Use 3 x 10 for decision making!

Use 3 x 10 for decision making!

It’s easy to lose perspective when we’re facing a thorny dilemma. Perhaps our worst enemy in resolving these conflicts is short-term emotion, which can be an unreliable adviser. When people share the worst decisions they’ve made in life, they are often recalling choices made in the grip of emotion: anger, lust, anxiety, greed.

But we are not slaves to our emotions. That’s why the folk wisdom advises that when we’ve got an important decision to make, we should sleep on it. For many decisions, though, sleep isn’t enough. We need strategy.

One tool we can use was invented by Suzy Welch. It’s called 10/10/10. To use 10/10/10, we think about our decisions in three different time frames:

How will we feel about it 10 minutes from now?
How about 10 months from now?
How about 10 years from now?
The three time frames provide an elegant way of forcing us to get some distance on our decisions.

10/10/10 helps to level the emotional playing field. What we’re feeling now is intense and sharp, while the future feels fuzzier. That discrepancy gives the present too much power, because our present emotions are always in the spotlight. 10/10/10 forces us to shift our spotlights, asking us to imagine a moment 10 months into the future with the same “freshness” that we feel in the present.

That shift can help us to keep our short-term emotions in perspective. It’s not that we should ignore our short-term emotions; often they are telling us something useful about what we want in a situation. But we should not let them rule: not in personal lives, nor in our businesses.

If you’ve been avoiding a difficult conversation with an employee or partner, then you’re letting short-term emotion rule you. If you commit to have the conversation, then 10 minutes from now you’ll probably be anxious, but 10 months from now, won’t you be glad you did it? Relieved? Proud?

If you’ve been chasing a hotshot job candidate, 10 minutes after you decide to extend an offer, you might feel nothing but excitement; 10 months from now, though, will you regret the pay package you’re offering her if it makes other employees feel less appreciated? And 10 years from now, will today’s hotshot have been flexible enough to change with your business?

To be clear, short-term emotion isn’t always the enemy. (In the face of an injustice, it may be appropriate to act on outrage.) Conducting a 10/10/10 analysis doesn’t presuppose that the long-term perspective is the right one. It simply ensures that short-term emotion isn’t the only voice at the table.

How do you go about making difficult decisions?

Excerpts from Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work by Chip Heath and Dan Heath.

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