Decision Charts: A New Method for Making Difficult Choices

This past month, I had the privilege of choosing between two amazing offers. I found myself in a place that many have been before: “But I would do such meaningful work at this company, but I would have so much fun working at this company, but the location is better for this company, but I would make more money at this company…”

When I’ve stuck like this in the past, I’ve made a pro/con list. But this situation called for something more.

I propose a new decision-making system that:

  • Forces you to introspect and consider what’s important to you.
  • Accounts for the factors that matter to you most.
  • Compares my options directly against each other in key areas.
  • Comes out with a clear winner.

A whiteboard is recommended.

Step 1: Instrospection

The first step of the process is to brainstorm everything that matters to you.

Say you’re choosing between two potential social gatherings: one is a low-key get-together with your best friends, while one is a huge party with people you don’t know as well. In this example, something that might matter to you could be how close you are to the people at the party. Or maybe how much fun you would have at the party. Or would you make any new friends? Let’s brainstorm a bit on our whiteboard.

Brainstorm what matters to you

After brainstorming Party A vs. Party B on your whiteboard, you come up with this list of factors that influence your decision.

Turn it into a table

Now, take the factors that matter to you and turn it into a handy chart that will help you compare your options.

Step 2: Answer your own questions

Now that you’ve come up with all these things that matter to you, you can think carefully about how each of your options stacks up in every area. Go one by one down your table, comparing your two options at each point.

Do this until you’ve filled in every blank space.

Step 3: Evaluate your answers and choose a winner

At this point, you’ve successfully identified every decision-making factor that matters to you, and you’ve written out how each of your options relates to each factor. Now, it’s time to go back to each column and compare the options as a whole.

One at a time, go down each row, and decide which of your options (if either) “wins” that category.

Once you’ve done this for every row, you should begin to have some visual idea of which option has the most positives associated with it.

In our example, the “Hang Out w/ Friends” option received the most stars, so it’s the most likely “winner”.

Conclusion

I’ve used this method myself, and taught it to friends who are trying to choose between different jobs and internships. It really helps me think about the big picture and compare my options where it counts. I hope it’s helpful for you too!