How to make hard decisions easier

A wise person once said: “All the decisions we have to make are hard, because the easy ones have already been taken,’ or words to that effect. Nowhere does this ring true more than in the business world, where livelihoods and huge sums of money are at stake. For some, decision-making is an easy process they barely have to stop and think about, whereas for others it causes a great deal of anxiety and stress. This has to do with personality types, to a certain extent, but it’s also about experience and having the right skillset to handle things in the best way possible.

A good question to ask yourself before such a situation arises is whether you are generally ruled by your heart, your gut or your head? Realising what usually drives you is an excellent place to start, because it enables you to harness the potential of how you’re already inclined to operate, while also acknowledging the need to consider other ways of looking at things.

Practical ways to help you make decisions

Once you’ve established the basics, you may want to try some of the tips below, you’ll find it easier to be comfortable with making decisions and choosing the best options for you:

  • Whenever faced with a tough decision, you’ll have some sort of initial reaction. Gut instinct is our emotional response, listen to your intuition and it can provide valuable insight into some of the option you have available to you.
  • Take a breath. Emotional responses can be instantaneous and sometimes we can react before we’ve had the chance to consider external factors. After all what’s right for us might not be right for everyone so depending on your situation make sure you have a chance to review all the factors and option available to you.

  • Give yourself a deadline and stick to it, otherwise things will drag on forever when you could be acting on the choices you’ve made.

  • When setting your deadline, give yourself enough time to factor in unexpected challenges, and be realistic about the time you will need to complete the task. Do this even if you’re under pressure to give an answer quickly - everyone needs time to think things through, so be assertive, even if you only buy yourself a few minutes or days rather than weeks.
  • At the same time, be wary of information overload. Yes, you need head space to envisage different scenarios, outcomes, consequences and repercussions but strike a balance, otherwise there’s a danger you’ll end up procrastinating for ever.
  • Consider what’s best for you, your employees and your business. What fits your values? What feels right? It goes back to what your gut’s telling you.
  • Seek advice and input from a limited number of people whose opinions you trust. Remember to be clear about what you want to achieve from seeking their advice.
  • Tap into your team’s resources by getting them to contribute and communicate effectively. You could delegate some of the research, or the actual decision-making, according to their strengths.
  • Very rarely are decisions irreversible and they are virtually never so misjudged that you can’t turn things around. Bear in mind there’s always a solution and you’ll aoid being paralysed by fear.
  • For really tough scenarios, consider using a decision-making matrix to weigh up various options.
  • Finally, never underestimate the power of PR – believe in yourself and others will follow. Present yourself as a strong leader who backs up their decisions with well-thought out strategies and decisive actions. The swan analogy is a good one here: it doesn’t matter how frantically you’re paddling, so long as you appear serene and in control above the water’s surface.