Green sneackers from above on the white arrows,dilemmas concept

Being able to make good decisions quickly is essential to business success. It’s something that’s particularly important for entrepreneurs, who usually have to carry the decision-making burden alone. If you find yourself hesitating when it comes to making a choice, here are eight steps that can help you be more decisive:

1. Have a clear process

If you don’t have a good critical thinking process in place, you may be reluctant to make important decisions. You don’t have confidence in your methodology, so you look for more data, ask more people and do more analysis. A good thinking process will help you know when you have enough information to move forward. In order to make a good decision, you need to gather information to see what is happening, generate some ideas about possible solutions, evaluate what solution best solves your problem and make sure all your key stakeholders agree with your choice. Once you have followed these steps, you can feel confident that you have made a good decision and make it.

2. Embrace ambiguity

Many people hate ambiguity and feel that they cannot make a decision until they know exactly what is going on. In business, however, you rarely have absolute certainty: a customer demands change, a new competitor enters the market or a regulation shifts. Good decision-makers learn to gather the available information, make predictions about how things might change, analyze the data and get feedback from others to engage them in the process. Even in an uncertain environment, you can be confident that you have made the best decision given the information available at the time. Decide, then move on: there are new decisions to be made.

Read: Make Decisions More Effectively

3. Speed up by slowing down

We tweet, we text, we answer emails until our thumbs seize up. We digest more information in a week than people used to absorb in a year. We jump on and off planes, we Skype, we go to endless meetings. And every quarter, we are judged on our performance. So it stands to reason that we should be making decisions quickly too, right? Wrong. A frenzy of activity will often make us less able to make a decision. Decisions require some focused thinking and discussion; that rarely happens while scanning our smartphones or rushing through airport departure lounges. Spending a few hours engaged in a decision-making process can be one of the most effective uses of your time.

4. Accept risk

The reality is, making decisions involves taking risks. We are so averse to loss that the potential to make a mistake can cause us to freeze. But doing nothing is almost always worse than doing something: as T.S. Eliot wisely noted, the world ends not with a bang, but a whimper. A company that wants to move forward knows that mistakes will be made and will make its people feel secure in spite of that. They put safeguards in place to predict and mitigate risk, but are aware that, occasionally, mistakes happen and the wrong decisions will be made.

Read: Why Chaos is a Decision-Maker’s Best Friend

5. Don’t let data overload get you down

Columbia University’s Sheena Iyengar ran the famous “jam test,” which showed that when we are faced with too many varieties of jam to purchase, we are overwhelmed and choose to buy none. An abundance of choice leads to decision paralysis. We now have more data available on our phones than was once stored in the best graduate school libraries. We think that the answer lies “out there,” and with a bit more time we will stumble across the one piece of data that will help us make the perfect decision. But we will never have every piece of information, so its essential that we learn to recognize when we have enough data to make a decision and move forward.

6. Clarify your values

When you go to a fast-food restaurant, do you get flummoxed when they ask you if you want to upsize your meal? Of course not. You have your own pre-established heuristic when it comes to fast food. Fast food = fat = “no thanks.” Or upsize = good value = “yes please!” Yes or no is easy. But if you walked in to the same fast-food place with no sense if you valued health over bang-for-your-buck, the decision would be more difficult. When your values are clear, decision-making is easier. That’s why it’s important for companies to have clearly defined values statements so that employees have a framework on which to base their decisions.

Read: 14 Turning Points that Sparked Massive Growth

7. Clarify your corporate strategy

It’s easier to make a decision when you have a clearly articulated strategy and goals. The best decision is simply the one that drives you towards them. The clearer and simpler the strategy, whether it is personal or corporate, the easier it is to make a choice. Let’s say you have the opportunity to hire a new vice-president of marketing. If you have a clear strategy that you are transitioning from being a office product retailer to being a physical and online business solutions provider, you would tend to look for a marketing person with relationship-development skills rather than one with merchandising expertise within a bricks and mortar environment. See? Clear strategy drives clear decisions.

8. Practice, practice, practice

Practice making decisions as often as you can. Many decisions require wading through information, doing a detailed analysis and engaging stakeholders. Many decisions don’t. Practice making decisions so the decision making process becomes second nature. You’ll come to learn what decisions you can make quickly and simply make them. You’ll learn what decisions take more time to research and will feel more comfortable asking for extra time. If you routinely let everyone else choose the restaurant, vacation destination or paint color, start doing it yourself. Decision-making is a skill, and like any others, it can be crafted with time and practice.

If you follow a decision-making process and keep the above points in mind, you will have everything you need to make great decisions that other people embrace—without driving yourself crazy in the process.

Toronto-based Jen Lawrence is the co-author, with Larry Chester, of Engage the Fox: A Business Fable About Thinking Critically and Motivating Your Team. She holds an MBA in finance and has widely written and spoken on corporate culture, critical thinking and strategic planning.

How do you make decisions? Do you use any of these tactics? Or do you prefer to go with your gut? Share your thoughts by commenting below.

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