Just as with life, business is a constant barrage of decision making. Should you hire that person? Should you launch this project? Should you expand? Cut back?

To make it even more stressful, your decisions often can have serious consequences on your business that can weigh on you. What if you make the wrong choice? Should you wait? The uncertainty can drive you crazy.

You can't avoid decision making, and you can be sure you will not always make the right one, but that is part of doing business. Still, you should work to improve your decision-making process, just like you would any other business skill.

Here are five strategies to help you be more confident and more decisive for every type of decision you have to make.

1. Trust your gut.

One of the best unwritten rules in business is to always trust your gut. In fact, ongoing research has suggested that our gut acts like a second brain in the body, so if something doesn't "feel" right, it's probably not the right move.

There have been many times where I have gone against my gut and have been sorry later. In my early years, even if I felt something was off, I thought I could change or overcome it. However, I have learned not to make quick decisions about potential partnerships or business offerings, and instead to give myself more time to see how it feels.

2. Think big picture.

A July 2018 study led by scientists from The Ohio State University found that people tend to make the most efficient decision--the one that results in the greatest overall value for everyone involved--when they look at the "big picture." This means that you step back and examine the hypothetical impact of the decision in the future. How will it affect your business six months or a year from now? Will it change how your team operates, or how you work with clients?

The key is not to make a decision where the only viable outcome can be measured in the short term. Sometimes we get so ingrained in the day-to-day work, we lose sight of the long-term objective. It's important to not always work in the business, but rather on the business.

3. Pretend you are advising a friend.

We are great at giving advice to others, but not ourselves. When faced with a tough choice, assume a friend is asking for your insight. What would you say to him or her and why? What specific reasons would you give that would support your recommendation? When you do this, you remove any emotions that may cloud your judgment. This approach can also work the other way--seek out the advice from a trusted friend or business colleague.

I often visit with one of my best friends, who is also an entrepreneur, to share our daily business issues, talk about big picture decisions we each face, and bounce ideas off one another. For me, getting this level of insight and outside perspective from someone I trust helps bring up questions and solutions I would never consider.

4. Limit the amount of information.

It's common to think that the more information you have, the better decision you can make. However, too much data and details can actually make the decision-making process tougher and create "paralysis analysis." You either end up with information not related to the decision, or you miss vital info because you sift through too much research.

It's a delicate balance between too much and not enough, but I've found that more is not always better. Instead, limit yourself to no more than three types of any information you need. For instance, three of the most recent studies or competitive market research, and three opinions from inside and outside your business.

5. Create a visual.

Some people are more visual in their thinking process and can benefit from painting a picture of their decision choices. I like to go through a process called creating a SWOT-- Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. This is something I often do with my staff or confidants to get their insight as well.

No matter what your business, you always will need to make decisions so your business can keep operating and growing. Some are easier to make than others, but instead of dreading them or putting them off, use them as an opportunity to become a better decision maker. Everyone has their own approach to how they make decisions, so find what works best for you. It may be the best decision you ever make.

Published on: Sep 14, 2018