Best Practices for Decision Journals
Obviously, we’re big fans of decision journals. They are such simple and effective tools for helping you become a better decision maker. But while they can be great tools, they can also be used poorly and lead to you not using them or not getting the best results. Since we believe strongly in them, we want to share with you some of the best practices for keeping a decision journal.
Don’t use them for everything
We all make hundreds of decisions every day. It would be really hard and extremely time consuming to write down all the details for every decision you make, every day.
Decision journals are most helpful when you are selective with what decisions you keep track of. For the best results, only keep track of the more important and bigger impact decisions in your life.
A good rule of thumb for deciding which decisions to keep in your decision journal and which to leave out is to only keep the decisions where you spend a good amount of time thinking about the pros and cons. If the decision could have a big impact on your life, career, family, etc. write it down. Things like where to go to dinner, while important, are not likely to have a large impact on your live and should be left out.
Keep it simple
In addition to wanting to avoid keeping track of every little decision, you should also try to avoid making note of every little detail about a decision. It is important to make sure you write down your thoughts and feelings about the decision when you’re making it but it’s also important that you actually keep up the practice.
Trying to write a novel for every decision you keep track of may have the effect of wearing you down over time and make you less likely to not only read through what you wrote when you are reviewing, but also less likely to continue keeping a decision journal.
We recommend (and our app Decision Journal includes these) every entry to cover the following:
- the decision you are making
- what the context or situation is for the decision you are making
- how you currently feel about the decision
- what you expect or think the outcome(s) will be
- the date and time you are making the decision
- and when you plan to review the decision
Since journals are very personal, everyone will vary in how much detail they go into for each of the above, but as long as you stick to the main points and the most important things you want your future self to remember, you will be fine.
Review your journal periodically
Most of the benefit of keeping a decision journal comes from the review of past decisions. It is in reviewing our past thoughts and feelings on decisions that we learn of any potential patterns of errors we may be making and better understand where we are better decision makers and where we are not. That’s why it’s especially important that you review your decision journal periodically.
But you may be wondering what the right amount of time is to wait before you review a decision. Our recommendation is that you should aim to review a decision about a month after the decision’s outcome has happened. The reason we recommend this time interval is because it gives you enough time afterwards for emotions to settle down and for you to have time to think through the affects of the outcome.
It can be hard to keep track of all these different times for when to review your decisions, so that’s why we built in automatic reminders to review a decision in our app. But even if you don’t use our app for your decision journal you can still keep track of when to review your decisions in your calendar. Another tip is if you’d rather review decisions in batches, you can add a periodic reminder to your calendar to review all of the outstanding decisions you have yet to review, every 6 months or so. However, be sure to only review decisions after the outcome has become clear.
Finally, another tip for reviewing your decisions is to continue to review them more than once. Some of the decisions we make tend to affect us over long periods of time and their outcomes can even change over time. So it’s best to keep reviewing decisions where outcomes and impact may change over time.
Have someone else you trust review with you
Our final decision journal best practice recommendation is to have someone else you trust, like a life coach, trusted friend, or partner review decisions with you. It may give you hesitations to share something so personal, like a journal, with someone else but you don’t have to share every decision with them, just ones you want an outside perspective on.
The reason we recommend having someone else review your decisions with you is that, even though we try to be honest and accurate with our feedback on our own decisions, we also tend to give ourselves the benefit of the doubt. When you review decisions with others, you’re forced to be more honest and accurate. Do note though, if you do reviews with a loved one or friend, they may also tend to sugar coat things and make excuses for you. Try seeking out those who you can trust and will be honest with you.
We hope these best practices have been helpful and encourage you to incorporate them in your decision journal. You don’t have to bite all of them off at once, start with one and go from there.
Now go out there and make better decisions!