5 Ways to Improve Decision Making

5 Ways to Improve Decision Making

A leader must make lots of decisions. The better decisions we make, the better our leadership, the better our churches and ministries, and the better we’re able to serve those around us. So what can we do to improve decision making? Consider these five ways:

1. Avoid decision fatigue.

Decision fatigue refers to the phenomenon that occurs when the quality of our decisions degrades after a long string of successive decisions. When important decisions face you, make them when you are the most refreshed, usually in the morning (although night owls may make better decisions at night).

2. Get enough sleep.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control stated in 2013 that 35% of adults aged 25-65 reported that they unintentionally fell asleep during the previous month. And the same percentage reported that they get less than 7 hours of sleep each night, although sleep experts recommend that we get 7-9 hours each night. When we don’t get adequate sleep, here’s what happens.

  • Our attention, alertness, and mental response speed decrease.
  • Creativity gets dampened.
  • Our brain’s CEO (the pre-frontal cortex) that is responsible for executive functions like planning, emotional control, decision making, and abstract thinking gets compromised.

Jesus took time away to rest. He rested physically and He rested spiritually with the Father. What does rest look like for you? Taking time to rest spiritually can be even more reviving than a good night of sleep.

3. Practice metacognition.

Metacognition is a fancy word for ‘thinking about your thinking.’ Often, we get caught up in a thinking auto-pilot mode. And since our brain has five time more negative circuits than positive ones, thinking usually turns negative. It’s called the negativity bias. So, practice pausing during the day to ask yourself, “What am I thinking about right now?” This discipline can help you avoid wasted mental energy on unprofitable thoughts. The Apostle Paul counsels us to do this in Philippians 4:8 saying, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”

4. Recognize how emotions affect our decisions.

For years we assumed that great decisions were based on logic alone. However, scientists are now learning that emotion plays a much larger part in decision making than previously thought. Neuroscientist Antonio Damasio found impaired decision making in people who had brain injuries to their emotional centers. So, factoring in how you feel about a decision might help you make a better one.

Scientists are learning that emotion plays a large part in decision making.

5. Recognize how long-term stress diminishes good decision making.

God created our bodies with an ability to respond to danger. It’s called the stress response, largely influenced by the stress hormone, cortisol. However, long term stress shrinks brain cells in our memory centers. And it strengthens brains cells in our fight-flight centers which in turn dampens our brain’s CEO that guides the decision-making process. So, if you’ve been stressed a long time, it might behoove you to delay any significant decisions until your stress diminishes.

What has helped you make better decisions?

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Charles Stone

Both my wife Sherryl and I have a heart for pastors and pastors’ wives. We’ve taught hundreds of pastors and their wives in the United States, Canada, Nicaragua, Colombia, and Mexico.

I earned an engineering degree from Georgia Tech, a Masters of Divinity from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and a Doctorate of Ministry from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. I’m completing another masters degree in neuroleadership. I’m also an avid Georgia Tech Yellow Jacket fan.

I’ve been professionally trained in these areas by these organizations:

Life Coaching through the Professional Christian Coaching Institute
Strategic Planning through Ministry Advantage (certified)
Vision Clarity through the Church Unique Process (certified)
Conflict Management through Peacemakers
I’m the author of 4 books – Daughters Gone Wild – Dads Gone Crazy (Thomas Nelson, 2007), 5 Ministry Killers and How to Defeat Them (Bethany House Publishers, 2010), People Pleasing Pastors: Avoiding Pitfalls of Approval Motivated Leadership (Inter-Varsity Press, January 2014), and my brand new book, Brain-Savvy Leadership: the Science of Significant Ministry (Abingdon, 2015).

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