Chernobyl: What would you have decided to do for the best?

HBO’s series ‘Chernobyl’ is currently the highest rated TV show on IMDb and the final episode is airing on Sky Atlantic Tuesday, June 4th.

The historical drama has brought back to our attention the sheer devastation this disaster created over 30 years ago with the consequences still being paid today. But what would you have decided to do in their situation?

The eerie and unbelievable 5 episode mini-series is hard to accept and even more disturbing that it’s based on a true story.

The accident occurred in the No. 4 nuclear reactor at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in April 1986 and together with the now abandoned nearby town of Pripyat in Ukraine; at an educated guess won’t be safe for human habitation for at least another 20,000 years due to long-lived radiation levels.

I won’t give away any spoilers if you haven’t seen most of the TV series yet but it’s hard to fathom just how those people started to decide what to do next.

Those in charge at the time of the accident may not have had the choice to apply some of the decision making hacks below but they will certainly help all of us in our own decision making.

9 Science-Backed Hacks to Improve Your Decision-Making Process

The average person makes roughly 35,000 conscious decisions per day. Ultimately, the better you are at making decisions, the better your day will hopefully flow. Use these nine science-backed techniques to select the best choice possible.

How to Hack the Decision-Making Process

1) Don’t Think On an Empty Stomach

Research proves what we’ve long suspected: “Hanger” — or the irritation you feel when you’re hungry — is a real thing.

Scientists from Sahlgrenska Academy at the University of Gothenburg found that ghrelin, a hormone that’s released when you’re hungry, makes you more impulsive. The higher your ghrelin levels, the less rationally you tend to act.

Wait to make your hardest decisions when you’re not hungry and your ghrelin levels are lower.

2) Go Somewhere Dark

Making good choices is much tougher when you’re feeling emotional. Researchers from the University of Toronto Scarborough wanted to see if they could make people less emotional — and consequently, improve their decision-making abilities — by putting them in a dark room.

The experiment worked. When the study’s participants were under bright lights, both their positive and negative emotions were much more intense than when they were under dim lights.

3) Pretend You’re an Outsider

It’s much easier to give advice than to take it. When you’re the one grappling with an issue, being objective is nearly impossible.

But there’s a way to get around your biases: Simply pretend your challenge is actually happening to someone else. According to a study published in Psychological Science, looking at a situation from a third party’s point-of-view helps you think more impartially than placing yourself front and centre.

4) Take a Deep Breath

Spend 15 minutes focusing on your breathing. This meditative process focuses your brain on the present, so you’ll have less trouble throwing in the towel when something clearly isn’t working.

5) Come Up With Three Options

How many courses of action should you consider for each decision? Dr Therese Houston, author of Teaching What You Don’t Know and decision-making expert, says the magic number is three.

“Once you start generating more alternatives, the quality of decisions goes way up,” she explains. “You’ve got more options on the table.”

6) Watch the Clock

Researchers from the University of Wuerzburg and the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences discovered a bizarre solution: Watch the clock.

Seeing the clockwise movement subconsciously reminds you of the future, which makes you more open to change and new ideas.

So if there isn’t an analogue clock nearby, consider buying one before your next important decision, or bookmark this site for a handy browser version.

7) Trust Your Gut — But Use Your Head

Some people use data to guide their decisions. Others act on their instincts. The most successful decision-makers, however, consider themselves both “strongly analytical” and “strongly intuitive.” Depending on the situation at hand, they switch off between each style

Once you combine your analytical and intuitive answers, you’ll be much closer to the right choice.

8) There’s an App for That

Your heartbeat may hold the secret to making decisions. Julia Mossbridge, a cognitive neuroscientist and the CEO and research director of Mossbridge Institute, LLC, says that “physiology — including heart rhythms — is linked to both unconscious and conscious processes.”

9) Sleep On It

Never make a big decision when you’re tired. A lack of sleep makes you overly optimistic, so your risk perception is completely skewed.  Sleep deprivation also makes it much harder for you to take in and process new information.

Need proof of its danger? Sleep-deprived employees were responsible for both the Chernobyl disaster and the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill.

If you’re feeling fatigued and the matter isn’t urgent, wait until the next morning to make up your mind. And if you can’t delay the decision that long, take a power nap. Studies show even a little shut-eye reduces impulsivity and improves your focus.

Adopt these techniques to boost both the quality and speed of your decision-making process. Agonising over decisions will become a thing of the past.