Doesn’t it piss you off when you make stupid decisions? Doesn’t it piss you off EVEN MORE when you miss an opportunity for not having made a decision fast enough?
This is my little guide to make smart decisions. I don’t claim to be a decision-making expert. This is what works for me and hopefully it will help you too.
Planning Too Far Ahead Doesn’t Make Sense
I don’t like business plans that cover three years. This is especially true for startups. You have no idea what’s going to happen next week, how the heck will you know what’s going to happen three years from now?
You don’t need to have plans for the next 10 years of your life. It’s always good to have a rough idea of your life goals, but you can’t plan the whole path to get there and expect it to happen the exact way you planned it. Write down your goals and then make a list of all the things you can do THIS WEEK to get closer to those goals.
Sometimes You Don’t Need to Make a Decision at All
I try not to waste mental energy worrying about decisions I might never have to make. For example, I want to go with my wife on a safari to Africa. There are way too many choices. I don’t waste my time trying to decide what tour I’m going to go with because I’ll take this trip in about a year and a lot of things could happen between now and then. I could meet someone who has been on a safari already and can make a recommendation. I could find information on a safari I really like in a newspaper. I might decide to go to some other destination instead. I might be broke in a year and might not be able to go anywhere at all (although I hope this isn’t the case!)
My point is that way too often we worry about problems that don’t even happen now. Last week I had a problem with one of our vendors. We talked over the phone and they told me they were going to call me back. In the meantime I started looking for other vendors. I spent a whole day doing this. Finally, the vendor I had been working with called me, apologized for the issue they caused and gave me a whole year of service for free. They earned my loyalty forever. In retrospect, I should have waited for their phone call before wasting a whole day assuming that they wouldn’t make it right for me. I could have spent that day much more productively.
Avoiding Analysis Paralysis
One of the more sure-fire ways to never get ahead in life is to procrastinate making decisions because you don’t know what the right decision is. The truth is that most of the time what decision you make doesn’t matter that much (that is, as long as you make a decision). I’m a big fan of making decisions fast and then evaluating those decisions later. If I made the right decision, great! If I didn’t, I’ll correct it. Let me give you some examples:
- A few months ago we were offering a service that was bringing us a lot of headaches. I wanted to get rid of it but wasn’t sure. So I decided to stop offering it for two months. 50% of my problems suddenly disappeared and our bottom line didn’t suffer much. It was the right decision, but if it had been the wrong one, I could always start offering the service again.
- Last month I needed to buy some speakers for my iPhone. There were two I really liked. After five minutes of time-wasting, I finally decided to call my wife. “Honey, pick a number: one or two.” She picked two and I bought the second set of speakers. I love them.
- Last week we had to choose between two vendors. There were both really good. I could’ve spent a whole day analyzing the pros and cons of each one, but I decided to toss a coin. So far they’ve been great. If that changes, I can always switch to the other company.
Trust Your Intuition
Intuition isn’t a voodoo thing that magically makes good decisions. Your intuition learns from past experiences and analyzes your subconscious for how certain experiences worked out for you. It perceives things that your conscious mind can’t. For example, if you’ve been lied to by people who wanted to take advantage of you, the next time something similar is about to happen, your intuition will warn you, even if on paper the decision you’re about to make looks great. Listen to it.