Making Speedy Decisions (using your gut)
"Use your gut!!"
You hear that phrase in action/spy movies but what in the heck does it really mean?
Let me start by saying I 100% believe that making decisions based off of your gut is a skill...not necessarily a talent. I consider talent something that's natural, but you need skills to perfect it and pursue great things. On the other side, I consider a skill something that someone may be naturally good at, but if you're not a natural, you can still be the best at it. The latter is where gut-based decisions are located.
Making quick decisions are part comfort, part risk-taking, and part heuristics. If you don't know what heuristics are read this quick article. TL;DR: Heuristics are shortcuts your brain takes based off of knowledge, and past experiences, to get to decisions faster. Heuristics were a powerful way of ancient human beings to stay alive. For instance, "Hey, that lake is where Charles, Mary, Rick, and Alicia were eaten by alligators. Probably shouldn't go swimming in there anymore." It's quick and rooted in facts and assumptions.
When you combine all of those elements you get:
Quick Decisions = Comfort+Risk-taking+heuristics
Heuristics = 1st hand knowledge + 2nd hand knowledge
Developing your quick decision muscle
Moving on...your next question may look something like, "I get it, how do I get better at making speedy decisions?"
My answer is confidence.
You can know everything about everything but if you aren't comfortable making the wrong decision, you won't have confidence in making the right one. Interesting how that works, right?
An easy way to begin getting more comfortable with making the wrong decision is to start small and then moving up. Starting small may look something like deciding what you want at a restaurant only when the server asks you. Another thing may be to begin giving yourself time to make decisions with short-lived effects. In the food example, you only have to deal with the consequences for the length of the meal, then you can move along with your life.
By gradually increasing the stakes (go from food to activities, to what computer you want, to what color car you want, to what city you should live in) you will become more comfortable in your gut. It's like a muscle. Work it out by constantly challenging yourself to make decisions faster, and then to make better decisions.
How this affected me
My journey to exercise this muscle came after reading about decision fatigue and how small choices drain your mental energy. It's remarkable to think that those turtlenecks Steve Jobs wore actually helped him stay more innovative. But, the research alluded to it so I thought I would try.
I wouldn't dare say "it's changed my life", but it has had some interesting impacts. I feel less stress about decisions now. I understand there finite power (most decisions can be reversed).
When I'm working on a tough problem at work, I first read to gain as much information about the variables as possible (I only give myself 30min-1 hour to do this). Then I break it down into smaller components that need smaller decisions. After making those calls, it is fairly simple on what to do next...execute. Execution is where the money is. It's also where the stakes are the highest where you put your decisions on the line for everyone else to see.