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Improving your decision making process, Part I

Our brains do not automatically prioritize the importance of daily decisions

Information overload Is a bigger problem than you think

There’s no possible way that our 120 bits-per-second brains can keep up with the 300 billion billion exabytes of online information. How can we make informed, effective decisions under the weight of this exponential growth in available data?

Because our analogue brains have such low processing capacity, we are unable to follow more than two people talking to us at the same time. So, it should come as no surprise that our world–with billions of people now online–is so beset with misunderstanding, overwhelm AND poor decision making. We try to keep up, of course, taking in 500% more daily information than we did 30 years ago.

To get a broad sense of the scope of this challenge, add up the number of hours you spend online with the virtually unlimited social media, television and computer gaming choices available. Less apparent, but more critical, is how routinely making so many media/information consumption choices undermines your decision-making ability. That impact is both real and measurable.

Strategy #1 for making better decisions: prioritize

The heart of the problem is that our brains do not automatically prioritize the importance of daily decisions. We have great trouble distinguishing the trivial from the important, much more than you may be aware. It seems that our brains are structured to make a finite number of decisions per day and once we reach that limit, our decision making ability plummets regardless of how important a specific decision may be for our future wellbeing. In scientific terms, the ever-increasing demand for information processing taxes our neurons’ ability to metabolize oxygen and glucose.

Looking at it another way, the continual, insignificant small decisions we make minute-to-minute make us ‘brain weary,’ (as folks in the South call it). This underscores the importance of reenergizing strategies such as meditation, exercise and other stress reduction strategies, a subject I’ll revisit in a future blog.

In Part II of this article, I’ll outline unconscious biases you need to be aware of that have been implicated in poor decision-making. In Part III, I’ll introduce several advanced, elegantly structured techniques with a record of improving the outcomes of important decisions.

'Look, we just need to make a few simple decisions. For once, can we do it without an endless squabble over whether we should take the high road or fly under the radar?'

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