Easier & Better Decisions
Making Better Decisions with ADHD / ADD
Many of the clients who come to me for help complain about difficulty with decision-making or decision fatigue.
Each of us make up to thousands of small or micro-decisions each day, some that take a good bit out of us, and some that we don’t even or barely notice. Having the right systems, tools and strategies in place to help you plan and manage your days and your to-dos can significantly reduce the decision fatigue that plagues many of my clients, but some will still struggle with making decisions easily and effectively.
There are lots of things that come into play when it comes to making better (and easier decisions), and my clients who struggle tend to fall into one of two general camps: at one end, are impulsive decision-makers who feel they do not sufficiently analyze or think about the things they need to decide, and at the other end are those who get stuck when making decisions, often over-analyzing and becoming overwhelmed with information and choices.
And to make matters more confusing, some of us fall into one camp for certain kinds of decisions, and the other camp for other kinds of decisions.
The Decision-Making Continuum
Impulsive decision-making can show up in spontaneous and rash decisions such as impulse-spending (large purchases as well as small purchases that add up over time), career or job changes on a whim, ending relationships, and so on. Partners of impulsive decision-makers often complain that they feel shut out when they are not consulted, that they feel their opinions are not valued, and that their partner’s behavior causes significant strife in the relationship.
The Over-Analyzing type of decision making often shows up as “paralysis of analysis” where the individual becomes overwhelmed with information, details, and options, and feels incapable of making a decision. Partners of the over-analyzers often complain that the affected individual procrastinates on things that need to be taken care of, and misses opportunities because of their apparent indecisiveness.
Both camps can experience significant stress around their decisions (some during the process and some after), and the ramifications can be far-reaching.
The goal in helping my clients is to help them find their own “sweet spot” when it comes to decision-making, and to stay in that sweet spot as much and as often as possible. The good news is that, regardless of what kind of decision-maker you tend to be, the solutions are surprisingly similar!
Simple Steps to better & easier Decisions
The following steps toward better decision-making can help the impulsive decision-makers by helping them to slow down and pause so that they are able to make more thoughtful choices, and can also help the over-analyzers by objectifying the decisions and clarifying the options.
Step 1: Clarify the Desired Outcome.
What exactly are you going to decide? It sounds obvious, but this first step is crucial to keeping the end goal in mind, which helps the impulsive decision-maker to slow down and think about process, and keeps the over-analyzer from getting carried away at the onset of the process.
Step 2: Decide When to Decide.
Ask yourself the important question, “Given what’s on my plate, How much time is this decision worth to me?”
Giving yourself a time frame (an external deadline) for deciding slows down the impulsive and sets limits for the over-analyzer. This step is also important in helping the individual keep the importance of the decision in perspective. It can also be really helpful to share your timeframe (your deadline) with others to help keep yourself accountable.
Step 3: Explore your Requirements.
What’s important about the choices, criteria or options to you?
This is where your values come into the equation. Are some criteria more important to you than others? Again, giving some thought to your requirements and possibly giving them a weight or numeric value can be very helpful in keeping the decision-making process objective and clear.
Step 4: Just the Facts!
This is the step in the process where you do some limited research. It’s important for the over-analyzer to separate this step of the process from the analysis, and to set limits!
Separating the research and fact-finding from the analysis keeps the process moving, and can help the individual keep from getting overwhelmed with information.
Step 5: Analysis
If the previous 4 steps have been followed, the analysis step becomes much easier and more objective for the over-analyzer, and they are less likely to become overwhelmed and frozen in the analysis step. Likewise, the impulsive decision-maker can feel good about having done their due diligence and be prepared to make an informed decision.
Either way, making sure to set some hard limits on the analysis step can be very important, as can sharing those limits with others (i.e., “given everything else that’s on my plate, I’m going to spend ‘X ‘time on the analysis,’ or “given the cost/value of this decision, I’m going to make sure I have spent ‘X’ time/am clear on ‘X’ factors/know ‘X’ information before I make a decision.”)
Frameworks for Analysis
There are many ways to analyze options when it comes to decision-making, and some are more complex than others. A simple list of pros and cons can be sufficient for some decisions, but those that have criteria of differing levels of importance or value may need a slightly more sophisticated approach to takes into consideration the weighted value of certain criterion or factors (sometimes called a “weighted decision matrix“).
Additionally, more complex can benefit from techniques such as the “Six Thinking Hats” of Edward deBono, where you look at the decision from different kinds of thinking. On the surface, this process for decision-making can seem cumbersome and time-consuming, but it can be an incredibly valuable framework from which to help us explore different perspectives and ways of thinking. And, once you practice it a few times, you will see that there is/are certain “thinking hat(s)” (or perspective) that you need to make sure you take into consideration.
Sometimes, the most helpful part of the analysis can be to find opportunities to process the information verbally, or simply bounce it off of someone else. A coach, trusted friend or family member, or partner can be a great sounding board to help us make better decisions.
And… if you follow the steps above, you won’t’ be overwhelming them with irrelevant options, choices, and details! Your choices will be clear, objective, and thoughtful.
And isn’t that was constitutes a good decision, really?
Share your thoughts, questions and what helps you below!
Lynne Edris, ACG
Productivity & ADHD Coach