Did you buy a coffee from Starbucks today? Which message did you reply to first in the groggy hours of this morning? Are you building a résumé in order to impress Google?
We make countless decisions each day, consciously, subconsciously, meaningful and minor, that govern how much we can create the lives that we want, within the elements that we can control. Yet, for an action that is so crucial, we spend little to no time practicing making decisions, or thinking about how we can make decisions better, using methods that are proven to more effectively create the outcomes that we desire. Most of us are not great at decisions.
So let’s look at methods for making better decisions.
Different situations require different kinds of decisions. Some decisions are simple, with only a few factors to consider, while others have a myriad of interlocking elements that have unfolding consequences. Because of this, different kinds of situations are best processed by different decision-making methods.
Two effective methods are a decision tree analysis and a decision matrix analysis.
- Decision tree analyses are useful when you need to map out the chain reaction of unfolding consequences that your different choices will cause. Writing out your choices, and linking them with branches to the consequences that will follow allows you to clearly understand your choice and compare outcomes. Here is a great template decision-tree analysis.
- Decision matrix analyses allow you to choose between choices which have many different benefits that are difficult to compare. You create a table that includes columns with various criteria, and rows for each choice. Then, for each choice, you assign a value to each of the criteria. This allows you to focus on the value of each choice for each of the criteria independently, and then total the overall scores of every choice to see which one choice you think creates yields more value as a whole. You can investigate the full potential of this method here.
There is one more incredible method, called the pareto analysis, and it has a big claim to fame. It’s known as the 80/20 rule, because of the belief that 80% of a project’s benefit can be generated through doing just 20% of the work. That sounds pretty revolutionary.
The pareto analysis is useful when many decisions needs to be made about how to prioritize resources and actions. It uncovers which elements of a business yield the most value, and which create the most problems. This makes the task of prioritizing resources very easy.
This process involves scoring different problems or benefits, and then grouping them by root causes. Here is a great practical exploration of the method in action. Use the pareto method to know how to cut out unnecessary elements of your work or your company, and how to preserve benefit by focusing more on the most critical parts of your business.