Make Decisions Easier and Better – 5 Steps to Minimalist Thinking

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Make Decisions Easier and Better –

5 Steps to Minimalistic Thinking

When I was in college, I studied philosophy. A subject matter designed to tie your mind into knots. Very well organized notated knots, but knots nonetheless. So, let me give you the history of western philosophy in 5 steps

1. We have no idea what’s going on.
2. I propose an idea of what is going on.
3. I create a big complex set of texts about why I’m right.
4. Some hotshot comes along and tears my idea to shreds.
5. Repeat

Though philosophy is fascinating to study and can teach you a lot about the way we see the universe, it’s a very specialized technique. Very often when we contemplate our lives we use these complicated techniques to analyze situations that really aren’t all that complicated.

So, since I’m often guilty of this kind of over analysis here are some techniques I’ve discovered to simplify thinking and make better desicions.

5 Steps To Minimalist Thinking Or How To Make Better Faster Choices

1. Preferences –
The first step to thinking more simply is to understand that most decisions are decisions of preference.

There are some choices in life that will really make or break us, but many of them will not. The kind of toothpaste you choose will not dictate your life span, earning potential, or attractiveness. Even most choices at work are not the kind that will make or destroy your career.

The trick is to figure out if the decision is about preference and if it is make a choice and move on. Neither you nor history will remember what choice you made and your brain power would be better used elsewhere.

2. Deliberation –
Ok so once you determined the choice is not one of preference. It’s time to make a deliberation strategy. The key here is to set a time limit. If there is no deadline, your mind will go back and forth forever.

Do this in 3 phases.
1. Set a time limit for each phase –
These can be as long or short as you like, but shorter is better. Most people allocate too long to make a choice and this actually makes it harder to decide.

2. Information gathering –
In this period, gather as much information on each side as is reasonable. Try to spend an equal amount of time getting information unless you already know a lot about one of the choices.

3. Consutation –
Identify two people whose perspectives would be valuable. Call and talk to them about your decision.
The best people are the ones that will ask you good questions about your choice. Pay close attention to what you say because it may reveal your own wisdom or a hidden perspective.

3. The List – Now that you have gathered information and sought counsel, you are ready to decide. Make a list of pros and cons for each option. Only include realistic options for each choice.

Take some time to review the lists carefully. Eliminate unrealistic fears (The zombie apocalypse might happen, but then you’ll have other worries.) and add others things that arise.

Usually one choice has a slight lead now and it’s time to dive in.

4. Taking the Leap
Making a choice is hard and often we end up fighting our fears that we are making a huge mistake. We fear future regret, humilliation, and ridicule. I find that asking myself these three questions helps me take the leap.

  1. What is the best thing that could happen?
  2. What is the worst thing that could happen?
  3. What is the most likely thing that will happen?

This helps reveal my fears and gain some perspective.

5. Tracking and Adjustment
Ok so you’ve made a choice. Now pay attention to what happens. Don’t fret about the choice but observe the results.

Chances are doom will not ensue. And if the choice wasn’t perfect, that’s just more information for next time. After a period of time ask the following questions:

  1. What do I wish I could have known before I decided?
  2. What factors did I not consider during my analysis?
  3. What factors did I consider that didn’t play into the results?

Deciding is hard, but if we stay focused and acknowledge our anxiety, we can learn to be more decisive confident, and minimal in our thinking.