It’s said that variety is the spice of life, but how do you make decisions when faced with an overwhelming amount of options?
Your Brain’s Switchboard
Do you ever feel so overwhelmed with choices, that you don’t make a decision at all? While having limitless options seems like a blessing at first, our brains can easily suffer from information overload. To see why we behave this way, Dr. Angelika Dimoka, Director of the Center for Neural Decision Making at Temple University, conducted a study. While watching participants’ brains in an fMRI scanner, she asked them to solve a complex problem. Dimoka then added more and more pieces of information to the problem and observed. As the brain took in more information, the prefrontal cortex (the region responsible for strategic planning and decision-making) became increasingly active. This was expected. However, at a certain point, the participants simply couldn’t handle any more information, and their prefrontal cortexes went dark. Like an overloaded circuit, the brain simply shuts down when presented with too much information. Information overload, it seems, is a real phenomenon in our brains.
Set Your Priorities
When faced with a sea of options, try to pick out a few characteristics that are most important to you. Discuss them with your team and have a brainstorming session. Does the final choice need to have a certain look or function? Does it need to communicate something, and if so, what? From there, you can “filter” your options down the same way you would at an online store. John Arroyo, Founder and CEO of Arroyo Labs, Inc., suggests ranking your final ideas/options:
"Write down all the best ideas on sticky notes and start to rank those notes. For instance, if there are 25 ideas, start to rank each idea from best to worst in piles of five each. Take the top 10 and start to narrow down again. Repeat until you are left with only the number of ideas that you need. You could also use [an online] kanban board like Trello if your team members are not in the same room."
By knowing what you want, you are better equipped to make a confident decision.
Ask An Expert
When making a decision in a field you know little about, the task can become even more daunting. Every industry has its intricacies and insider secrets. Trying to educate yourself on all of it will cause undue pressure and take a lot of time. Instead, do some light research and take your ideas to an expert. Here at E. A. Dion, we have virtually limitless ways to customize jewelry, and we understand that presenting every option will quickly become overwhelming. Jewelry design and manufacture is also a specialty subject that many aren’t familiar with. That is why each client is designated an Account Manager to guide them through the process. Our Account Managers know the ins and outs of every step and can recommend the best way to achieve your vision. Our goal is always to make the customer happy with their custom jewelry pieces, and we have over 50 years of experience doing just that.
Let Go of “What If”
The pressure that comes from having too many options is due to fear of making the wrong decision. If you’re feeling that fear, it’s a good idea to stop and ask what the consequences are if you make a less-than-optimal decision. Would it be catastrophic, or would it not be a big deal? Once you have the answer, take the energy you are devoting into making this decision and adjust to match its severity. It’s impossible to know every outcome, so cut yourself some slack and unburden your prefrontal cortex. Your brain will thank you!
Inc. - 5 Ways to Beat Decision Paralysis
USA Today - Brain Science: Too many options can overwhelm your brain
Business Collective - 5 Tips for Narrowing Down Your Ideas After Brainstorming
By Aubrey Dion
Aubrey Dion is proud to be back working for the family business she grew up in. Over the years, she has performed a wide variety of jobs in both the office and factory, becoming a true "jack of all trades." Aubrey credits her quick learning ability to her strong theatre background, where memorization and attention to detail are vital. Working in the marketing department allows her to stay creative and work on exciting new projects for the company.