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Use Rules to Streamline Your Decisions

Making a decision requires time and energy. For decisions which need to be made regularly, this time and energy can be draining.

To help, develop rules to guide recurring decisions. A rule can eliminate the decision entirely or reduce the time and effort required to make the decision.

Effective rules help:

  • Eliminate options
  • Minimize decision time
  • Align with your goals

To develop a rule, start with your overarching goals in the decision. Do you want to save money? Minimize the time you spend making a decision? Avoid bad decisions?

Make your rules clear and specific. If you need to question whether the rule applies, it’s too vague. Vague rules can work against you, causing you to spend more time and energy making a decision as you attempt to determine whether the rule applies for each option.

Consider including:

  • Limits
    Specific metrics to not exceed. Use a spending limit to eliminate options quickly, or a time limit to prioritize your time spent researching and analyzing. Set a limit on the number of options you’ll evaluate.
  • Exclusions
    Options that can never be considered. Exclude options based on an attribute or component of the option.
  • Heuristics
    Methods for choosing among options. For instance, pick the highest rated, the lowest cost or the newest. If you’ve limited and excluded all the bad options, picking an option at random works well too.

Rules might be:

  • Eat no meat on Mondays.
  • Eat nothing containing mushrooms.
  • Spend no more than $25 per entree when eating out.
  • If a purchase is less than $100, spend no more than 10 minutes deciding.
  • Pick 3 movies you want to watch, then let someone else pick from those.
  • Only look at sales opportunities above $10,000 per sale.
  • Eliminate the bad candidates, then pick one at random.
  • For durable purchases, buy in the middle of the price range.

Keep your rules simple, so they can be easily remembered and enforced.

Before implementing your rule, evaluate the effect it will have across multiple decisions. Will it achieve your goals of saving time, money or energy?

Finally, review your rules from time to time to make sure they’re still relevant. Situations change, and rules that used to make sense for you or your business may no longer serve you well.

What rules do you use to help you make better decisions?


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