A psychologist offers 3 tips for becoming a better high-stakes decision maker

Mark Travers
Written by Mark Travers
on April 10, 2023 3 minute read

Making quick and effective decisions can be empowering. Here’s what you need to know.

As Xolopreneurs, we are constantly faced with complex and high-stakes decisions that can impact the growth and success of our businesses. Whether it's deciding on a new strategy, investing in a new product or service, taking on a new client, or expanding into new markets, the ability to make quick, well-thought-out decisions can mean the difference between success and failure.

However, it's not always easy to navigate through the abundance of choices and information available to us. Many entrepreneurs find themselves struggling with decision paralysis.

This condition can render individuals stumped and indecisive in the face of difficult choices, making it hard to move forward and achieve their goals. It's essential for entrepreneurs to understand the causes of decision paralysis in order to overcome it.

Here are three tips that will help you make better decisions for your business.

1. Treat your decision-making ability as a finite resource

As Xolopreneurs who are constantly on the move, managing our time and energy is crucial to the success of our business.

Every decision you make, big or small, adds to the cognitive load on your brain. Too much load and your decision-making powers begin to falter. This is known as decision fatigue.

Decision fatigue can be a major obstacle in our decision-making process, making it harder for us to make clear and effective decisions. It can also lead to burnout and negatively impact our productivity and well-being.

One example of this phenomenon can be found in a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Researchers examined the decision-making tendencies of parole judges. While logic would suggest that judges should make decisions based only on the facts at hand, the reality was that judges’ sentencing tendencies were influenced by extraneous factors. For instance, judges tended to be more lenient earlier in the day and right after lunch and were less lenient as the day progressed.

With many of us living a digitally nomadic lifestyle, it's even more important for us to be mindful of decision fatigue, as the fast-paced and constantly changing nature of our work can put extra strain on our decision-making capabilities.

It's important to recognize the signs of decision fatigue, such as feeling overwhelmed, anxious, or indecisive. If decision fatigue is causing you distress, it’s never a bad idea to reach out to a mental health professional. By being aware of these symptoms and taking steps to manage them, we can ensure that our decision-making abilities stay sharp and effective.

Here are some ways to ensure you always come out on top when making difficult decisions:

Delegate or automate tasks that are not essential or do not require your specific expertise.

Talk to a trusted loved one before making a decision, especially when you are feeling fatigued.

Make a ‘loose’ decision and review it when you are in a clearer state of mind.

2. Understand that decisions are almost always time-sensitive

Decision paralysis can also trigger our procrastination tendencies. When we feel under-confident while making a decision, we often postpone the ordeal altogether so as to not deal with it immediately.

Again, this can be especially true for digital nomads who run businesses as they travel.

However, research suggests that the more we delay a decision, the less likely we are to ever make it. In a study published in Nicotine and Tobacco Research, most smokers who delayed their quitting date because of lowered willpower saw the least success in actually quitting in the future.

It's important to remember that learning and reiteration can happen along the way, but it is action and not thought that predicts success or failure. Therefore, we should make decisions even if we don’t feel qualified or confident enough to make them. The key is to strike a balance between being able to make quick decisions while also taking the time to weigh our options.

By taking action, we can gain momentum and build our confidence in our decision-making abilities, which will ultimately lead to greater success as Xolopreneurs.

3. Use your moral compass as a tool to get to your decision quicker

Feeling conflicted can be a major obstacle in the decision-making process, particularly when faced with complex dilemmas that have to do with your morals and values. In these situations, research published in the Journal of Research in Personality suggests that we should strive to "ego-align" our decisions.

Ego-alignment refers to the connection between an individual's understanding of what is expected of them and what feels like the "correct" action in pressing situations. By consulting our values, we can make decisions that are aligned with our beliefs and goals.

This is particularly important for Xolopreneurs, as our values can serve as a guiding principle when making important business decisions.

It's essential to take the time to reflect on what matters most to us and to use this knowledge to inform our decision-making process. By doing so, we can ensure that our actions align with our values and that our decisions are in line with our overall vision for our business and life.

About Mark

Mark Travers, Ph.D., is an American Psychologist with degrees from Cornell University and the University of Colorado Boulder. Xolo helps him run his online therapy practice, www.awake-therapy.me, from whatever part of the world he is currently living in.