Creating a Decision-Making Framework

Two notepads and a gold pen on a marble countertop

Sometimes, we get a gut feeling about a decision.

We know right away whether we want to say yes or no. Or how we want to proceed. But a lot of the time, the decision making process is a fretful one. We feel indecisive, We’re overwhelmed by all the options. And we worry about making the wrong choice.

It’s no wonder that so many of us experience decision fatigue.

Learning how to make a decision is an essential skill both in business and in life. There are going to be moments when you have to think quickly on your feet. And moments when you’ll have to think through a decision before making up your mind. 

The next time you have to make a tough decision, try using a decision-making framework. A framework provides a built-in structure that will help you organize your thoughts, evaluate your options, and come to a good decision. 

Whether you want to make better decisions at work or in your personal life, here are ideas for decision-making frameworks to help guide you. 

Identify your values

Maybe you’re debating between staying at your current job or accepting a job offer from a different company. Or you’re not sure whether to take on a new client. Or agree to work with a new business partner. 

Try looking to your values to gain clarity and come to a good decision. 

A values-based decision framework helps you stay authentic and true to yourself. 

When you stick to your values, you can always feel good about the decision you make. If you tend to be afraid of ruffling a few feathers or making the wrong move, a values based decision can put you at ease. You can leave with your head held high knowing that you stuck with what you believed in.

Here’s how to do it: 

First, take some time to define your core values. Ask yourself:

  • What matters most to me?
  • What do I stand for? Or what do I want to be known for?
  • What do I want to contribute to my job or community or family?

If you’re not sure what your values are, then take a look at your mentors and the people you respect. What is it that you admire about them? Is it their honesty? Integrity? The way they put their team or company first before themselves? The way they stand up for what they believe in? Identify the values you admire in others to help you articulate the values you want for yourself. 

Once you define your values, you can refer to them to make sure your decisions are always in alignment.

If you’re trying to decide between two jobs, then see which role is most compatible with your values. If giving back to your community is important to you, then you’ll want to go for the role that is closely connected to that. Or if honesty and transparency are important to you, make sure the company demonstrates those values as well. 

Identity your 3 priorities

We can all agree that we have too many options these days. Whether it’s as small as choosing a salad dressing or which high-level meeting to attend, we need a way to eliminate the wrong options and laser in on the right one. And a technique you can use to help you decide is to identify your three priorities. 

For instance, let’s say you receive a lot of networking invitations and you’re not sure which one is worth your time. Use your priorities framework to determine your decision. 

Maybe your priorities this quarter are:

  • Meet new and interesting people
  • Learn something outside of my skill set
  • Spend less time commuting or traveling

Maybe you’re on the fence about a networking event that’s in a distant location. Will it provide an opportunity to meet new and interesting people? And learn something outside your skillset? If it meets two out of three priorities, then perhaps it’s a good indicator that you should say yes. 

How do you come up with your priorities? Look to your personal and professional goals. If your goals are to go outside your comfort zone or carve out more time for family, then you’ll want your priorities to support them. 

When you make a decision based on your priorities, you can always feel good knowing that you’ll be fulfilling your personal or professional goals. 

Pros and cons

Sometimes, there’s nothing like a good old fashioned pros and cons list to help you make a decision

Find a quiet moment for yourself and take out a notebook or sheet of paper. Create one column for your Pros list and one column for Cons.

Start jotting down the pros and cons as they come up for you. So, for instance, if you’re on the fence about taking on a new client, some examples of pros could be: extra income, opportunity to work with someone new, learn new skills, etc. Examples of cons could be: already stretched for time, not sure what working with the client will be like, etc. 

A pros and cons list is helpful because it helps you stay objective. With decision making, it’s easy to let our emotions and fear of risk-taking get in the way. From glancing at this list, you could even take note of the cons that seem like they’re coming from a place of fear and maybe even realize it’s not a true con.

When the pros and cons are laid out for you in a neat list, you’ll be able to clearly see if the decision is the right one to make. 

Do a debrief after the decision

An important step that you shouldn’t ignore is to do a debrief after you’ve made your decision.

Self-reflection can help you make better informed decisions in the future. Assessing the outcome and identifying lessons learned will improve your decision making skills going forward. 

In this exercise, ask yourself:

  • What was the outcome? Did you achieve positive or negative results? Were you satisfied with how things turned out? 
  • What was the short-term and long-term impact? For example, let’s say you made a hiring decision. What was the impact on you and your team? Or maybe you said yes to a pick your brain request from an intern. How did things turn out in the long term? Were you glad to be of help?
  • Who were the key players in your decision-making process? Who would you seek out again for advice?
  • How would you handle things differently in the future? What did you learn? Anything you would avoid or re-do if you had to make this decision again?

Written by JiJi Lee.

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