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5 strategies for making higher quality decisions

May 09, 2024

Every day we make decisions.

Sometimes those decisions are big and sometimes they're not.

But even small decisions impact our ability to make the big ones.

Today we discuss:

  1. What makes something a major decision?
  2. How can we protect those so they're given our best attention?

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5 strategies for making higher quality decisions

In the early 1980s, Steve Jobs toured a Sony factory in Japan and noticed something peculiar: the workers were wearing uniforms.

Sony had developed the uniform out of necessity (after the war, no one had clothes), but Jobs was intrigued and ultimately created one for Apple.

The jacket had sleeves that could zip off to create a vest, which was immediately rejected by Apple employees.

This rejection did not cool Steve on the idea, though, which ultimately resulted in his signature style: black turtleneck, Levi 501 jeans, and white sneakers.

Steve cited the convenience of it and this idea, of a personal uniform, has been adopted by many since.

For a period Mark Zuckerberg would only wear grey shirts, saying “I really want to clear my life to make it so that I have to make as few decisions as possible about anything except how to best serve this community.”

Barack Obama chose to only wear blue or grey suits while president because he had “too many other decisions to make.”

Elizabeth Holmes cloned Steve’s black turtleneck look before replacing it with a bright orange jumpsuit.

The reasons cited by each person wearing the uniform was similar: to reduce the number of decisions they had to make each day.

Each, being in high-profile and high-pressure positions, had big incentives to optimize their ability to make the best possible decisions and reduce decision fatigue.

But high-powered CEOs and politicians aren’t the only ones who make a lot of decisions.

 The average person makes 35,000 decisions in a day.

And while your decision may not change the trajectory of the free world or be the difference between billionaire status and the jailhouse, the decisions you are making are consequential for you.

So today, we’re going to tackle two things:

  1. What types of decisions do we want to protect?
  2. How can we do so?

Defining major decisions

What is a major decision? Each person could have a different definition, but today I’m the writer so I’m doing the defining. 🙂

I’ve broken them into 4 categories.

It has an impact over a long time horizon

If a decision made today will directly impact an outcome a year or more out, it’s likely a major decision.

Recurring expenses would fall into this category. While that new software may not be expensive, you’re likely committing to it for years when you make the change.

It has a large impact on the bottom line

If a decision is going to change cash flow or profit by more than 20%, it can fundamentally change your business.

Also know, there is “too big” when it comes to opportunities.

Consider the size of the opportunity relative to your current business and how it exposes your current business to risk.

It has an outsized impact on your people

Some opportunities require more effort than dollar benefit. But, even if the bottom line benefit is there, the people cost may be too high.

In any of these situations, it’s important to ask:

  1. What stress will this put on my team?
  2. Is my team bought into this opportunity?
  3. How long with this opportunity strain the team?

It significantly increases leverage (monetary & personal)

Taking on debt is always a serious decision, but taking on additional personal leverage is just as serious.

We want to think of leverage in 2 ways:

  1. Opportunities that expand your range of outcomes
  2. Opportunities that shrink your range of outcomes

Expanding your range of outcomes would be accepting a small job that could open up a much larger book of business.

Shrinking your range of outcomes be taking on additional debt which would limit your ability to use those resources for future needs.

With each, there are always positives and negatives. Debt increases options available today but decreases options in the future. But if the option today takes you to a new level, it can increase future options too. The key is understanding the risk associated with it.

How to optimize for making better major decisions

Everyone is busy, but certain people seem to do a better job making big decisions. How?

Make them early in your day

As you get further and further into the day, the number of decisions we’ve made starts to deplete our energy.

Remember that 35,000 decisions per day number? That’s crazy. If the big decision is number 34,000, how fresh do you think you’ll be?

Prioritize making the big decisions after sleep.

Time block

Email, text, pop-ins… all ruin your flow. They distract you from what really needs to get done.

Then, they schedule a last-minute meeting. Nooooo…

Your day gets away from you because you don’t organize it.

By time blocking, you’re protecting your time and high-value tasks.

Eisenhower Decision Matrix

Quit reacting and start prioritizing what’s important.

The Eisenhower Matrix has you label decisions by two categories: important and urgent.

Urgent tasks are those that require immediate attention.

Important will contribute to your long-term goals.

The 2x2 matrix creates four quadrants:

  • Important & Urgent
  • Important & Not Urgent
  • Not Important & Urgent
  • Not Important & Not Urgent

They should get your attention in that order.

Each quadrant has a different type of action associated with it and we should avoid doing things that don’t align with that action.


By adopting this matrix in our decision-making, we reduce the number of low-value decisions we’re making so we can focus on the major ones.

Delegate when appropriate

Too many supervisors hold onto “authority” when handing over tasks.

If you can’t trust an employee with low-value decisions, they shouldn’t work for you, period.

Delegating well is an essential part of making good major decisions.

Get rid of everything that’s unessential

We stink at eliminating. That individual request seems innocuous.

We’re always optimistic in the moment for what we can get done in the future.

But add all the requests together and they’re stealing your time away from what matters.

Say no to requests that don’t align with your goals.

Wrapping Up

Our goal with each solution is to reduce the number of inconsequential decisions we’re making so we can put more focus and energy into the major decisions.

As you implement these techniques, reflect: am I making this decision in a depleted state or a full state?

If depleted, take a step back and push it to another day or time.

There is no silver bullet to start making better decisions.

But, combining the right environment and reps, and over time your decision quality will improve.

And with that improvement comes an improved bottom line.


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