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How long does it take you to make a decision?

Maybe here’s a better follow-up question: how often are you happy with the decision that you ended up making?

Making big decisions (and small ones too) can take up so much time and energy, and often, we end up exerting more on thinking through a problem than we really gain by solving it. At other times, though, we decide so quickly, based on so much emotion or stress, that we end up dealing with the consequences of a snap decision for way longer than it would have taken to just think things through.


Can decision-making be simple?



Tackling every decision without a plan is forcing yourself to reinvent the wheel every time you have a choice to make.

Trying to quickly assemble all of the necessary information in a way that makes sense — while also trying to be objective and ignore any personal emotions or stress that may be influencing your feelings — can turn all of your ideas a jumbled, unhelpful mess really fast.

What you need is a system. You need to know, before a decision confronts you, how you’ll deal with it. You need a set of rules and ideas that will help you get your ideas in order — efficiently and effectively.

If you don’t have a system for smart decision-making, you’re wasting your time.

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It’s like having an emergency plan. You have to decide how you’ll deal with a crazy situation *before* you get into it, because when you are dealing with an emergency or making a decision on the fly, your immediate needs and fears typically cause you to make choices you wouldn’t have made if you were thinking a bit more long term.

Or, you are so overwhelmed by the emergency or the decision, that you freeze — and don’t get anything done that you really need to.

Luckily, I have a decision-making concept to share with you today that will make all your future “should I”’s and “could we”’s a walk in the park.


The 10-10-10 rule of decision-making


People who can think mathematically about their decisions are usually the ones who makes their decisions the fastest, and experience the least regret over what they chose.

Why? Because we all have priorities, and simply acknowledging  those priorities gives you incredible decision-making power.

When I was younger, and agonizing over a decision, my dad would often remind me that I probably already knew which option I really wanted to choose. But I was allowing myself to be distracted by other factors which, while they may have been compelling, were just distractions. I already knew what I really wanted or needed to choose; in other words, I knew my priorities — but I wasn’t listening to them, and that was causing the over-thinking and frustration.

We all have priorities, and they are what drive our happiest decisions. Unfortunately, we’re not all always in touch with our top 5 priorities at any given time.

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Luckily, the 10-10-10 method helps us do just that, quickly and easily, so we can make good decisions fast. Invented by Suzy Welch, the 10-10-10 decision-making system is incredibly simple.

When you have a decision to make, ask yourself the following three questions:

  • How will I feel about this decision 10 minutes from now?
  • How will I feel about it 10 months from now?
  • How about 10 years from now?

Asking these questions helps you bring your priorities into sharp clarity. By asking yourself about how you you’ll feel in the future, you get to align this decisions with your vision for your happiness and success in the future — which helps you see which wants and needs are most important for making those things happen.


Here’s an example of 10-10-10 in action.

This morning I woke up after a night of insomnia and fitful, unrestful sleep. I didn’t necessarily have to write this blog post right now, and I didn’t really want to. So, should I skip it or write it?

Now, the decision to write this blog post is not a big one, by any means. But our lives are made up of millions of small decisions like this, and each one shapes the decisions we’ll make in the future, and the lives we will end up living. So I like to think that even a small decision about whether to write a blog post or watch a movie is worth being really deliberate about.

So, I asked myself, “If I write this blog post, how will I feel 10 minutes from now?”

Still annoyed, but satisfied that I am not pushing it off on myself to do later. Working might get me feeling more awake too, which is a good thing, rather than lazing around on the couch.

“How will I feel about it 10 months from now?”

10 months from now, this blog post itself won’t be particularly significant. But it will be part of a cycle, of consistently doing blog posts on time and at a quality level I am happy with. This blog post will be part of my momentum, and won’t be the day I gave in to “doing it tomorrow”, which is another cycle that is much easier to fall into. So I’ll be glad I didn’t cop out and risk losing my momentum.

“How will I feel about it 10 years from now?”

The momentum of doing a really good blog post, even when I didn’t want to, will serve me well in my career. It will be a minor example of a time I displayed a quality I hope to grow throughout my life. I want to be known as someone who gets stuff done; who can be relied on to rise to the occasion whenever necessary, and do a really, really good job. And — being consistent about my blogging schedule means Kate M doesn’t have to worry about my part of the blog, which means she can focus on building an amazing goal-tracking tool, which maybe in 10 years will be the first product of an amazingly successful business.

So suddenly it’s clear — I know exactly what my biggest priorities are. And I know that doing this blog post is part of achieving those bigger goals, and so I write the blog post.

…and now that it’s done, I can go watch a movie. #winning :)

Tags: decisions, goals, improvement, procrastination, productivity, success, thinking,

4 Responses to “How to make smart, fast decisions (that you’ll still be happy with in 10 years!)”

  1. Joe Zaynor

    Nice idea, Kate. I’ll give it a try right this minute when trying to decide what to do next, now that the connection to the database I’m testing from has gone down!

    • Kate Stull

      Well, every cloud has a silver lining. :) How did the decision-making go? I hope our guide was helpful!

      • Joe Zaynor

        The decision-making went well. In addition to the 10 – 10 – 10 thingie, I thought, What would the Kates do?, so I read a couple testing-related articles instead of goofing off!