5 Steps for Effective, Timely Decision Making


A big part of my job is making decisions. Some of those decisions are trivial, while others can heavily impact those around me. All of them, however, require varying degrees of my attention and time. And when I have a number of items demanding my time at once, it’s important that I give each decision no more time than it deserves.

Over the years, I’ve developed my own method of making decisions.

Consider the Consequences

Of course, I’m concerned about the worst possible consequences of making the wrong decision when I have too much on my plate. However, I’m also interested in best-case scenarios, since the right decision could lead to a big win. It’s also important to understand who will be affected by these consequences. Knowing this can provide an important clue as to whether or not I can delegate the decision.

Can I Make a Decision Now?

Many people might ask themselves this question first, but I believe being able to confidently make a decision in the moment keeps you from second-guessing yourself later. If the consequences of getting the decision wrong are minor, I’ll make a judgement on the spot. If not, maybe more effort is required to get the decision right.

Can I Delegate the Decision?

Delegating the entire decision or some of the legwork can be really helpful, especially when I have a number of demands on my time. Someone else may have as much or even more insight into the situation than I do, or they might feel the consequences of the decision I’m considering more acutely than I would. These are both clues that delegating might be the best strategy.

Determine the Default Answer

At this point, I like to be armed with an answer in case I’m forced into making an immediate decision. I have found that having a default answer reduces stress since it eliminates the possibility that I won’t be able to make any decision. All of the investigation I do from this point forward can focus on whether or not to change my default answer.

Timebox the Decision

At some point, a final decision needs to be made. Therefore, I like to identify a responsible timebox early. This helps push me toward making the final decision while avoiding the dreaded “paralysis-by-analysis.”

What decision-making processes have helped you most?