If you are a list maker, then this article may be the most satisfying yet! Many people find they retain information better if it is put in list form, where they can easily access it, and the concepts are abbreviated. That is not to say there is not great value in expounding on a subject for in-depth understanding, only that once new knowledge is internalized, it can be better reserved for future use when it is in a simple arrangement. Therefore, this article will provide a review of information in numbered bullet-form. It is suggested that this particular catalogue be downloaded and saved for future reference.
#1. Be aware you are responsible for your own decisions.
Decision making can be quite intimidating. It comes down to making a choice and owning it. For the most part, seasoned decision makers can be comfortable with the options they elect. However, sometimes even the most expert decision maker can either make a choice in haste, or otherwise make a poor decision. Unfortunately, we all must be responsible for selections that may have unsatisfactory outcomes. The most responsible alternative is to face up to the fact that this was a decision you made, and use it as a learning tool for future decisions. There is nobility in owning up to one's mistakes, and others will respect you and trust you more for it.
#2. Give decision making the proper attention and thought it deserves.
Decisions run the gamut from being paramount, to insignificant. The veteran decision maker understands that some options will require a greater amount of time and reflection than others. Deciding what to wear today? Not life altering. Deciding how to ask for a raise? Extremely important. The first may require only a moment's reflection – after all, people do like to look their best, but there is much more thought that will go into considering the approach to take to increase your salary. In other words, learn to allot the appropriate amount of time to any decision.
#3. Master the steps of decision making and practice them.
Do you want to be effective at decision making? Then remember that the hard way is the easy way. Take the time to learn the steps for the process, and then practice them over and over until they become a natural part of your thoughts and actions. Eventually, the goal is to learn how to recognize when to access the decision-making process, then mentally and deliberately implement it at the beginning of a situation in which it is called for. Remember, name the decision that needs to be made, research the options and create a visual aid to instigate higher level thinking about the choices, made a selection and implement. Keep at it – and you will become a master decision maker, called upon by others for your exemplary application of the steps.
#4. Involve family, friends, and loved ones in the decision-making process, when appropriate.
Although ultimately any decision you make must be your own, none of us lives in a vacuum. Important decisions in life are bound to affect others, and out of respect -- if not for the broader spectrum they may add to a decision -- it is valuable to involve family and friends. You should realize the decision is yours in the end, and you should never blame them for their input if you made a decision based on their commentary. Remember #1: You are ultimately responsible for the decisions you make.
#5. Use the input of experts in the decision-making process, when appropriate.
The steps to decision making and noted that when gathering information to help make choices, it is the mature thing to do to turn to persons who have an expertise in the area you are mulling over. One simple example of this would be making a career choice. What better way to develop an understanding of the options than to speak to people who have worked in the field? Their insight could add clarity to the decision-making process.
#6. Apply the steps of problem solving to the decision-making process.
Remember, problem solving is a process that is applied to decision making, and it mirrors many of the same steps; but it is accessed prior to the final act of making a decision. In problem solving, you name the problem, you research it to find proper alternatives, you apply the solution you believe to be most appropriate, and then you monitor the solution to see that it was the correct option. Scientists believe that problem solving is one of the most challenging of all human endeavors, so it should be undertaken with focus.
#7. Be creative in the decision-making process.
The act of being creative is not something that one either "gets," or doesn't. All people have the potential to be creative, and creativity, like other skills, can be honed for greater realization. Four easy steps to improving creativity are: learning to brainstorm and making that a part of your natural mental process, allowing ideas to incubate in your mind without "picking" at them, being receptive to your "ah-ha" moment, and developing the idea fully. When one is able to think creatively, it has great implications for the decision-making process, because it allows the individual to think outside the box, for everything from naming the decision that needs to be made, to implementing it at the conclusion.
#8. Take the time to gather enough facts to support all options in decision making.
When it comes to the important decisions, the steps simply cannot be hurried. That means that once the decision is labeled then the proper amount of time and attention must be given to the gather information to support options. Of course, decision making has more impact when one is able to apply the skills of problem solving and creativity – but gathering the necessary supporting documentation is vital to ensuring that the correct decision can be made.
#9. Use decision making tools whenever possible.
The tool that was mentioned as key to decision making is the graphic organizer. The purpose of this is to create a visual aid for helping a person in the selection process. A graphic organizer can be as simple as a list jotted down on the back of an envelope, or as sophisticated as a power point that documents the options and iterates the reason for each. Too, the information on a graphic organizer can be manipulated to allow for different viewpoints, and to demonstrate connections among ideas. Mankind has been using tools since the creation of the wheel; decision makers should become comfortable and expert in their use, as well.
#10. Weigh all of the options when making a decision.
The point of problem solving and creativity, when in the throes of decision making, is to broaden the choice spectrum as wide as possible. It is better to have what might seem to be an unwieldy list of options at the outset of the decision determination, than to come up with a selection once the decision has been made. You are sure to say to yourself, "Why didn't I think of that?" The reason is that you did not weigh all of the possible options that fall within the purview of the decision.
#11. Be rational and intuitive when making a final selection.
In most instances, the best decisions are those that are not made in the heat of a moment, but dispassionately and rationally. For some, this takes practice, and can be likened to standing outside oneself and thinking about what would be the best option for this person -- that is, you. Even so, there is something to be said for intuition, and each of us has this. It's a skill that can be honed like any other, and involves listening to our inner voices when making a choice. Some have named the inner voice a conscience, others a moral code. In this case it need not be so sophisticated as that. Rather, it is the essence of who we are, telling us to listen to what we know is best for ourselves.
#12. Inform those who must know about the decision that is made.
While a decision becomes the responsibility of the person who is making it, that is not to say they should make the choice, and then be done with it. It is important to inform persons who are going to be affected by the decision about the final option. This may be family and friends, or it may be your employer – or even other stakeholders. No matter what, people that must be told, should be told with as little delay as possible.
#13. Create a plan for implementation of the decision.
Just when you thought the hard part was over – you finally made a decision. But it is not the time to sit back and coast. In fact, the work has just begun. Before a decision can be implemented, but after it has been made, there is an entire step that involves creating an action plan for the implementation of said choice. Planning is a process unto itself and the time required cannot be shortchanged. Again, the use of such tools as graphic organizers, and input from others who have experienced a like or similar decision, would be valuable to the decision maker.
#14. Implement the plan and monitor it for progress and appropriateness.
This is a two-part process. And it is arguably the most challenging, because it requires action. No longer is a person in the throes of thinking, problem solving, reflecting and creating – at least not as it relates to the idea of coming to a decision. Instead, the decision has been made, an action plan has been developed, and now what is needed is forward motion. Action. No more talking about it – it's time to do something, and not just something, but the thing that has consumed your time and efforts to this point. Implementing a plan is also a two-part process.
Not only is it the execution of the idea and the organization that went into its preparation, it also involves monitoring the implementation to determine its success and appropriateness. It would not be unexpected that a decision may need to be tweaked here and there. What would be more difficult to accept, would be if a decision was so unsatisfactory as to warrant abandonment -- thereby indicating that somewhere along the line in the decision-making process, the proper time and attention was not expended. That is not to say there won't be occasional instances when something unforeseen might occur; but the master decision maker has used creativity and problem solving early on in the process to consider all contingencies and complete dissatisfaction will likely not be the result.
#15. Review and repeat.
What could be an easier step to remember, than this? Of course, you may want to run through it a second or third time to ensure you've internalized the process of decision making adequately. Then, you should utilize these steps in a real-world setting, but perhaps not with something of life-changing import, just yet. Choose a decision that may have been pending for some time, but will not have the same level of consequence as, perhaps, choosing a spouse or buying a car. Then work your way through this list, and come up with a solution. Satisfied with the results? Then review and repeat.
What could be more simple, but more valuable, than understanding that practice makes perfect in the art of decision making. Every time you are faced with making a decision, take a moment to mentally run through the steps and rules. Soon enough, you'll be confident in your manipulation of the skill set.