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A quick Google search reveals more than 485 million productivity results, and the internet is full of tips, tricks, and tools. Many of these strategies are phenomenal ways to work smarter, not harder, from training to cutting meetings out of your schedule. However, there is one way that you can permanently increase your productivity in minutes, and one you have probably never thought about before: make faster decisions.
Decision-making is an important part of our daily lives as both individuals and entrepreneurs, and we make decisions almost every second of every day. You made a (good) decision to click on this article and you made a (good) decision to read on. You make decisions about what to wear, what to eat, what work to do first, and what happens in your company – an estimated 35,000 decisions a day – and learning to make better decisions quickly is a valuable skill to master .
There is absolutely nothing wrong with making a decision – and some studies suggest that certain time constraints can negatively affect the quality of your decision-making – but the opposite is also true. Analysis paralysis is very real and can affect your productivity, workflow, and bottom line.
Related: Keep Moving or Die: 3 Tips to Prevent Analytical Paralysis
So how can you make faster decisions and be sure you're making the right ones?
1. Get enough sleep
Sleep is incredibly important to our health and wellbeing, but it is also a key component of our decision-making process. Studies show that sleep deprivation has a profound negative impact on the way we make decisions – and the quality of our decisions – and even suggest that increasing the time it takes you to make a decision while sleep deprivation does not necessarily improve the quality of your decision.
Translation? Even if you slow down your decision-making process when you are tired, there is still a chance that you will make less than ideal decisions.
2. Give yourself a time limit
One of my favorite decision-making tips is inspired by Mel Robbin's TED talk about the five-second rule. Robbins argues that if you don't take spontaneous action within five seconds – something you want to do or achieve, you won't do it.
"Your problem is not ideas," explains Robbins. "Your problem is that you don't act on them."
And she's right. If we want to do something – write a book, launch a new product or travel the world – we have to do something quickly to respond to this impulse and make it concrete. That doesn't mean you need to buy a plane ticket now, but it does mean that you can buy this book on ethical travel and get the ball rolling.
The same goes for decision making in general. If we're making 35,000 decisions a day, I'd bet most of them will be made in five seconds or less … and those are just the ones we don't know we're making. What about the ones we do?
Give yourself an arbitrary time limit and stick to it. If you avoid opening emails, set a 30 minute window where you check your emails every day and open and reply to every single email without hesitation. Do you choose your clothes or do you opt for breakfast? You have fifteen seconds. Choose a restaurant for dinner? Don't hesitate – just choose.
3. Flip a coin
If, despite the small, seemingly insignificant decisions in your daily life, you are still struggling with decision-making difficulties, you are definitely not alone. Making faster decisions is a skill I have mastered, but there are still days when I have problems. My solution was developed by my husband: flip a coin.
Related: Barack Obama, Richard Branson, and Mark Zuckerberg all swear by this high-performance habit
Whatever lands on it, he told me, listen to your gut feelings. If your bowel is tumbling in the opposite direction, do the other. No hesitation, no questions asked. If not, then voila! You have your answer.
It's a simple trick, but it's an easy way to connect with your instincts and learn to trust your gut. For many of us, self-doubt and lack of trust make us hesitate as we strive to make the right decision, but we forget one key element: our own track record.
We already have good instincts or we wouldn't have made it that far. Even with our potentially "bad" decisions, each is a lesson to learn from and overcome, which means we are certainly better than we were then. What if another so-called bad decision happens? Think of it as a lesson to be learned, not a failure to keep yourself above your own head, and keep moving forward.
4. Be strategic when asking for help in making a decision
While some decisions require a trusted partner or team to think about, we can get in the habit of asking for help when we don't really need it. For important business decisions? Asking for advice is phenomenal. For things that you can decide for yourself? Be careful as you bring more chefs into the kitchen.
Adding too many people to a decision-making process is a surefire way to slow things down, especially if you are already hesitating. A person says something that contradicts what you have been inclined to and suddenly you want to ask someone else. Finally? Many of us spend hours asking fifteen people what to do – just to do what we originally planned.
Is It Okay To Ask For Help? Yes. Is it okay to be confident and trust yourself too? You bet.
5. Practice, practice, practice
As with all things, practice is always the solution to getting something better. The faster you make decisions, the better you get – and the less you will guess yourself over time.
An easy way to make this easy? Put your decisions about your day, month, or year in context. Most of the time we struggle with decisions that are of little importance for the grand scheme of our life. We spend 30 minutes deciding what to watch on Netflix when that decision doesn't really matter. There are no real ramifications of choosing the wrong one other than wasting time, but what about the thirty minutes you lost trying to choose something?
Obviously, this is a sliding scale that changes based on the importance of the decisions you make on a regular basis. However, it's okay to encourage yourself to make faster decisions, even if something feels like a risk. For example, when you're sending an email to a prospect, you might be wavering about the send button. However, you've already spent the time deciding what to say, write, and edit. What if they say no? Is it earth shattering? If not, give yourself 60 seconds (or less) and hit it.
Related: 11 Strategies for Changing the Way You Send Email
Remember, decision-making skills are a muscle, and the more you use them, the better – and stronger – you get. What if you avoid making decisions? Don't be surprised if the skill begins to wither. However, be patient with yourself and don't expect to be a quick decision-making machine overnight. Start small, keep working on it, and go from there.