The Art of Decision-Making

6 minute read

Not too long ago, a client asked me if I’d be interested in doing a project. I had made the decision already not to take on any new projects through the end of the year.

But this particular project had a lot of appeal to me. What to do, what to do?

Stick to my original decision, because I have a bad habit of saying yes to everything and not leaving enough room to work on my own business-building projects?

Or make an exception, because I knew I would have a lot of fun, that it wouldn’t compromise my schedule all that much, and the money was good?

I was thinking I should stick to my guns… but, when I talked to my husband, he said, “Three times you said how much you would love to do this. If you have time, you should say yes.”

A Freelancer’s Day Is Filled With Choices

As a freelancer writer and business owner, you have to decide all sorts of things.

Some are the kinds of decisions that come up once in a while…

  • Should I choose a niche or not?
  • Which niche should I choose?
  • What do I want to specialize in?
  • How do I want to market myself?

Others come up often…

  • How much should I charge for this project?
  • Do I have time to do this project?
  • What should I work on today?
  • How do I know if this is a good client?
  • What topic should I write about for my next blog post?

Sometimes, I wonder if the reason so many of the writers I talk to feel overwhelmed is because they have to make so many decisions.

When you work for someone else, a lot gets decided for you. Sure, you don’t have as much freedom… but, you don’t have as much responsibility either.

Decisions can be daunting, tiring work. But, they’re also the key to your building the life you want. So, let’s look at a few strategies for better, less stressful decision-making.

But first, let’s talk about why decision-making takes a toll in the first place.

Decisions Are Tiring Work

Working from anywhere, even the floor

Every day you make a ton of decisions.

Most of them are small and don’t have far-reaching consequences. Things like which route you drive to the grocery store, or which socks you wear.

Some of them are small and, while they don’t have far-reaching consequences taken by themselves, can add up to a big impact over time. Things like what time you get up every day, what you eat for breakfast, and whether you decide to go for a walk.

Eating a healthy breakfast one day is good for you, but it won’t matter much in the long run. Eating a healthy breakfast every day can lead to big gains over time.

And then, some decisions are big and complex with lasting consequences.

It’s a lot to weigh — all these choices every day — and it takes time and energy.

Sometimes we agonize over the wrong things, we second guess ourselves, or we opt for sticking with the status quo. When faced with many decisions throughout the day, the quality of our decision-making can fall over time, leading to poor or impulsive choices we regret later.

So, what if you had a better way to make your decisions? One that wasn’t so draining and that you could trust to lead you in the right direction?

That would be helpful in building your business.

Now, unfortunately, there isn’t a single, sure-fire way to make good decisions all the time. Sometimes, you just don’t have all the information you need, or there’s uncertainty built into the situation and the outcome could turn out differently than expected.

But, there are shortcuts and strategies you can use for better decisions across the board.

Making Small Decisions Faster

Small, inconsequential decisions can become difficult if you’re feeling stressed, if you have a high number of options, or if it’s late in the day and your energy is low.

If you catch yourself agonizing over a decision like what flavor of doughnut you want to order, ask yourself, “Is this a big decision or a small decision?”

If it’s a small decision, ask yourself if it will matter in a week. If the answer is no, simply go with your gut. Trust your impulse in the moment.

That will reduce the weight of those decisions on your day-to-day life.

How might this look for you as a digital copywriter? Perhaps you’re struggling to choose between two cover image options for your LinkedIn profile. If they’re both good options, the amount of impact the choice will have over time is small. Go with whichever one feels right.

Those Small, Cumulatively Consequential Decisions

For the small decisions that have a big effect over time, set up some guidelines for yourself.

In your digital-copywriting life, these are thinks like posting to LinkedIn every day, making new connections, publishing regularly, and keeping up with your email.

On any given day, these decisions won’t have a lot of impact. If LinkedIn is one of your chosen marketing channels, and you miss a post, it’s not going to be a big deal. But, if you don’t post for a week, that can start to be detrimental.

In this kind of case, set up a guideline for yourself. For example, allow yourself to miss posting to LinkedIn one day a week. Then, if you’re feeling busy and considering skipping your daily post, you can ask yourself, “Have I already missed a post this week?” If the answer is yes, you’ll decide to take the time to post. If it’s no, you can skip the post without worry.

By having guidelines in place for the small decisions that can add up to big gains, you can keep yourself on track toward the outcomes you’re hoping to achieve.

Big, Complex, High-Impact Decisions

low-angle photography of man in the middle of buidligns
Photo by Razvan Chisu

Some decisions are harder than others, usually because they’re important and they have the potential for bringing about big changes in your life, for better or worse.

But, you can use a framework to make even these decisions easier to approach. 

Step 1:  Give yourself time. Don’t be pressured into making a consequential decision right in the moment. Take at least 24 hours to consider what you want to do. If the person offering you the choice won’t give you time to think, it’s usually a good idea to say no.

Step 2:  Recognize your resistance. We often resist making big decisions or decisions that will result in a change. Notice if you’re feeling that way. Just being aware of your resistance can help you counter it.

Step 3:  Consider the three most important factors. You might be choosing between two new things or choosing between making a change or staying where you’re at. Either way, zero in on the parts of the decision that matter most. For example, if you’re considering taking an in-house position versus working as a freelancer, you might consider income potential and security, scheduling freedom, and location as your three big factors. Weigh each option based on those three things and see which is more promising.

Step 4:  If you’re still not sure which decision you want to make, weigh the best-case scenario for each and the worst-case scenario for each. It’s typical to give more weight to the negative possibilities than the positive ones. Try to be aware of that bias.

Step 5:  Do a gut check. If the rational approach is telling you either decision is okay, then pay attention to how you’re feeling about each choice.

Step 6:  Talk to a trusted friend. Let them know the choice you’re trying to make and why you’re stuck. Sometimes just talking it through will bring clarity.

Step 7:  Once you make your choice, don’t worry about what might have been.

If you find making decisions is tough, know you’re not alone. It’s something a lot of people struggle with. But, being more aware of your own decision-making processes can help you make consistently better decisions… and do it faster, too.

Oh, and if you were wondering… I said yes to the project, and I’m glad I did.

I’d love to hear your own thoughts about decision-making in the comments, especially if you have your own tips and strategies to share.