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Improve Your Decision-Making (and Critical Thinking) Skills

America's trusted voice on money and business, Dave Ramsey is a personal money management expert and extremely popular national radio personality. His three New York Times best-selling books - Financial Peace, More Than Enough and The Total Money Makeover - have sold more than 6 million copies combined. His latest book is EntreLeadership: 20 Years of Practical Business Wisdom from the Trenches.
Mastering decision-making skills gives you muscle to weigh your options wisely and make hard, brave choices. Improve Your Decision-Making (and Critical Thinking) Skills

Being a leader means facing problems that don’t have easy solutions and making decisions that feel way above your pay grade. But if you want to win big in business, you’ll have to face uncharted territory time and again-even when it comes to decision-making.

Hey, welcome to leadership!

So, how do you get the confidence to see challenges as opportunities and make hard calls? You develop decision-making skills. When your decisions aren’t complicated, your automatic decision-making process kicks in so you can choose quickly, almost instinctively. But often in business, the stakes are higher-leasing or buying a building space, making the right hire, or expanding your market reach-and you could lose a huge chunk of change, time or trust if you make the wrong decision.

That’s when it’s time to call in these critical decision-making skills:

Reasoning - This is when you analyze details and weigh the pros and cons logically with emotions in check so you can stay neutral.

Intuition - At the other end of the logical, facts-based spectrum, you’ll find natural instincts. Intuition is less about analyzing deeply and more about following feelings and gut checks. As you gain more experience, you can give more weight to your instincts.

Problem solving - If you’re feeling overwhelmed by a big problem, try breaking it into smaller ones. It’s easier to unravel issues one knot at a time.

Creativity - This is problem-solving’s best friend. Creativity leads you to new ways of thinking and better ideas.

Emotional intelligence - The best decision-makers are cool, calm and collected folks, who are aware of their emotions and express them in healthy ways. That’s emotional intelligence. And when you use it, you’ll manage stress better and process decisions easier.

Time management - Time is your friend when you manage it well. But it’s your worst enemy when you don’t. That’s why it’s so important to know when to slow your roll, and let a decision simmer and when you need to charge ahead. Make sure you control the timing of a decision instead of letting it control you.

Teamwork - Your best bet for making a complicated decision is to call in a special operations team. When you get the right mix of personalities and experiences beside you, you’ll learn more, come up with better ideas and conquer challenges faster.

How to Improve Decision-Making Skills

You’re not wrong if you’re sweating a little at the thought of how much practice it takes to develop these skills. Great decision-making takes work, and these do’s and don’ts will help you improve your decision-making ability and raise your critical-thinking skills:


  • Get enough sleep so you can think clearly.
  • Take the right amount of time to decide. Acting on impulse is foolish and dangerous, but so is thinking yourself to death. If the impact of the decision is small, don’t waste too much time making the call. But if it’s big or risky, spend more time thinking it through.
  • Set a deadline, or let the actual deadline sink in. This will help you overcome procrastination or freezing in fear of making the wrong choice.
  • Understand that deciding not to decide is a decision. Sometimes it’s the best one you can make for the short term.
  • Learn how to delegate so you have more brain space to make decisions.
  • Teach your team to bring you several possible solutions, not just problems.If they come to your office with a problem and try to drop it on your desk for you to solve, teach them how to solve it, and tell them to take their problem with them when they leave.
  • Gather several options. Options are the fruit of creative thinking and lead to amazing solutions. You’ll feel more confident and stay in the driver’s seat when you gather ideas and information, study what you’re dealing with and conquer what might’ve seemed impossible before.
  • Play out your worst-case scenario. When you think through the worst that could happen, you’ll see that making the call won’t kill you-even if you’re wrong.
  • Commit to your decision and follow through.


  • Make decisions when you’re mad, afraid or weak. Come at them calm and classy.
  • Dwell on the roads not taken. Be bold. You can always course-correct if you get new information.
  • Forget your guiding values. Stay aligned so you can keep your priorities straight.
  • Let negative voices influence you. Criticism and opinions come with the territory when you’re leading. But opinions are a lot like armpits-everybody’s got them, and most of them stink.Go win, and win big in spite of critics.
  • Get distracted by too many options or feel limited by too few options. Find the sweet spot so you don’t get bogged down by infinite choices, but also don’t settle on dumb and dumber. There’s no perfect decision.
  • Doubt yourself once you decide. It will rob your satisfaction and momentum.

It has been said that tolerating a problem has the same consequence as not identifying it-disaster. But mastering decision-making skills gives you muscle to weigh your options wisely and make hard, brave choices.

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