A good portion of our time goes into make decisions. Sometimes these decisions are big, important things, but often they are mundane simple things. Most decisions require some type of investment in time. Let’s look at an example:
If I’m in a video store trying to pick out a movie to watch that evening, there is a certain amount of time that will go into evaluating the options and selecting a video. From personal experience, this process can take 10 to 20 minutes, easily.
For most people, this 10 to 20 minutes is completely wasted time because at some point in the last 6 months they have already made a decision about a movie they would like to see, but they just don’t remember. When a friend tells you about a movie they saw in the theater and you decide you want to rent it, you’ve made a decision to see that movie. If you remembered that decision when you entered the movie store, it would just be a matter of finding it and renting it.
By simply keeping a list of movies that you want to watch, you can
capture your decisions when they are made instead of making them again
when you need to use the information the decision produced (in this
case, the name of a movie).
Another example: I frequently come up with ideas where I wonder “is it
possible to create a business to do X profitably?” Often such a
question is followed with 30 to 45 minutes of poking around on the web
checking prices, making several calculations, and doing some searches
to see what other similar businesses exist. Along the way, I make
several preliminary decisions about the best way such a business could
be organized, who the best suppliers would be, etc. Many times this
information is just lost. I end up with a good idea of whether the business
could be profitable, but the data used to make that decision is gone.
I’ve started documenting my findings in simple one pages summaries.
They aren’t anything complicated but they contain a good deal of basic
decisions. For example, a recent idea promoted me to decide what web
hosting company I would use if I needed a tremendous amount of
bandwidth, the most cost effective way to take payments over the
internet, and the best way to configure a particular piece of software
for use by multiple users.
Here are a few other areas where documenting decisions that are made in advance can help save you time in the future:
- Books to read.
- People to take to lunch.
- Movies to see.
- Restaurants to try.
- Business ideas.
- Fun things to do with your significant other.
- People to write letters to.
- Topics for blog entries.
- Gift ideas.
By keeping track of these things as you think of them, you can improve
your ability to make decisions in the future. Having a list of 5
restaurants that you’ve already decided you’d like to try drastically
cuts the amount of time spent trying to come up with a decision for
We make small decisions on things all the time. Capturing these little,
seemingly insignificant decisions can drastically reduce the amount of
time we spend trying to recreate information produced by these
Originally published on December 10, 2005.