How To Make Better Decisions (Hint: Get Sleep)

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Get sleep. Have a healthy skepticism of experts. Be aware of your emotions. Oh, and -- Get sleep.Noreena Hertz, professor at the Centre for the Study of Decision-Making at University College London and author of the new book Eyes Wide Open: How to Make Smart Decisions in a Confusing World (HarperBusiness, 2013), shares tips on how to take steps towards better decision-making.

Some Decision-Making Tips from Noreena Hertz

  • Focus! Every time we get an email alert it takes us 22 minutes to get back to the same level of focus. Set aside email time, and protect time for offline work. (Hertz "batches" her emails and responds to them in chunks.)
  • Don’t Blindly Trust Experts For medical decisions, for instance, know that doctors can sometimes be wrong. Take advantage of someone in your community, who you trust, to help you "piece together the right questions."
  • Get Sleep Here's a decision-making Catch-22: If you’re making a decisions related to your newborn baby, you may be impaired because of sleep deprivation. When you’re fatigued, it’s the same as if you’re making decisions drunk.
  • Get Friends Who Sleep Bounce your thinking off someone else -- ideally one who is well-rested!
  • It's Not Always Either/Or When you confront something that feels like an either/or decision, think hard about whether there is not a third option.
  • The Priority Circle Draw a circle, and write in that circle all the things that really matter to you (family, health, job satisfaction). Then match where you are with what’s in there. If there’s no correspondence, it may be time for a change. But you may be surprised at seeing how your current state matches up with your priority list.
  • Deadlines Work Set a deadline for yourself. "The period of indecision can be really angst-ridden," says Hertz
  • Check Your Emotions Constantly note your emotional state. Just recognizing that your mood may be affecting your decision will help regulate your decision making.