I’ve talked about evaluating your decision based on what you knew at the time instead of the outcome of the decision before. That’s as true now as it ever was. Unfortunately, that’s a retrospective approach to understanding the quality of your decision. It doesn’t help much while you’re trying to make the decision.
As much as it would make my job easier, I don’t have a time machine that will let me evaluate my decisions based on what I find out later. But there are some rules of thumb that can help to ensure that you’re making a good decision, in the moment, regardless of what ends up happening.
The simplest, and most important, is to make sure that you’re actually making an informed decision. Sticking with the status quo, or taking the first option you come up with isn’t a decision. It’s a choice, but it’s not a decision. To make a decision you need to make a choice between options. If there’s only one option it’s rule by fiat or declaration.
That means you need at least two options to make a decision. Do or Do Not (there is no try). Do A or B. At least you’re making a choice now. Arguably a decision. But it’s a very limited one. Those kinds of choices are often polar opposites, and the world is rarely that simple.
Which means you need to avoid the tyranny of or. Sure, some choices are truly binary, but most aren’t. It’s not this or that, but more often, a little bit of this and some more of that. It’s conjunction junction. Hooking up tasks and options and choices into a coherent whole that solves the problem. Shades of grey.
So next time you need to make a decision, remember, if you have:
- 1 choice you’re making a decision by fiat or declaration
- 2 choices you’re probably choosing between polar opposites. Avoid the tyranny of OR
- 3+ choices and you’re making a more informed decision based on knowledge of the situation.