Make the right decision under stress: Too many choices make you unproductive


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We have many freedoms today - including the freedom to choose. Not only politically, but also in general: we can and must make new decisions every day. That quickly overwhelms us. Make the right decision under stress: Too many choices make you unproductive

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Simone Janson Simone JansonSimone Janson is publisherConsultant and head of the Institute's job pictures Yourweb.

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Most want pre-selected bites

I admit that people say I would like to overwhelm other people. For example, when I give a lecture or when designing my website. It's gotten better now; I realized that less is more. But only reluctantly. Because actually my aim is to offer my reader or listener the greatest possible amount of information and give them the greatest possible freedom of choice. For example, our readers have the option of putting together collections of texts and using them as eBook or download PDF.

That's why I'm always a little horrified when I notice that people don't want that at all, but prefer to enjoy the information in pre-selected bites. You would like to leave the effort of the decision-making process to me. This is exactly why it offers our publishing house his text compilations meanwhile also quite successfully as finished ones eBooks on. And so today I would like to ask the question: Can too much freedom of choice make you unproductive? And what does that mean in working life?

Too much choice is overwhelming at first glance

I realized that again when I was traveling to Texas. And it felt like Subway to me there. You know, Subway is that sandwich chain where you can configure your sandwich to your personal taste. That is one of the reasons why many do not go there: the choices simply overwhelm.

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The Texans go one better: they have so many choices in the restaurants that it makes you dizzy. You can do it like that imagine: You study the menu extensively, which is not easy if you don't speak perfect English. Then you have finally found something, ordered something - and the service staff immediately confronts you with a number of further options: medium or well done? With baked potatoes or french fries? The sauce is hot, with garlic or sweet and sour? With vegetables or salad? Big or small portion? And and and.

Just do something

I have to admit: Occasionally I just ordered something without knowing exactly what was coming. That was of course also a language problem - but not only: How am I supposed to know whether I like the flavor offered if I haven't tried it before? And even if I know what it is, how do I know whether a different, perhaps new, variant might not taste better?

The problem can be transferred directly to working life: Here, too, we constantly feel overwhelmed by too many choices, sometimes downright paralyzed. It has to do with how our brains make decisions. Because for each choice, all information must first be recorded, processed and then compared with existing empirical values. Our brains are working at full speed, but making five decisions a minute is just too much. So it's no wonder that I felt overwhelmed by the Texan menus.

This is how decision-making processes work in the brain

And there is something else that is hardly surprising when you look at the results of a study that was carried out at Forschungszentrum Jülich and at the University of Cologne on decision-making in the brain: that I decided something without knowing exactly what I was actually ordering . Because I just didn't have the information I needed to make a really good decision.

This brings us to the core of the problem of decision-making: the brain makes decisions for or against something by comparing the new information with previous experiences. Unfortunately, we don't always have the time to collect all the information - as in the restarant, when the service staff rattled down the menu and wanted to take my order with the notepad pulled out. They put me under extreme pressure with their expectations. But if, as in this case, important information and empirical values ​​are missing, then you cannot actually make a decision.

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Time pressure is the real problem

To take my experience in Texas again as an example, in many cases I asked to stop by again in a few minutes - time that I needed to translate the menu or explain this or that offer from my companion to let. This can also be transferred to many other situations: Often we are not ready for a choice, we still need more information. And to get that we have to buy ourselves time.

How to do this is included in our book "Make up your mind now" described: For example, by asking who is actually pushing for an immediate decision and why. And that you let every more important decision “sag” again, for example by running at least one lap around the block.

Too much choice consumes unnecessary resources

To come back to the beginning of this text: When I consider the effort that every decision causes in the human brain, then it becomes clear to me why my readers do not want a wide selection. I now understand, however, that it is not the number of choices that is overwhelming, but the time pressure under which most decisions have to be made. This is exactly the problem that listeners and readers have: too little time to process all of the information.

My personal conclusion from my experience: As a service provider - both in the restaurant and in other activities - you can offer your customers many options. But you should always give them enough time to process the information and make the right decision.

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German edition: ISBN 9783965965515

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English version: ISBN 9783965964815 (Translation notice)

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