Making good decisions

In a world filled with variety and media bombarding you with options, making decisions can be particularly challenging. Mix this with a fear of failure or aversion to uncertainty, and you are set up for experiencing psychological distress to some degree. See how this quick, non-emotive technique can help “Amy” to decide what breakfast she should choose for her family.

Decision making: Step 1

List all your options and use them as column headings

After brainstorming an extensive list of ideas, Amy highlighted the following options

  • Take outs for breakfast
  • Bacon and eggs
  • Toast and spreads
  • Oats
  • Chocolate cereal
  • Fruit and yoghurt
  • Waffles
  • Coffee and rusks
  • Skip breakfast

Decision making: Step 2

List all the factors that are important to you in order of importance (you can give them a weighting out of 10) and use them as row headings

Amy highlighted that she wants breakfast to be

  • Easily obtainable (10)
  • Quick preparation (9)
  • Nutritious value (9)
  • Sustains until lunch time (8)
  • Enjoyable taste (7)
  • Cheap (6)
  • Variety (4)
  • Organic (2)

Decision making: Step 3

Give each option a rating out of 10 for each of the variables and then multiply it with the factor’s weighting.

Amy deemed the Fried Breakfast option to be 8/10 obtainable (which is rated as 10 on her list of importance) and rates 4/10 for quick preparation (rated 9 on importance). The total weighted score would thus be 8×10=80 for obtainable and 4×9=36 for quick preparation for the fried breakfast.

Factor (weight) Fried Eat out Oats Cereal Fruit Coffee Nothing
Obtainable (10) 8: 8×10 = 80 5: 5×10=50 10 7 7 10 10
Quick (9) 4: 4×9=36 5: 5×9=45 10 9 8 10 10
Nutritious (9) 4: 4×9=36 5: 5×9=45 8 2 10 3 0
Sustains (8) 6: 6×8=48 6: 6×8=48 7 3 8 1 0
Taste (7) 7: 7×7=49 8: 8×7=56 3 10 7 5 0
Cheap (6) 5: 5×6=30 1: 1×6=6 9 4 5 5 10
Variety (4) 2: 2×4=8 9: 9×4=36 3 1 8 2 0
Organic (2) 8: 8×2=16 4: 4×2=8 1 0 6 0 10

Decision making: Step 4

Calculate the total score for each option to see which one best meets your requirements in order of importance.
Amy calculated the total score for fried breakfast to be 303 in comparison to a breakfast out which scored 294. She would continue with these calculations for every one of the options, until she reaches one with the highest score.

But what if you don’t like the choice? Does Amy really want to eat oats every day with her family? If you are left with two good choices, you can always flip a coin. If you don’t like the answer it gives you, it gives you a very good emotive indication of which option you would prefer.