10 Ways to Make a Decision When You Can't Decide

1. Coin method

A simple and straightforward way: you take two scenarios, assign each side of the coin, and then toss it. The result depends on whether heads or tails are on top.

It seems that making a decision with the help of a coin is completely surrendering to chance. So maybe if you really don’t care what to choose. But the bonus of the method is that, after flipping a coin, people usually begin to hope for some specific result. That is, within himself, a person has already made a choice and considers alternatives suboptimal.

If you don’t have a coin, but some gadget is at hand, then Lifehacker has a “Decide for me” service . Enter up to six options for the development of events and wait for the result.

2. Two chairs

This method is quite successfully used in psychology. For example, he was advised by an expert in the material on readiness for the birth of a child.

You need to sit on the first chair and imagine that you have made one of the decisions. Think about how events will develop further and how you feel about it. Do you feel comfortable, do you feel happy. Then the same must be repeated with the second chair and another choice.

It’s like you’re on two mini-journeys into the future. It is clear that they do not construct real events and are only intended to help you understand yourself. But this is what is needed.

3. Balance sheet

List the pros and cons, and then compare, which is more, Plato suggested in Protagora.


ancient greek philosopher

You, as a person who knows how to weigh well, add up everything pleasant and add up everything painful, both near and far, and putting it on the scales, tell me, what is more? If you compare different pleasures with each other, always choose for yourself the most significant and plentiful, and comparing different pains – insignificant and small. When you compare pleasure with pain, if the pleasant outweighs the painful, whether the nearest outweighs the distant or vice versa, you need to do that which contains the pleasant; if, on the contrary, the painful outweighs the pleasant, it should not be performed.

To use the method, you need to divide the sheet into two columns. In one write down the benefits, advantages, pluses of the solution that can be extracted from it now and in the future , in the other – the minuses, disadvantages, losses. It remains to see what is more, and choose.

4. Descartes square

The method is similar to the previous one, but allows you to look at the problem more closely and from different angles. The sheet in this case is divided into four parts. Each includes answers to the following questions:

  • What will happen if this happens?
  • What happens if this doesn’t happen?
  • What will happen if this happens?
  • What won’t happen if it doesn’t happen?

For example, you are thinking about buying chips. That’s why you use Descartes’ square.

  • What will happen if this happens? You will get short-term pleasure and satisfy your hunger.
  • What happens if this doesn’t happen? You will have to look for another snack if you don’t have one.
  • What will happen if this happens? Healthy eating.
  • What won’t happen if it doesn’t happen? In the long term – extra centimeters at the waist if you abuse the chips.

It remains to choose what is more important for you – a regime and a healthy diet or the pleasure of chips. In general, this alternative was understandable even without Descartes’ square, but it turned out to be a visual explanation.

5. The 10/10/10 rule

The method helps to evaluate the consequences of the decision in the future. To do this, three questions must be asked:

  • How will I feel or what will happen in 10 minutes.
  • And after 10 months?
  • And in 10 years?

For example, a department head cannot decide to have a tough conversation about being fired with a subordinate who has ceased to work effectively. The boss suffers and suffers, postponing the conversation. But he can use the 10/10/10 rule:

  • 10 minutes after the conversation, he will feel both relief and pride that he decided to talk, but at the same time some anxiety, because the employee will now have to look for work.
  • In 10 months, the manager will not even remember this, because there are effective employees in the department, and the work is in full swing.
  • In 10 years, he will already have such an experience of difficult conversations that he will only remember that conversation with gratitude – each such incident makes him learn something.

6. Eisenhower Matrix

Useful if you need to make several decisions, but thinking about them all at once is too hard, ready to go around. The Eisenhower Matrix helps you prioritize tasks by dividing them into four groups.

  • urgent and important (need to decide immediately);
  • important, but not urgent (you can postpone the decision);
  • urgent, but not important (can be delegated);
  • not urgent and not important (you can let it go by itself).

The Eisenhower matrix does not help to find answers to questions. But at least it gives you the opportunity to free your brain a bit so that you can properly think about urgent tasks, postponing non-urgent ones.

7. Brainstorm

This collective decision-making method can be adapted to personal needs. It is close to asking people for advice, but at the same time it is radically different. Since you should not ask for advice, but for an opinion – what a person thinks about the situation, how he would act in this place.

The method does not provide ready-made solutions, it allows you to collect a variety of views on the problem. Some of them may be very non-standard. People in general tend to think more rationally about issues that do not directly concern them.

At the same time, you need to understand that you should not blindly follow the advice. The collected opinions should be analyzed and compared with your own situation. This will help avoid the temptation to shift responsibility in the future: “I did as you said, and now everything is bad. It’s all your fault.” The final decision and responsibility for it is always on the person who is directly affected by the problem.

8. SWOT analysis

This method of business planning helps to evaluate a particular decision. To do this, it is necessary to analyze it according to four points:

  • S – Strengths – strengths.
  • W – Weaknesses – weaknesses.
  • O – Opportunities – opportunities.
  • T – Threats – threats.

Moreover, SWOT-analysis will help to stretch the imperfect solution to the optimal one. Let’s go back to our chips example:

  • S – they quickly satisfy hunger, are inexpensive, easy to buy.
  • W – chips are difficult to attribute to a healthy balanced meal.
  • O – you can eat them on the way and be in time everywhere.
  • T – in the long run, the abuse of chips can lead to health problems.

The solution is imperfect, and we see its weaknesses. But there is nothing critical. The prospect of a quick bite to eat and be in time everywhere looks tempting. And to minimize the damage, it is enough to keep the rest of the meals healthy.

9. Leonardo da Vinci Method

It is impossible to say whether the method is really connected with the painter and the inventor. But it is precisely this method that Michael Gelb describes in his book Learn to Think and Draw Like Leonardo da Vinci. The technique helps to brainstorm alone. To do this, you need to follow this algorithm:

  • State the problem.
  • Ask 100 questions that you have about it. Here it is important not to break away and formulate in the form of questions all the thoughts that come – at least 100.
  • Group them into categories of about 10 each. The numbers can be anything, but the main thing is not to shrink.
  • For all groups, you need to come up with a question that capaciously reflects all their content. As a result, you will receive 10 questions, the answers to which will fully reflect the situation.
  • Answer them and analyze the acquired information. As usual, no one but you will make the final decision.

10. Mendeleev’s method

The method is also reflected in the folk wisdom “the morning is wiser than the evening.” According to legend, the chemist Dmitri Mendeleev came up with the periodic table of chemical elements in his sleep. This is a myth, which, however, does not refute the idea that solutions to the most difficult problems can unexpectedly come to us in a dream.

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