The Right QuestionsWhy (Values and Priorities)

Why is prioritising the key to good decision making?

The Right Questions - prioritisingWhy do we need to prioritise and how can we be more effective in our decision making?

We have already seen that values are at our centre and act as a compass to help guide us.  This guidance becomes very practical in decision making as our values help us prioritise.

Living in an age of choice

Being able to prioritise well, and therefore able to make effective decisions, is of ever-increasing importance today.  Never before has there been so much information or so many choices for us to wade through on a daily basis.

In former times, people (especially academics) were valued for what they knew; the ‘experts’ in their field were the gatekeepers to knowledge on any given subject area.  But that power base has been somewhat eroded in recent years and the value of being a person who just ‘knows things’ has been diminished.  What is the main reason for that?  In short: the Internet.  In the age of the Internet we have more information at our fingertips than ever before in the history of mankind.

The Right Questions - Priorities and decision making
Internet by Birgerking via Flickr

We also have more choice than ever before.  A supermarket is a dangerous place to go without a plan.  Even with two simple staples, rice and sugar, you could fill a whole trolley with the various alternatives on offer in the aisles.  When you go into a coffee shop you can no longer simply ask for a coffee; such a statement would bring consternation for the barista, impatience for other customers and shame for you!  We all know that we need to practise our order in the queue so we can say “extra-large-double-shot-skinny-soya-latte to go” with confidence.

Analysis paralysis

But all this choice and information presents a new challenge; people are overloaded with information and paralysed by the number of choices available.  The challenge today is not about knowing things so much as knowing how to sift, analyse and usefully apply the tornado of data that sweeps around us.  Want a lesson in irony?  Type ‘information overload’ into a search engine and see how many results it churns out in a fraction of a second!

“Getting information off the Internet is like taking a drink from a fire hydrant.”  Mitch Kapor

Our values aid us in the battle against information overload and potential ‘analysis paralysis’.  This is important as time is spent over decisions and there is an opportunity cost even just in deciding to spend time deliberating an option.  Many people today will spend hours pouring over the next gadget to buy and yet fail to give time to decisions that really matter.

The Right Questions - Prioritising
Information overload by SparkCBC

Making good decisions

Making a decision also relieves stress.  The number of decisions we need to make coupled with the importance of many of these decisions can put us under real pressure.  By reducing the number of decisions we have to make (for example by introducing pre-planned systems, processes or through delegation) and by biting the bullet and actually committing to a certain path can release pressure and reduce our stress levels.

“Good is the enemy of Great” Jim Collins

One of the challenges that make decisions hard is that we are generally choosing between several good things, rather than just one good and one bad thing.  This brings in a new challenge where, as Jim Collins points out, the ‘good can be the enemy of the great’, as our limited time and resources can be used up on lots of good things but we could still end up missing the best thing.

Therefore prioritising is of critical importance. If we are going to achieve our best then we are going to have to make the right decisions. Our values will help to guide us but in future posts we will look at some tools that can help us further.

How about you? How do you deal with all the decisions you have to make? Do you have particular strategies or tools that you employ? Do leave a comment and share your tips.

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