What is Satisficing?

Speed your decisions and make life easier by utilizing the concepts of maximizing and satisficing.

Stever Robbins
4-minute read
Episode #200

My pal Bernice wants only the best for her wedding. She wants the best music, the best cake, the best location, the best weather. It needs to be the most romantic wedding ever, and have the best food, wine, and cheese at the reception. And did I mention the guest list? Every important person in her life just has to be there. She's going over every detail with a fine-tooth comb, finding and evaluating every possible option. Bernice, in other words, is a maximizer.

When faced with a choice, a maximizer will try to make the best choice possible. They want to make every possible aspect of the end result perfect. They're often disappointed. Sometimes getting the lowest cost, for example, won't also get the highest quality. Life has tradeoffs, and maximizers hate that. What's worse, after a decision is made, maximizers obsess about whether they missed a better option than the one they chose. And if anything goes wrong later—say, it turns out that Bernice's cake has 40 more calories per slice than anticipated—they always remember the one option they didn't choose that wouldn't have had that problem. Never mind that even though it would have been perfect in its calorie count, a cucumber and hummus wedding cake would have been … unfortunate.

Maxmizing gets better outcomes, but decisions can take longer, and they're often accompanied by regret.

What are Satisficers?

Melvin, Bernice's boyfriend, is a satisficer. He yearned for years for a white Toyota Corolla, and he wanted to pay under $7,000 for it. When it was time to buy a car, the first showroom he walked into had a used, white Toyota Corolla in the lot with a sticker price of $6,500. He bought it on the spot. Bernice was horrified that Melvin didn't shop around. "It met my criteria," he explained, "so why look any further?"

Satisficers combine the ideas of “satisfaction” and “suffice.” They are satisfied with whatever is sufficient to meet their goals. A satisficer may or may not get the best deal, but their decision-making process is much faster. They quickly find "good enough," and don't spend too much time afterwards worrying about whether it was the best choice. Their needs were met, and that was that.

Satisficers don't get outcomes as good as maximizers, but they have less stress and make quicker decisions. And by definition, those decisions meet the needs of the moment. If you want to work less and do more, learn to satisfice. Here are 5 tips:


About the Author

Stever Robbins

Stever Robbins was the host of the podcast Get-it-Done Guy from 2007 to 2019. He is a graduate of W. Edward Deming’s Total Quality Management training program and a Certified Master Trainer Elite of NLP. He holds an MBA from the Harvard Business School and a BS in Computer Sciences from MIT.