A Formula for Decision-Making Without Anxiety

In business (and life), it’s easy to start overanalyzing when you’re making a critical decision or trying to plan your next steps. This often yields more stress than answers. A four-step process can help you find your answer without thinking yourself in circles. 

1) Gather all the information.

You may be tempted to come to a conclusion as soon as you are faced with a question. Oftentimes, this backfires. If you try to find answers before gathering all the information, you might wind up rethinking your decision at a later date when new information pops up.

Much of the time we don’t even know what information is out there to gather. If it feels like you are faced with an impossible decision, you may not have gathered all the information. Talk to your contacts. Make contacts who will talk to you. Ask questions. Ask broad questions if you don’t know where to begin, just to get people talking. You’ll probably be surprised by how much you’ll learn just by letting people talk.

2) Stop listening to people.

At some point you will have gathered so much information that it feels like there is simply no more room for mental input. If, when you talk to people, you are finding that you are analyzing their information based on your other research and forming confident opinions about it, you’ve probably gathered enough information. It’s time to stop listening to people when they start telling you what you should be doing, because you now have enough information to decide for yourself.

3) Think for yourself.

Think time is important. Sort through the information you’ve gathered without trying to form a conclusion. Mentally eliminate any information that doesn’t mesh with your goals. It’s likely that before you start actively thinking about everything you’ve learned, you will have already started synthesizing in the back of your mind. The decision-making process will feel less fraught with anxiety and mental blocks if you give yourself space to process independently.

4) Talk to people about your decision.

Once you’ve organized your thoughts and have a general direction, talk to people again. This group of people might include family, friends, and trusted advisors who have your best interests at heart. Present the information you’ve gathered and communicate how it informed your decision. Then listen to the opinions of others. Consider all advice alongside the results of your own think time.

You may be surprised by how naturally you reach a decision after following these steps.