Just Can’t Make Up My Mind: Making Choices with a Weighted Decision Matrix (WDM)

Life is all about choices.


According to a Psychology Today article that cites a Cornell University study, we make 226.7 decisions a day -- and that's just on food alone.


So when you find yourself saying, "I can't make up my mind?" about the really big decisions in life, maybe it's time to try a Weighted Decision Matrix (WDM) or Weighted Criteria Matrix (WCM) -- a simple table of columns that helps you determine the best outcome for a set of choices.


Suppose you have to make a decision about choosing one of two job offers.


One job is in Portland, and the other is in Montreal.


Follow these steps for making a WDM:


1. Make two columns: factors and weight. The first column, factors, refers to factors that you'll consider to make the decision. The second column is the weight that measures how important that factor is to you. 


2. Create more columns based on your available options. Next to those two columns, create as many columns as you need to cover possible choices. There are two job offers in our example, so we'll draw up two choice columns: Portland Job and Montreal Job. Leave space for a column to the left and to the right of each choice column. 


3. List the factors that determine your decision. In deciding between the Portland and Montreal jobs, we'll list in the factor column five important factors: climate/location, pay, health benefits, work hours, and local social opportunities. 


4. List the weight of each factor. In the weight column, assign each factor a number from 1 to 10 according to how important that factor is to you. In our case, climate and location play a big part of our decision-making process. So we'll assign the climate/location factor a weight of 9. We'll give the pay and health benefits categories each a weight of 8; and we'll give work hours and local social opportunities each a weight of 7.


5. Grade the factors you have listed for each choice. Assign a number from 1 to 10 to the specific factors listed for each job in order to rate how attractive each choice is. In our hypothetical example, we'll give the Portland health benefits factor an 8. We'll imagine that the job choice in Montreal offers less health benefits, so we'll assign the Montreal benefits factor a 5. These numbers go in the space to the left of each job choice column. 


6. Multiply weight by grades. We assigned a weight of 8 to the pay category, and we'll give the job's salary a grade of 8. Multiplying 8 X 8, we come out with 64. Place this number to the right of the Portland choice column. Next, imagining that the job in Montreal pays less than the job in Portland, we'll give the Montreal job a 6 for its salary. Multiplying 8 X 6, we come up with 48, which we'll place in the space to the right of the Montreal choice column.


7. Add up each score. Once you've multiplied all of the determining factors by their grades, add those numbers up for each job choice. The total with the higher score represents the choice that's probably your best option. In our example, we configured the choices so that the Portland job would receive a higher score than the Montreal job.


Some final tips: We have to make decisions for everything we do, including when we write something down. For constructing your WDM, use a flexible tool, like an electronic white board. Give yourself the freedom to rename, add or eliminate columns as you go along. Your decision-making process will evolve as you decide what factors are most important and how much weight to give those factors.