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We all make hundreds of decisions every day, from the simplest we skip through in a second to complex ones we agonise over.  Helping you make decisions is at the heart of every Good Sort.   Here is our Guide to making good ones – whether you’re sorting through a Lifetime of Possessions, havering over a career change or having serious doubts over a pair of socks!

Feeling good gives you a head start

  • Make important decisions when you’re well-rested.  It can’t always be after eight blissful hours in the Land of Nod, but avoid big decisions when you’re exhausted.
  • Get some oxygen going around – a brisk walk or a few deep breaths work wonders to clear the head.
  • Eat.  There are 86 billion neuro-transmitters working away in a human brain making it our most calorie-guzzling organ.  If you’re asking your brain to work hard, give it a steady flow of balanced food.   Save the 5:2 diet and sugar highs for other days.

Ask yourself Why and What

  • Why you’re making the decision and What you want the result to be.
  • Always frame the result in positive terms.
  • Why and What are like arrows pointing you in the right direction to start with – or telling you you’re heading towards a dead end.

Recognise your emotions

  • The limbic system is the area of the brain where we process emotions.  It’s very active when we’re making decisions – but beware if it’s in overdrive.
  • Anger, over-confidence, delirious happiness are not a decision maker’s friends.
  • If you can’t keep calm, don’t carry on.  Stop.

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Find a process that works for you

‘We’re all different’ is never truer than the way we approach decisions but some things are always important:

  • Reduce the number of decisions you have to make.  Cut down the options and make small decisions in batches.
  • Break big decisions down into their component parts and make them in stages.
  • List the relevant facts and rank them in order of importance.  Unless you’re making decisions about war and peace, discard all but the top five.
  • List the probable and possible consequences – good and bad.  Rank them in order of importance too and discard all but the top five.
  • Timing is like Goldilocks’ porridge.  It can be too soon, too late or just right.  Work out when ‘just right’ is and stick to it.
  • Build in time to sleep on a big decision.
  • If you want help with a decision, ask someone you can trust to be honest and who may say tough things you don’t want to hear.
  • Go through the process at a speed that suits you and the context – you might spend longer deciding over a radical career change than over a pair of socks.
  • And finally, don’t gnaw the bone.  Be confident that your process will lead you to the right decision.


  • Decision making is a skill like any other – part life skill we learn naturally as we grow up, part needing practice and experience just like playing tennis.
  • Don’t overface yourself.  You’ll know if you should be hitting against the garage wall at home or a walking out onto the Centre Court.
  • Like a physical activity, if you’re putting your brain through intensive exercise you’ll need to warm up and warm down.  Start and finish with easy decisions.

Recognise Pressure

  • Recognise pressure wherever it comes from – social, peer, professional, family.
  • Beware of groupthink.  Be your own contrarian if there’s no-one else.

Be crunchy, not woolly

  • Forget words like possibly, probably or might.  Try to quantify uncertainties.
  • Instead of I’ll probably wear / use / read this over the next year, put a number on the probability – 5%, 10%, 90%?
  • What’s the probability that buying this house will strain my finances  – 10%, 20% 95%?
  • What’s the probability my boss will fire me for wearing this pair of socks – 100%?
  • What’s the probability I can reverse this decision if I get it wrong?  Put a number on it.

Learn to live with your decisions

  • You can be meticulous every step of the way and still make the wrong decision.
  • Ask yourself why and give yourself honest answers.
  • Give yourself a telling off if you need to, then let go and move on.
  • Moving on is easier said than done, but telling yourself a bad decision is irreversible or life-changing is a self-fulfilling prophecy.
  • There’s no better confidence builder than turning a bad decision into a challenge, a new opportunity and ultimately a success.


And finally don’t get bogged down in ‘rational’ decision-making.  Sometimes you just have to go with your heart and make it work!