Decision-Making Without the Coin Flip

What will you eat for breakfast? Should you take the train into the office or drive? Do you want to accept that meeting invite from the potential new vendor? Should you expand your business into that new market? Do you hire candidate A or B? Do you accept the promotion? Do you hear out the recruiter and explore the option of the new career opportunity he offers? 

Whether or not these are questions you wrestle with (or have wrestled with), one thing is certain, you devote a lot of time to making decisions. 

Some decisions are easy – there’s a massive backup on the highway; I’ll just take the train today. Some are harder – both candidates have impressive strengths that could benefit my company. Some you’ll make with your gut. Some you’ll struggle with. Is there a way to just make the process of making a decision easier? Sure, and it’s better than flipping a coin and hoping for the best.

Do Your Research

Informed decisions are good decisions. Do your research. Get input from others. Go into this process armed with information.

Think Long Term

Yes, even if you’re considering what to eat for breakfast, there are short term and long term consequences to consider. I might really enjoy that vanilla bean custard Danish at Starbucks, but is it really going to sustain me until lunch? Am I going to be hungry and looking for snacks in about an hour? Is it going to provide me with the nutrients I’m trying to kick my day off with? What other choices could I make that may help me hit my dietary goals and satisfy my hunger? 

Just think, if that’s the impact a long term consideration could have on a simple “What should I eat for breakfast?” decision, what kind of difference might it make if you apply it to more complex decisions.

Don’t Skip Short Term

The big picture is important, but don’t overlook the near term impact or the small details either. Let’s stick with breakfast: that gourmet egg white omelet you just saw someone make in a YouTube tutorial might check a lot of great long-term boxes. It’s also going to require more of a time commitment than you’ve got to offer this morning. 

Just because it might be a good choice for the big picture, doesn’t mean it’s the right choice for this morning. Same with the more complex decisions you’re working through. 

Don’t Overthink

One of the more significant roadblocks to good decision-making is paralysis. Overthinking can walk us right to that door. If you’ve done your due diligence, don’t keep looking for pros and cons to validate your choice. 

The reality is, we can always find (or create) more reasons to select one option and then find more reasons to select the other. We can always nitpick new reasons to not make a particular choice or another. Do your research well. Understand the options before you and then pick one.

Get Outside Input

There’s nothing wrong with a second opinion, or at least in gathering insight and feedback. Gather input from stakeholders, team members, and mentors as appropriate. Depending on the situation, you don’t need to defer to their choices, but you can use their insights to help guide your own process. 

Execute (With Measurable Targets)

Don’t hem and haw. When you’ve made a decision, move forward and execute that choice. Commit to it. However, you should also build in measurable targets so you can track your progress and success.


Those measurable targets we just mentioned, use them. Were your assumptions correct? Did this choice lead to the outcome you were aiming for? Were their unexpected consequences that ought to be evaluated now? 

Be Willing to Pivot

If your evaluation indicates things aren’t headed in the direction you had hoped for, be willing to course-correct. Not every choice you make is going to yield the bounty you hoped for. Sometimes there are unforeseen circumstances. Sometimes we just picked wrong. It happens and it’s okay. Learn what you can from the process and the detour it led you on. Then course-correct and try a new thing. 

Be Willing to Experiment

Sometimes our best decision is really just our best guess. You don’t have a crystal ball. Even informed decisions can miss the mark. Don’t be afraid to make a decision and embrace it as an experiment. If it works, fantastic. Learn from the experience. Repeat or adapt as needed. If it didn’t work, that’s okay too. Learn from the experience and adapt as needed.