, gut decisions. Slowing down also gives you the chance to employ proven techniques to interrogate and improve the conclusions that you draw.
Slowing down gives you the chance to clear your mind.
Our initial responses to extreme emotions tend to tail off pretty quickly. Taking ten minutes to breathe and think about something else before responding to a tricky decision can save you from acting recklessly.
It also gives you time to think a bit more deeply about the mechanics of the issue at hand. Using the ‘five whys’ – identifying the superficial cause of a problem and tracing it back along at least five levels of causality – can turn an issue upside-down. Your decision will deal with the root of the problem instead of reacting merely against the surface issue.
Another trick is to veer away from the negative side of the issue on which you’re making a decision.
Negatives tend to represent our fears and worries, which can be such overpowering emotions that they cause us to undervalue the positives of an option. In the same way, ‘recent’ information may unreasonably overbalance the stronger but older data that you already have to hand. Don’t get wowed by new developments. Slow down, and try to fit new information into context with what you already know.
The Art of Quick Decision Making
The final trick has a different relationship to slowness. Make your decision quickly, but without fully committing to it.
Try just writing it down on a piece of paper for yourself. Only now do you slow down, and think about whether you’ve made the right decision; if not, change your mind.
It may seem a roundabout way of doing things, but sometimes it takes the ‘real’ feeling of making a decision to highlight which is truly the best choice.
For a rundown on these ideas and more on how to make an objective decision, check out this new infographic from NetCredit.