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Keeping A Decision Journal

A Decision Journal is a personal record of your more significant decisions. It enables you to record and reflect on key elements of the decisions you make, with the aim of improving your decision-making.

"Start keeping track of your decisions. Just take a moment to think, write down what you expect to happen, why you expect it to happen. No matter what happens in the world, we tend to look back on our decision-making process and we tilt it in a way that looks more favorable to us. A decision journal helps you collect accurate and honest feedback on what you were thinking at the time."

Daniel Kahneman

Nobel Prize Winner, author of Thinking, Fast and Slow, and co-author of Noise: A Flaw in Human Judgment

Decision Journal Template

Write down the following prompts for every decision you want to record and reflect on.

Record the Decision

Date:

  1. Decision opportunity:
    Ex: Should we hire more managers to increase department productivity?
  2. Variables:
    Ex: Budget, expected project load, availability of external resources, availability of quality hires, how long will it take to get a new hire up to speed to be an asset . . .
  3. Alternatives:
    Ex: Reset department expectations, revise work platforms, outsource, or hire another project manager.
  4. The Decision: 
    Ex: I decided to . . .
  5. Expected Outcome(s): 
    Ex: I was xx% sure that my decision would result in . . .
  6. Context:
    Ex: What else is happening in my life and/or in connection to the decision?
    How was I feeling? (Emotionally, physically, mentally, etc.?)

 

Reflect on the Outcome

Date:

  1. Actual Outcome:
  2. Surprises:
  3. Cognitive Biases Identified:
  4. Was there additional information available that would have been helpful?
  5. Was there a weak/strong spot in my decision-making process? (see next page)
  6. Next time I will . . .

Tips for Best Results

  1. Think: Big and Contemplative
    Don’t use your Decision Journal for everything. That will become tedious and slow you down. Rather, track the decisions that give you pause and carry consequences.
  2. Follow: A Template
    Ensure all your entries contain the same key information. A sample template is below.
  3. Focus: Keep it Simple
    The decision may be complex, but your journal entries should be short, straightforward, and easy to digest.
  4. Update: As Warranted
    When results occur, quickly go to your entry and add new information, including partial or completed outcomes.
  5. Commit: Make Time to Reflect
    Every few months, review multiple entries, considering the following:
    – Is there a common factor influencing your decisions?
    – Are you gathering enough data?
    – Do you recognize any cognitive biases?
    – How did context influence your decision?

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