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How Keeping a Journal Can Increase Your Chances of Making Right Decisions

How Keeping a Journal Can Increase Your Chances of Making Right Decisions

The decisions we make can shape our lives in so many ways. But how effectively do we make these decisions? When it comes to big decisions, either personally or professionally, could there be a more effective and thorough way to make a better choice?

What Are the Problems of Our Usual Way of Making Decisions?

Our decisions involve a process of the mind and can often be influenced by our current circumstances, mood or impulse at the time. This means we don’t always evaluate the pros and cons thoroughly, as a decision we make today may not be the same decision we’d make a month from now.

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It’s hard to keep track of how we came to these decisions or examine how we could have made a better choice. Learning from our decision-making processes can help streamline future decisions and understand our thought patterns and subsequent outcomes.

You Can Learn How to Make Better Decisions by Keeping a Journal

This is where the idea of a decision journal comes in which is when you create a physical account of the thought processes you make during a decision. The advantage of writing down your thought processes are three-fold: you can revisit and analyse the various factors you used, it forces you to organise your thoughts and therefore think more carefully about different outcomes, and prevents the habit of hindsight bias because you have a written reference of how you came to a certain conclusion.

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However, with a decision journal comes the need for structure. It’s not a traditional journal where our random, and almost messy, thoughts are therapeutically written. Instead it needs a more precise and strategic approach in order to allow our future selves to look back and understand the process we went through at the time.

If Your Decision Journal Can’t Be Well-Structured in This Way, There Is No Point in Keeping One

When it comes to creating a decision journal, it’s important to include the right kinds of questions in order to allow you to see the decision-making process from all angles. This will help you with the best possible feedback if you were to have to make the same or similar decision in the future. Below is a basic structure you can follow with an example of what you can write down.

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  • Date and time of decision: day/month/year
  • The decision: Whether or not I should go for a new job role at work.
  • How am I feeling?: Confident/focused/relaxed/exhausted/angry/anxious – it’s important to know the emotional circumstances surrounding your decision so be very honest.
  • What is the context of this decision?: I feel stuck in my job role and it’s affecting my passion for the job.
  • What are the problems?: There’s no longer any progression in my role and I’m no longer developing any new skills, my current manager is unsupportive, and I would like to explore a different side to the business/company which I feel I’m currently cut off from.
  • What are the complications?: Causing negative reactions within my team and other co-workers, leaving at a time when workload is high. Will I be happy staying at the same company or should I make a clean break?
  • What are the alternative solutions? Look for a role elsewhere completely or stay in my current position.
  • What are the possible outcomes? I will be much happier in a different and developing role and gaining new skills but it could also cause animosity in my old team making the new role difficult as I’d still need to interact with them on some level. Could it be more beneficial to me to find a job elsewhere to experience a new company?
  • What are my expectations of the outcome and the probabilities? I’ll most likely be much happier in this new role and I’d feel like I’m developing my career in a different direction, giving me more contentment and fulfilment in my life. Perhaps my old team won’t be as upset as I think they will be and if they are, I can handle it. The change and experience is worth it. If I move to a completely new company, will it be a positive experience and is it worth the hassle? It would mean a possible longer commute somewhere or I may end up working with people I don’t get on with.
  • The outcome: Went for the internal job and was hired for it.
  • 6 month review (date) – what happened and what I learned : Still in the job role. It’s been challenging and I’ve experienced some animosity with my old team but I felt I handled it very well and allowed me to develop my interpersonal skills. However, I feel I should have been more courageous and looked elsewhere for another job as I think I’m more unhappy with the company than I thought. I’ve learned that I need to ignore the ‘safe’ route and not let my idea of a comfort zone stop me from pursuing something different in the future.

The example above shows the raw thought process that was taken. By writing it down, they were able to recognise that their decision was really based around their emotions and blocked off the ability to make a more courageous decision. Having this documented will help show how the decision could have been made better.

This idea of a decision journal is to inject quality control. It doesn’t matter what area of your life you are making the decision – whether it’s ending a relationship, leaving a job or buying a car – making a habit of keeping a decision journal will allow you to see your decision-making patterns over time and help figure out how to improve them in the future.

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Jenny Marchal

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Last Updated on October 17, 2018

7 Natural (And Highly Effective) Ways to Improve Memory

7 Natural (And Highly Effective) Ways to Improve Memory

How is your memory? Is your cognitive function as strong as you’d like it to be?

If not, then you’re definitely going to be interested in the memory improvement tips I’ll be sharing with you in this article.

Despite what you might think – or have been told – improving your ability to recall information is certainly possible. You just need to know the right ways to do it. (Don’t worry, as you won’t need to make any significant lifestyle changes.)

So how to improve memory? Let’s dive straight into the first of seven easy ways to improve your memory significantly.

1. Meditate

We live in a world of non-stop, 24/7 information. It’s like a waterfall that’s endlessly pouring news, data, facts and figures into our conscious minds.

Unfortunately, our brains are not designed to absorb this tremendous amount of information. It’s no wonder then, that most people struggle to remember information and recall things.

Even if you believe you have a good memory and are comfortable with multi-tasking, you’ll also be aware that there’s only so much information your brain can process at one time. And research suggests that the more information and distractions, the harder it is for you to transfer information to your long-term memory.[1]

Fortunately, meditation can help you out.

Even if you just meditate for 10 minutes per day, you’ll boost your ability to focus, which in turn, will make it easier for you to remember important facts.

If you need help in shifting into a meditative state, I recommend trying an app like Headspace – which can assist you to achieve this in a convenient and structured way.

And don’t forget, meditation doesn’t just have to be closing your eyes and sitting in a lotus position. Some people prefer to simply take a short walk in nature. This clears and calms their mind, and still provides the all-important boost to their focus.

2. Get plenty of sleep

If you’re sleep deprived or have not been sleeping well, then I’m guessing you’re not remembering well either. This is because sleep and memory are intimately connected.

If you have a busy life and regularly find yourself not getting enough sleep, then this will negatively impact your cognitive abilities – including your memory.

How much sleep should you be getting?

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Well, according to the National Sleep Foundation, you need a minimum of seven to nine hours of sleep per night. If you get this amount of sleep regularly, then within just a few days, you’ll see a tangible improvement to your ability to remember and recall things.

Now, I’ll be honest with you, maintaining a proper sleep cycle is not always easy (especially when the latest Netflix series has just been released!). But if you care about improving your short-term and long-term ability to remember things, then it’s critical that you try to get at least the recommended amount of sleep every night.

Are there ways to hack the sleep cycle?

Yes, there are.

Try these three things:

  • Have a fixed bedtime (preferably before 10pm)
  • Don’t eat too late
  • Make sure your bedroom is as dark as possible

Sleeping is a precious activity. It regenerates your body, clears your mind, and helps with the storing and retrieval of information.

However, don’t sleep just yet, as I want to tell you about another great way to increase memory…

3. Challenge your brain

When was the last time you challenged your brain?

I don’t mean challenged in the sense of overeating or undersleeping. I’m referring to stretching your mental capabilities through things like crossword puzzles, Sudoku and memory games.

To expand your memory bank, and to make your recall razor-sharp, you need to continually challenge your brain.

Feedback from Lifehack readers such as yourself, has suggested that brain training apps are a super-effective way of doing this. Used regularly, these apps can enhance your focus, attention span, problem-thinking ability and memory.

There are hundreds of these apps available (most of them for free), but I recommend starting out with one of the big three:

  • Peak (Android/iOS, free, 10 million+ downloads)
  • Lumosity (Android/iOS, free, 10 million+ downloads)
  • Elevate (Android/iOS, free, 5 million+ downloads)

If you normally spend a chunk of your week playing computer games, then instead of shooting and killing your enemies, why not let some of them live – while you put your attention into boosting your brain power!

Challenging your brain will strengthen your neural pathways and enhance your mental abilities. But don’t just take my word for it, try one of the apps above and see the positive benefits for yourself.

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4. Take more breaks

When I think back to my days as a budding entrepreneur, I distinctively remember working all the hours under the sun – and many under the moon too!

At that time, I believed that breaks were for the weak, and to become wealthy and successful, I needed to shed blood, sweat and tears.

However, I was wrong.

Taking regular breaks is the best way to keep yourself productive, creative and alive to opportunities. It’s also the best way to learn new information.

Let me explain.

Typically, when studying lots of new information, most people will spend hours reading it – in an attempt to learn and remember the content as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, they’ve overlooked something.

Namely, extended study sessions are rarely a good thing, as your ability to retain information naturally declines after a certain period of time.

It’s similar to physical exercise. You wouldn’t attempt to train vigorously for four hours in a row. Instead, you’d take regular breaks to give your lungs, heart and muscles adequate time to recover. Failing to do this will result in muscle cramps and overexertion.

It’s the same with your brain. If you overload it with information, you’ll suffer from mental fatigue.

What’s the answer?

Make sure you take regular breaks when learning new information. I recommend at least a 10-minute break every hour. (You may also want to take a look at the Pomodoro Method.)

If you don’t want to be as regimented as that, then take breaks as soon as you find yourself losing the ability to focus on the new material. Your brain will thank you – and your learning aptitude will move up a level.

5. Learn a new skill

I love this quote, as it’s 100% true – but frequently overlooked:

“Learning never exhausts the mind.” – Leonardo da Vinci

From my experience of helping to develop the careers of dozens of Lifehack employees, I can definitively say that participating in meaningful and purposeful activities stimulates the mind. It also reduces stress and enhances health and well-being.

Let me give you an example of this:

Imagine you work for a global financial institution in one of their call centers. You take over 100 calls a day – many of them complaints. When you started the job a few months back, you were excited to be in full-time employment and working for a household name.

Unfortunately, your initial enthusiasm quickly turned into frustration.

The endless complaint calls began to take their toll on you. And the supervisors irritated you too, as they were far too interested in micro-managing you – rather than letting you work in your own way.

Now, in the story above, the ending could be that you put up with a job you didn’t like, and led a dull and frustrated working life for years and years. However, an alternative ending is this: you channeled your dissatisfaction in to learning a new skill (computer coding). It took you a year or two to get up to speed, but it allowed you to successfully upgrade your career – and the ongoing learning made the call centre job much more bearable.

Clearly, learning new skills gives you impetus, focus and something to aim for. Your brain loves to learn, and you should tap into this by always seeking our new information. And when learning becomes a habit, you’ll find your ability to remember and recall things effortlessly, becomes a habit too.

6. Start working out

If you’re not already working out regularly, then here’s another reason to do so:

Exercising for 20-30 minutes three times a week will improve your long-term memory.

Regular exercise increases blood flow in your body and supplies the brain with extra oxygen and nutrients. And a well-nourished brain is a well-functioning brain!

“But I just don’t have the time?,” I hear you say.

Not a problem.

A research has shown that a daily burst of 60 seconds of high-intensity exercise, offered many of the benefits of the longer exercise routines.[2] So, if you’re short on time – now you know what to do.

Interested in getting started?

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Here are five different ways that will help you work out:

  • Join a gym
  • Join a sports team
  • Buy a bike
  • Take up hiking
  • Dance to your favorite music

7. Eat healthier foods

I’m sure you’ve heard the expression: “You are what you eat.”

This applies to your brain too.

The food that you eat helps determine your brain’s capacity to store and recall information. A poor diet (think junk food + soda!) harms not just your physical health, but your mental health too.

Fortunately, there are several foods that are especially good for your brain and your memory. These include: blueberries, celery and dark chocolate. But anything high in antioxidants will have a positive effect on your brain and memory.

Conversely, highly-processed foods and those loaded with sugar will have a negative impact on your memory. This is due to them providing insufficient nutrients for your brain – leading you to easily suffer from mental fatigue.

Want to be mentally healthy? Then eat and drink an abundance of these for brain health:

  • Turmeric – helps new brain cells grown
  • Broccoli – protects the brain against damage
  • Nuts – improves memory
  • Green tea – enhances brain performance, memory and focus[3]
  • Fish oilfish oil supplements can increase your brain power

Here’re more brain food options that improve memory!

Final thoughts

I sincerely hope these seven memory boosting ways that I’ve covered in this article will be of help to you.

You don’t need to implement them all. I suggest just trying the ones that appeal to you.

But, if you’re serious about dramatically improving your memory, then make a start right now on adopting one or more of the ways I’ve suggested. I’m confident you won’t regret it.

Featured photo credit: Eric Ward via unsplash.com

Reference

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