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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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More by this author

Jenny Marchal

A passionate writer who loves sharing about positive psychology.

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Last Updated on September 24, 2020

17 Ways Learn New Skills Faster and Enjoy the Process

17 Ways Learn New Skills Faster and Enjoy the Process

In the movie The Matrix, everyone was intrigued with the ability that Neo and his friends possessed to learn new skills in a matter of seconds. With the incredible rise in technology today, the rapid learning in the movie is becoming much more of a reality than you realize.

The current generation has access to more knowledge and information than any before it. Through the internet, we are able to access all sorts of knowledge to answer almost every conceivable question. To become smarter, it’s more about the ability to learn faster, rather than being a natural born genius.

Here are 17 ways to kickstart your Matrix-style learning experience in a short amount of time.

1. Deconstruct and Reverse Engineer

Break down the skill that you want to learn into little pieces and learn techniques to master an isolated portion. The small pieces will come together to make up the whole skill.

For example, when you’re learning to play the guitar, learn how to press down a chord pattern with your fingers first without even trying to strum the chord. Once you are able to change between a couple of chord patterns, then add the strumming.

2. Use the Pareto Principle

Use the Pareto Principle, which is also known as the 80 20 rule. Identify the 20% of the work that will give you 80% of the results. Find out more about the 80 20 rule here: What Is the 80 20 Rule (And How to Use It to Boost Productivity)

Take learning a new language for example. It does not take long to realize that some words pop up over and over again as you’re learning. You can do a quick search for “most commonly used French words,” for example, and begin to learn them first before adding on the rest.

3. Make Stakes

Establish some sort of punishment for not learning the skill that you are seeking. There are sites available that allow you to make a donation toward a charity you absolutely hate if you do not meet your goals. Or you can place a bet with a friend to light that fire under you.

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However, keep in mind that several studies have shown that rewards tend to be more motivating than punishment[1].

4. Record Yourself

Seeing yourself on video is a great way to learn from your mistakes and identify areas that you need to improve. This is very effective for any musicians, actors, speakers, performers, and dancers.

5. Join a Group

There are huge benefits to learning in a group. Not only are you able to learn from others but you’ll be encouraged to make progress together. Whether it’s a chess club, a mastermind group, or an online meet-up group, get connected with other like-minded individuals.

6. Time Travel

Visit the library. Although everything is moving more and more online, there are still such things called libraries.

Whether it’s a municipal library or your university library, you will be amazed at some of the books available there that are not accessible online. Specifically, look for the hidden treasures and wisdom contained in the really old books.

7. Be a Chameleon

When you want to learn new skills, imitate your biggest idol. Watch a video and learn from seeing someone else do it. Participate in mimicry and copy what you see.

Studies have shown that, apart from learning,[2]

“Mimicry is an effective tool not only to create ties and social relationships, but also for maintaining them.”

Visual learning is a great way to speed up the learning process. YouTube has thousands of videos on almost every topic available.

8. Focus

Follow one course until success! It’s easy to get distracted, to throw in the towel, or to become interested in the next great thing and ditch what you initially set out to do.

Ditch the whole idea of multitasking, as it has been shown to be detrimental and unproductive Simply focus on the one new skill at hand until you get it done.

9. Visualize

The mind has great difficulty distinguishing between what is real and what is imagined. That is why athletes practice mentally seeing their success before attempting the real thing[3].

Visualize yourself achieving your new skill and each step that you need to make to see results. This is an important skill to help when you’re learning the basics or breaking a bad habit.

Take a look at this article to learn how to do so: How to Become a Person Who Can Visualize Results

10. Find a Mentor

Success leaves clues. The best short cut to become an expert is to find an expert and not have to make the mistakes that they have made.

Finding out what NOT to do from the expert will fast-track your learning when you want to learn new skills. It is a huge win to have them personally walk you through what needs to be done. Reach out and send an email to them.

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If you need help learning how to find a mentor, check out this article.

11. Sleep on It

Practice your new skill within four hours of going to sleep.

Josh Kaufman, author of The Personal MBA, is a noted rapid learning expert. He says that any practice done within this time frame causes your brain to embed the learning more rapidly into its neural pathways. Your memory and motor-mechanics are ingrained at a quicker level.

12. Use the 20-Hour Rule

Along with that tip, Kaufman also suggests 20 as the magic number of hours to dedicate to learning the new skill.

His reasoning is that everyone will hit a wall early on in the rapid learning stage and that “pre-committing” to 20 hours is a sure-fire way to push through that wall and acquire your new skill.[4]

Check out his video to find out more:

13. Learn by Doing

It’s easy to get caught up in reading and gathering information on how to learn new skills and never actually get around to doing those skills. The best way to learn is to do.

Regardless of how unprepared you feel, make sure you are physically engaged continuously. Keep alternating between research and practice.

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14. Complete Short Sprints

Rather than to force yourself into enduring hours upon hours of dedication, work in short sprints of about 20-30 minutes, then get up and stretch or take a short walk. Your brain’s attention span works best with short breaks, so be sure to give it the little rest it needs.

One study found that, between two groups of students, the students who took two short breaks when studying actually performed better than those who didn’t take breaks[5].

15. Ditch the Distractions

Make sure the environment you are in is perfect for your rapid-learning progress. That means ditching any social media, and the temptation to check any email. As the saying goes, “Out of sight, out of mind.”

Before you sit down to learn new skills, make sure that potential distractions are far from sight.

16. Use Nootropics

Otherwise known as brain enhancers, these cognitive boosters are available in natural herbal forms and in supplements.

Many students will swear by the increased focus that nootropics will provide[6], particularly as they get set for some serious cramming. Natural herbal nootropics have been used for thousands of years in Ayurvedic traditions to improve the mind and learning.

Find out more about brain supplements in this article.

17. Celebrate

For every single small win that you experience during the learning process, be sure to celebrate. Your brain will release endorphins and serotonin as you raise your hands in victory and pump your fits. Have a piece of chocolate and give yourself a pat on the back. This positive reinforcement will help you keep pushing forward as you learn new skills.

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The Bottom Line

Learning a new skill should be exciting and fun. Whether you use online courses, real world experience, YouTube videos, or free online resources, take time to learn in the long term. Keep picturing the joy of reaching the end goal and being a better version of yourself as continual motivation.

More Tips on How to Learn New Skills

Featured photo credit: Elijah M. Henderson via unsplash.com

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