How To Sharpen Your Decision Making Skills In Ten Minutes A Day

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“woman praying” by Ben White on Unsplash

Like most parents, I encourage, if not force, my kids to eat healthy foods. But what is life without a few treats here and there? It was a cold and rainy day, so we went on a family trip to our newest local monster bookstore, Indigo. As an aside, it’s ten times better than Barnes and Noble. They had recently opened their café. The kids behaved well, so I asked them if they wanted a treat. They both clamored for a hot chocolate.

The barista mentioned that they use unsweetened cocoa.

“I can add in some sugar if you’d like,” she said.

A chance to sneak in a treat without any sugar. No way would I pass up that opportunity.

“No thanks,” I said. “We’ll take it as is.”

They took their first sip. They both said they liked it. Then they took their second sip. They both said it was okay. After the third sip, I got up to grab a few sugar packets. I mixed in some sugar, hoping a tiny bit would improve the taste. Neither of them made it past the fifth sip. My brilliant experiment failed brilliantly.

I felt guilty about subjecting them to the horror of unsweetened hot chocolate, so I caved in and took them to Dunkin Donuts. At least I made them split a donut. I should have allowed them to get a regular hot chocolate. Stupid me.

Where Did I Go Wrong?

I recently started a practice of documenting my decisions. I do it each night before bed as part of my journaling practice. The exercise of recording decisions is the latest addition to this ever-evolving ritual.

When you record your choices, it enables you to question your decision-making process. It facilitates the examination of your motives and allows you to evaluate your thought processes.

We make countless decisions each day. Unless a significant catastrophe occurs as a result of our choices, we almost never examine the outcomes; this is why you must write them down. It’s the only way you can assess the effects.

Doing this exercise before bedtime also gives you the emotional distance to honestly evaluate the results. Bedtime is a period of relaxation and reflection. Any emotional residue from a poor or great decision has likely dissipated.

The Recurring Theme After 30 Days

Do this for a month. You’ll be shocked at how many of your decisions appear silly or illogical in retrospect. I should have known my kids would hate unsweetened hot chocolate. So, how do I explain the poor choice? It was wishful or delusional thinking on my part; I’ve found this to be a recurrent theme.

I rarely make decisions based on logic. Nor do I make decisions based on emotion. That’s too broad a statement. I make many decisions based on what I hope or what I desire to be true. I imagine that’s true for most of us.

Yeah, I know. We don’t always make decisions devoid of logic, but we do it far more often than we like to think.

It’s unfortunate that most of us do not document our lives. The seemingly insignificant act of buying my kids unsweetened hot chocolate became a learning event because I recorded it and asked questions.

10 Minutes A Day For 30 Days

Try this thirty-day experiment. It takes about ten minutes a day.

Each night before bed, write down at least five decisions you made during the day. If you do more, great. Just make sure it’s at least five. Don’t worry about the insignificance of some of your choices. Write them down and filter later. It could be as mundane as choosing a banana over an egg or as life-changing as picking one job over another. Write down whatever pops into your mind.

Pick three of your decisions, and ask yourself these questions.

  1. Why did I choose this path?
  2. What other choice did I consider?
  3. What was I hoping to gain by making this decision?
  4. In retrospect, what would have been a better decision and why?
  5. If I were advising a friend faced with the same choice, how would I persuade her to select the right option?

I’ve been doing this for a month. I can’t say I’m a master decision maker yet, but the exercise has made me a more thoughtful decision-maker. The hot chocolate incident reminds me I still have a long way to go, but going through those questions solidified the learning. Next time, I’ll know better.

Written by

Experimenter in life, productivity, and creativity. Work in Forge | Elemental | Business Insider | GMP | Contact: barry@barry-davret dot com.

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