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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

Freelance Writer

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Last Updated on August 16, 2018

16 Productivity Secrets of Highly Successful People Revealed

16 Productivity Secrets of Highly Successful People Revealed

The same old motivational secrets don’t really motivate you after you’ve read them for the tenth time, do they?

How about a unique spin on things?

These 16 productivity secrets of successful people will make you reevaluate your approach to your home, work, and creative lives. Learn from these highly successful people, turn these little things they do into your daily habits and you’ll get closer to success.

1. Empty your mind.

It sounds counterproductive, doesn’t it?

Emptying your mind when you have so much to remember seems like you’re just begging to forget something. Instead, this gives you a clean slate so you’re not still thinking about last week’s tasks.

Clear your mind and then start thinking only about what you need to do immediately, and then today. Tasks that need to be accomplished later in the week can wait.

Here’s a guide to help you empty your mind and think sharper:

How to Declutter Your Mind to Sharpen Your Brain and Fall Asleep Faster

2. Keep certain days clear.

Some companies are scheduling “No Meeting Wednesdays,” which means, funnily enough, that no one can hold a meeting on a Wednesday. This gives workers a full day to work on their own tasks, without getting sidetracked by other duties or pointless meetings.

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This can work in your personal life too, for example if you need to restrict Facebook access or limit phone calls.

3. Prioritize your work.

Don’t think every task is created equal! Some tasks aren’t as important as others, or might take less time.

Try to sort your tasks every day and see what can be done quickly and efficiently. Get these out of the way so you have more free time and brain power to focus on what is more important.

Lifehack’s CEO has a unique way to prioritize works, take a look at it here:

How to Prioritize Right in 10 Minutes and Work 10X Faster

4. Chop up your time.

Many successful business leaders chop their time up into fifteen-minute intervals. This means they work on tasks for a quarter of an hour at a time, or schedule meetings for only fifteen minutes. It makes each hour seem four times as long, which leads to more productivity!

5. Have a thinking position.

Truman Capote claimed he couldn’t think unless he was laying down. Proust did this as well, while Stravinsky would stand on his head!

What works for others may not work for you. Try to find a spot and position that is perfect for you to brainstorm or come up with ideas.

6. Pick three to five things you must do that day.

To Do lists can get overwhelming very quickly. Instead of making a never-ending list of everything you can think of that needs to be done, make daily lists that include just three to five things.

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Make sure they’re things that need to be done that day, so you don’t keep putting them off.

7. Don’t try to do too much.

OK, so I just told you to work every day, and now I’m telling you to not do too much? It might sound like conflicting advice, but not doing too much means not biting off more than you can chew. Don’t say yes to every work project or social engagement and find yourself in way over your head.

8. Have a daily action plan.

Don’t limit yourself to a to-do list! Take ten minutes every morning to map out a daily action plan. It’s a place to not only write what needs to be done that day, but also to prioritize what will bring the biggest reward, what will take the longest, and what goals will be accomplished.

Leave room for a “brain dump,” where you can scribble down anything else that’s on your mind.

9. Do your most dreaded project first.

Getting your most dreaded task over with first means you’ll have the rest of the day free for anything and everything else. This also means that you won’t be constantly putting off the worst of your projects, making it even harder to start on it later.

10. Follow the “Two-Minute Rule.”

The “Two-Minute Rule” was made famous by David Allen. It’s simple – if a new task comes in and it can be done in two minutes or less, do it right then. Putting it off just adds to your to-do list and will make the task seem more monumental later.

11. Have a place devoted to work.

If you work in an office, it’s no problem to say that your cubicle desk is where you work every day.

But if you work from home, make sure you have a certain area specifically for work. You don’t want files spread out all over the dinner table, and you don’t want to feel like you’re not working just because you’re relaxing on the couch.

Agatha Christie never wrote at her desk, she wrote wherever she could sit down. Ernest Hemingway wrote standing up. Thomas Wolfe, at 6’6″ tall, used the top of his refrigerator as a desk. Richard Wright wrote on a park bench, rain or shine.

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Have a space where, when you go there, you know you’re going to work. Maybe it’s a cafe downstairs, the library, or a meeting room. Whenever and wherever works for you, do your works there.

12. Find your golden hour.

You don’t have to stick to a “typical” 9–5 schedule!

Novelist Anne Rice slept during the day and wrote at night to avoid distractions. Writer Jerzy Kosinski slept eight hours a day, but never all at once. He’d wake in the morning, work, sleep four hours in the afternoon, then work more that evening.

Your golden hour is the time when you’re at your peak. You’re alert, ready to be productive, and intent on crossing things off your to-do list.

Once you find your best time, protect it with all your might. Make sure you’re always free to do your best uninterrupted work at this time.

13. Pretend you’re on an airplane.

It might not be possible to lock everyone out of your office to get some peace and quiet, but you can eliminate some distractions.

By pretending you’re on an airplane, you can act like your internet access is limited, you’re not able to get something from your bookcase, and you can’t make countless phone calls.

Eliminating these distractions will help you focus on your most important tasks and get them done without interruption.

14. Never stop.

Writers Anthony Trollope and Henry James started writing their next books as soon as they finished their current work in progress.

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Stephen King writes every day of the year, and holds himself accountable for 2,000 words a day! Mark Twain wrote every day, and then read his day’s work aloud to his family to get their feedback.

There’s something to be said about working nonstop, and putting out continuous work instead of taking a break. It’s just a momentum that will push you go further./

15. Be in tune with your body.

Your mind and body will get tired of a task after ninety minutes to two hours focused on it. Keep this in mind as you assign projects to yourself throughout the day, and take breaks to ensure that you won’t get burned out.

16. Try different methods.

Vladimir Nabokov wrote the first drafts of his novels on index cards. This made it easy to rearrange sentences, paragraphs, and chapters by shuffling the cards around.

It does sound easier, and more fun, than copying and pasting in Word! Once Nabokov liked the arrangement, his wife typed them into a single manuscript.

Same for you, don’t give up and think that it’s impossible for you to be productive when one method fails. Try different methods until you find what works perfectly for you.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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