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5 Tips for Making Difficult Decisions at Work


Tough choices cross our desks every day. Oftentimes (thankfully) we know what we want to do and we know how to go about getting it done. However, every so often a choice might leave you scratching your head and wondering what your next move should be. If you’re feeling indecisive, but need to move forward somehow, here are some tips to help you get over the hump.


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1. Don’t jump just to jump.

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If you don’t know what you want to do next, don’t do anything. Time pressure aside, it’s better to wait until you feel more sure of what you’d like to do before settling on any one option.

What you need is more information. Instead of focusing on making a choice, isolate a few questions to which you’d like to find answers. This could help you gain the information you need to settle on a decision. Wait, learn, and be patient. The answer will be more obvious once you have more information, and you’ll feel better about moving forward.

2. Collaborate.

Collaboration isn’t just about gaining the viewpoint and opinions of others. Talking an issue through with a group will also help you engage with the problem or decision in a different way. By sharing your thoughts about the choice, and the pros and cons, out loud and with others, you’re likely to gain more insight yourself. Not to mention the benefits that a collective weighing-in on the matter will have.

3. Use the Pugh Method.

Sometimes, a quantitative tool can be really helpful when you’re not sure which road to travel. A decision matrix (also known as the Pugh Method) could help you get started.

Basically, you create a table listing the options and the factors impacting those options, and then assign a rating value to each of the factors. After carefully considering each part of the table and assigning values to each, tally up your score, and you’ll know what to do. This approach could help you take emotions and bias out of the equation and break down the details in a concrete way.

4. Sleep on it.

The old saying is true: sleeping on an important decision before forging ahead is often a good idea. Sometimes, when the conscious mind isn’t able to arrive at a solution, our subconscious self can be of assistance. The insights that come might not be as data-driven as the ones we make during the day, but that doesn’t mean that the ideas are any less helpful.

Subconscious determinations come to us often as gut feelings. It’s important to check those thoughts against facts and figures before moving ahead, but the thoughts of the subconscious mind are often worth paying attention to along the way, and they’ll be easier to access after a solid rest.

5. Remember, most decisions can be undone.

Often, we have trouble making a decision when the outcome feels very important and when we feel like we’re under a lot of pressure. Trying to relax a little should help improve the clarity of your thinking, which will likely lead to a better decision-making process overall.

One way to do that is to remember that most decisions can be undone. Sure, you’d love to make the best choice possible, but if you need to go in another direction further down the road, chances are you’ll be able to do just that. So, relax with the choice a little, and remember that few things are as permanent as they feel in the moment. You can always change course later if you need to.

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Malcolm Recent comment authors
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Well this dilemma is as common as 6:30 am alarm. As a manufacturing engineer faced with tough choices daily like most working folks the suggestions do help. It is easy to get stuck. The hardest thing to do is deliver bad news to a superior that is unreasonable or has lost the ability to respect information. Getting the facts and present only the information necessary and prepare for the worst. Do not let an emotional nerve take over. Logic and… Read more »

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