Making Big Decisions

When faced with a big decision, like whether to accept a new job, there are many factors to consider.

  • What does the new job entail, in terms of job function?
  • What salary and benefits are offered (including retirement matching, health insurance, dental coverage, commuting assistance, etc.)?
  • What is the work-life balance like? Are there options for flexibility, such as telecommuting or flexible schedules?
  • What do you know of the workplace culture?
  • What does your family think?

There are many more, and some of the above won’t apply to you. Most people have certain “non-negotiable” items which they haven’t even put on their decision list because they’ve assumed they won’t accept a job without these items (geographic location, salary etc. may be on the list).

Once you have this list, how can you use it? I used to give clients an Excel file with multiple columns to help prioritize their values. You would give each value a number on a scale of one to three, where three is most important. Then you would rate each of the two or three decision options you had, on a scale of one to ten with ten being the best, according to how well it fulfilled each value (for example, one job pays $70,000; another pays $80,000; the one paying more may get 10 points for salary and the other may get 8 points; one job makes you work 60 hours per week and the other 40, so the one with 60 gets 3 points and the other gets 8 points). Then you would multiply each of the values by how important that value was to you (so if work-life balance is the most important, you’d multiply the number of points by 3). Then you’d add up your points, and the job with the most points would be the one you should pick.

This got really too wonky for most people. So, there’s another system, created by Richard Nelson Bolles (author of What Color is Your Parachute) who suggests writing all your values down, then comparing each value to each of the others in an imaginary “forced choice” arrangement. The values you continue selecting above all others is the first priority, the next is the second priority and so on. The problem was, applying these “prioritized” values to a decision was challenging because there wasn’t a direct way to weight the different values.

But now, there’s a fun and easy new way to make big decisions, called Let Simon Decide. I think this could be one of the better solutions out there because it automates the process and allows you to input the various factors at play and measure how important they are, then decide on various choices based on the importance of the different factors. It’s a lot like my Excel file, but a lot easier to use.

Any other options you’ve come up with that you think are good for decision-making?

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