9 Tips to Make Smarter Decisions Faster

UPDATED: June 24, 2021
PUBLISHED: September 2, 2016

We make decisions all day, every day, on things like what to wear and where to go to lunch. Which sound simple enough, right? Except that those small decisions can start to pile up and too many can stress us out—and then we can’t make the decisions that actually matter. So we either put it off, or we do it, distracted, and regret it later. Neither is ideal.

Related: A Guide for Making Tough Decisions

So how can you get rid of the mind clutter and the anxiety to make better decisions faster?

We asked members of the Young Entrepreneur Council for their best tips. You can use these hacks to start making good (and quick!) decisions in your personal and professional life.

1. Stick to your mission.

In a startup especially, it is vital that every big decision you make is within the scope of your mission. You don’t have the mental or physical resources to spread your net too wide and still succeed. So always ask yourself which option best moves you toward your mission’s goal, and then the choice should be simple.

—James Simpson, GoldFire Studios

2. Set a time limit.

Give yourself a timer that helps you focus on the decision rather than having your mind wander and get distracted. With the pressure of a time limit, you’ll need to get to the heart of the matter faster and collect the pros and cons quickly, which you might not otherwise do.

—Murray Newlands, Due.com

3. Avoid decision fatigue.

Decision fatigue saps focus and reduces mental energy. Hundreds of trivial daily decisions degrade our ability to focus. I try to systematize small decisions so I don’t have to sweat the small stuff—task lists and mindful habit cultivation are key. When an important decision needs making, I’m ready to give my full attention.

—Vik Patel, Future Hosting

4. Control what you can control.

At some point, a leader has to wear multiple hats until they have a team to offload responsibility. It’s important to focus on what is in your direct control. Worrying about things outside of your control will result in delaying projects. The more you focus on what you can control, the quicker you will be at making big decisions.

—Drew Gurley, Redbird Advisors

5. Understand pattern recognition.

Most of what we face each day is similar to other scenarios we have already experienced. By understanding this, it’s possible to quickly map a range of previous experiences and their outcomes. Leverage those to arrive at the most viable decision for this case. Over time, as you continue making decisions, their speed and quality will improve.

—Jeff Jahn, DynamiX

6. Decide whether the decision can be reversed.

Jeff Bezos said it best when he pointed out that there are two types of decisions: decisions you can take back and decisions you can’t. Keep this in mind while making decisions in order to move faster as an organization. If a decision can be taken back after it has been implemented, don’t waste time being indecisive. Decide, implement, evaluate and reiterate if necessary.

—Michael Saffitz, Apptentive, Inc.

7. Make a daily decision quota.

Commit to making a certain number of decisions per day. They can be small (Should I get coffee?) or big (Should I buy this company?), but the process is the same. If you keep track of how many decisions you make, you’ll start to make them faster and more often.

—Carter Thomas, Bluecloud Solutions

8. Use the common-sense stress test.

After running through a basic cost-benefit analysis, I call one—not five—of my smart friends in a different field who can zoom out and trim the fat off that analysis. As a company with academic roots, some of our team early on had been prone to consulting every conceivable “expert” for weeks or months without action.

—David Mainiero, InGenius Prep

9. Embrace uncertainty.

Startups win by speed, not clairvoyance. When you’re trying to do something new, you won’t have 100 percent of the information you think you need; there aren’t always industry reports or best practices to adhere to, so accept that you will be wrong 25 percent of the time and try to make as many decisions as possible, followed by execution.

—Hongwei Liu, mappedin

Related: 5 Ways to Make Sure You Don’t Regret Your Next Decision

Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched BusinessCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.