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This question is similar to this one (How to efficiently make a hard decision?) except I'm concerned more about improving the speed and effort taken to reach a decision.

So just come off organising my wedding and subsequent honeymoon. I noticed the prep was very stressful, but the stress wasn't just over all we had to do, it was the decision making over some fairly big purchases. Booking a reception or flights - basically things that would cost a lot of money and lock us into a particular path, it would take ages for us to decide anything. We'd try to do as much research as we can (often making us even more unsure cause there was so many options) and then even after that, and we'd worry about whether we made the right decision.

Maybe we're just indecisive, but making decisions takes a lot of mental effort!

What strategies is there to enable someone to make important decisions quickly and without applying so much effort?

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What I do with these 'big choices' (choosing a job, a house etc) is use the MoSCoW methodology. Quoting from the Wikipedia article, you define what the important/less important/unimportant aspects of your choice are:

M - MUST: Describes a requirement that must be satisfied in the final solution for the solution to be considered a success.

S - SHOULD: Represents a high-priority item that should be included in the solution if it is possible. This is often a critical requirement but one which can be satisfied in other ways if strictly necessary.

C - COULD: Describes a requirement which is considered desirable but not necessary. This will be included if time and resources permit.

W - WONT: Represents a requirement that stakeholders have agreed will not be implemented in a given release, but may be considered for the future. (note: occasionally the word "Would" is substituted for "Won't" to give a clearer understanding of this choice)

If the 'M's are not satisfied, the deal is off - those are easy ;-)
Next you look which alternative satisfies the most 'S'es.

This method has the added advantage that it will help you define objective criteria, but you can still include abstract requirements if you want.

Example criteria for your reception:

M: Price not over X
M: Must seat N people
S: A romantic ambiance
C: Since it's summer: outside area that people can walk into

Also: Set a time limit to your research. Once you have enough criteria and 3-5 alternatives you can choose. As you conclude "(often making us even more unsure cause there was so many options)" more options do not make it easier. In fact, more choice makes us unhappy.

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Agree especially with the last paragraphs. Set a deadline. Decide quick. The more choices you have, the unhappier you'll be with your choice. The longer you take to make your decision, the more it'll cost you in time and energy. When I go shopping with my wife now, I have a policy that $20 is an acceptable amount of money to burn, compared to spending the whole day looking at other shops for a cheaper deal.. because I can spend that time working, enjoying myself, or paying someone else to do half a day's work for me. – Muz Jan 10 '14 at 9:24

Planning ahead of time (at least a high-level picture) is a good way to be ready for on-the-spot decisions. It also makes it easier to make a good decision from multiple choices. Of course, this is not always possible, so then it's good to ask yourself what do you want to accomplish with the choice.

Also narrow down the choices to the most practical choices, eg. if you want to book a trip, simply leave out the destination which you feel might be too expensive. Try to narrow down as much as possible! When you have just two choices, try to list the Pro's and Con's of both, and then see how it looks on paper (just a quick list, nothing complex).

If the choice is for buying or not buying, I like to ask three simple questions: "Do I like it? Do I want it? Do I need it?". If the answer is "no" or "maybe" to any of those, I simply don't buy it. You can always buy it later, if you find out one day that now you need it. The world is full of things, so there is no need to buy "just in case".

Usually hesitation means that either you don't know enough about it yet, or deep down you know you don't really need the trip/item. Sometimes you just have to force yourself to a decision and go with the flow. Then when a similar choices comes up later, you have some experience already, and can make a better informed pick.

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I used to struggle making quick and efficient decisions as well and nothing helped me more than the Z decision making tool based on the MBTI. This page is explaining it quite well :

So if you are not familiar with it, I would recommend you to explore what is your MBTI type properly. This is the most common tool to know yourself in a simple and neutral way and give you the first hints on why you struggle making decisions :) Then, you will be able to understand that a good decision making process is about: 1- collecting the facts, details data 2 - exploring / listing all options and implications (Naturally we are always better at one of the above, like for me I am a creative mind and tend to forget to look at actual facts and details so this method reminds me to first look at facts before considering 1000 options !) 3 - from options listed, defining what makes more sense / would be logical using a rational approach 4 - considering and expressing the potential impact on people, personal feeling about the decision (Again, we tend to naturally see one aspect only of the above ie. rational or subjective, so this model ensures you consider all aspects before making a decision)

This is simple, complete, works for all. Certainly the most useful lesson in my life so far actually. So remember the Z of Zorro and you will know how to solve any tricky situation, especially in a couple, all preferences would be covered! Enjoy

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