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In any given workday, you probably make dozens of decisions before you head home for the evening. Some are small: how to respond to a quick question from a colleague or what time to take your lunch break; others are much more important: what information to include in a presentation for a client or which job applicant to select for an open position in your organization.

Strong decision-making skills are essential to your success and personal effectiveness as a leader, and it is important to find the perfect balance between being too hasty or too indecisive. Use these guidelines to make thoughtful, well-informed choices while minimizing your stress.

1. Get in the right mindset.

If you are frantically trying to meet a deadline or struggling to stay awake first thing in the morning before you’ve had your coffee, it is probably not the best time to make life-altering choices. Wait until you are calm, focused and levelheaded before you do anything you may regret later.

2. Recognize different types of decisions.

Sometimes it is appropriate to make a split-second decision and trust your judgment without overthinking the situation. Other times, you should allow yourself plenty of time to consider all of your options carefully, as well as any risks, rewards or repercussions, before choosing a path of action. In general, don’t overanalyze the small choices in your day-to-day life but give serious thought to major decisions that will have long-term effects. Practice distinguishing between the two extremes, and your decision-making skills will become sharper.

3. Analyze the pros and cons.

When preparing to make a difficult resolution, come up with a list of possible or probable scenarios that could occur with each option. Write down your responses, dividing the page into a traditional two-column pros and cons list if it helps you organize your thoughts. Ask yourself questions that begin with, “What if…?” For example, “What if I take on this big project?” What are the possible outcomes, both positive and negative? For instance, if you take on the project and it’s successful, you would help your organization as well as demonstrate you are ready for new challenges and responsibilities. Now do the same exercise with the opposite scenario. Try to be as honest as you can without selling yourself short.

4. Listen to your instincts.

Often, you will have an inexplicable gut feeling about a decision you have to make, even if you can’t quite say why. Maybe you just know a particular job applicant would be a better fit for the team over another equally qualified person. Maybe you understand that a creative idea that is good in theory will never work in real life. If you have a constant nagging feeling about a decision, listen to it. Sometimes honing your decision-making skills means simply following your instincts.

What are your tips for making good decisions?

Learn more about the EDSI Powerful Choices course.

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