An old adage works also in decision analysis: Think before you act. In the context of decisions, it refers to thinking about the problem itself first. In decisions, two key parameters largely define your success: the criteria, and the alternatives.
The criteria mean dimensions along which you compare and evaluate the alternatives. For example, for the apartment common ones are size, price, location, and so on. What’s the key is defining those criteria yourself. You don’t have to be constrained by what other people think. Your criteria are anything you care about. For example, one of Thomas’ criteria could be the amount of ambient light in the apartment, if he had thought about it beforehand. Thinking about the criteria before the decision helps to stay on the premeditated path, and not be drawn away by other enticing things. If you’ve given thought to criteria in advance of seeing the alternatives, you’re less likely to focus on salient, but ultimately irrelevant ones (like the fresh smell above). It’s like when you’re going to work: you decide to walk straight there, and don’t go into shops even when you see that shiny new guitar in the window (also, your boss might not value your musical enthusiasm to make it a good idea).
Another thing about criteria: they don’t necessary have to be numeric. Sure, there are benefits to using numerical values, especially when they are objective, like size. But inherently there’s nothing wrong with subjective criteria like a “feel” of an apartment, the comfort of a chair or the taste of a wine. After all, it’s your decision we’re talking about. The only thing that matters is that you can be consistent with the criteria, ie. you can rate equally tasty wines as equal on the taste. This is crucial, because otherwise you might be tempted to reevaluate some criteria to end up with the “best alternative”. The point of evaluation is to determine the best option, not to “prove” the choice ex post facto.
The point with this is that your decision quality is driven by the alternatives you’ve come up with. If you don’t find good alternatives, you might consider them nonexistent and fall for the status quo bias. Enlarging the conceptual alternative space will help to see what’s possible. An alternative you didn’t think of won’t get picked.
The major point being: you can improve decisions heavily by structured, reflective thinking. This is an idea that Ralph Keeney, an emeritus professor from Duke University, has championed for decades now (for example, in this paper, or this book). Most decisions are not important enough to require a huge decision analysis trade-off analysis. But thinking is almost free, and has the potential to help a lot.