I Usually Use These Methods (Bad Decisions)
- Don’t let too much information obscure the important stuff. (Bad Decisions)
One of my lessons learned from Malcolm Gladwell’s bestseller “Blink” is that information overload can be overwhelming — and too much information can be worse than no information at all.
It’s easy to get so much data that it becomes almost impossible to pick out what’s relevant and important. Accordingly, Temple University professor Angelika Dimoka told Newsweek, “people’s decisions make less and less sense” — that is, if they’re able to make them at all. Total decision paralysis is a possible side effect of too much information, she notes.
The upshot: Focus on the quality of information you’re getting, not the quantity.
- Have a snack.
You can’t think clearly when you’re hungry — and a Diet Coke’s not going to do the trick.
“Even the wisest people won’t make good choices when they’re not rested and their glucose is low,” social psychologist Roy Baumeister told the New York Times. “That’s why the truly wise don’t restructure the company at 4 p.m. They don’t make major commitments during the cocktail hour. And if a decision must be made late in the day, they know not to do it on an empty stomach.”
When your glucose is low, your brain responds more strongly to immediate rewards and is less likely to prioritize long-term prospects. In conclusion, have a snack first.
- Meditate to help you resist ‘sunk cost’ bias.
Once we’ve invested time and money in something, our tendency is to keep investing more time and more money in that thing — even once it’s become abundantly clear that our investment isn’t paying off.
But researchers from Wharton have discovered one way to help overcome the “sunk-cost bias”: meditation, which has been shown to help people let go of the past and focus on the present.
And you don’t necessarily need a disciplined meditation practice to reap the benefits (though it probably helps) — even a few minutes of meditation before a big decision can have a major effect.
- Don’t mistake the most recent information for the best information.
We tend to give more weight to whatever information we got most recently — whether or not it’s particularly interesting or important.
“There is a powerful ‘recency’ effect in decision making,” behavioral economist George Loewenstein tells Newsweek. “We pay a lot of attention to the most recent information, discounting what came earlier.”
Part of the problem is that brains just aren’t very good at giving only a little bit of weight to a piece of information, explains psychologist Eric Stone. When we learn something, we want to go all in.
Make sure you’re going off the best information you’ve got, not just the latest.
- Listen to your body.
The body has a physical reaction to panic or stress. Adrenaline pumps, you start breathing more rapidly, and certain parts of the body feel tight.
In those instances — particularly when you’re feeling angry or afraid — you tend to make snap judgments that may be incorrect, writes Tony Schwartz in the Harvard Business Review. But there’s a simple fix: when you notice your body having that kind of response, close your eyes, take a few breaths, and take some time to consider your next action.
Your goal here is to buy time until you’re physically calm enough to make a more considered choice.