The average adult makes a few thousand decisions a day. Some peg it at 35,000! Even if it’s a tenth of that number, it’s a lot of work. And with information overload bringing our way more choices, the matter gets compounded.

Then, how can we make the right decisions quickly, while thinking through choices? Our previous post had placed the spotlight on a checklist to help with decision making. Here, we bring you two other tools.

Pros and cons list

Popularized by Benjamin Franklin, it is simple to use and requires no special skills. Make two columns. In the first, list all the positive effects of a decision and in the next one, the negative effects. This gives a fair idea of whether or not to consider this decision.

What if you are uncertain about a decision’s effects? List these hard-to-predict effects as considerations and unknowns. Next steps:

  • Conduct thorough research about each consideration and move it to the relevant column (positive or negative).
  • If unable to evaluate them after your research, talk to a friend, partner or colleague for suggestions on how these effects might play out.
  • As you begin filling the two columns, it becomes clear if you must consider a particular decision or not.

A word of caution: the pros and cons tool could be useful only as a high-level preliminary thinking aid. As executive coach Chris Charyk points out, high-stake decisions require alternative approaches.

Decision matrix

Also called Pugh Method after its creator Stuart Pugh, this is useful while weighing factors that are difficult to compare. The tool’s quantitative nature removes subjectivity from the decision-making process, and helps narrow down a list of options to a single choice. Here’s how you can use it.

  • List your decision options as columns (A, B, and so on).
  • The relevant factors/ criteria (such as time, price, effect on competition) affecting the decisions should be the row headings (1,2, etc).
  • Now, evaluate option A against the first criterion. Compared to a baseline (current situation/ status quo) how does this decision measure up against this criterion? If it’s the same as the current situation, mark it as ‘0’, if better give it a +1, if worse add a ‘-1’.
  • In this way, assess each alternative against each criterion.
  • Calculate the numbers in each column to know which decision you must consider. In this example, it’s option A.
Criteria Baseline Option A Option B Option C
1 (Time) 0 +1 -1 0
2 (Price) 0 0 -1 -1
3 (Effect on competition) 0 +1 0 +1

Good decision making takes discipline and it’s a skill to build over time. Think of possible outcomes before you choose. But avoid analysis-paralysis, where you over-think a situation so much that you don’t decide or act, in effect paralyzing the outcome!

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