By age 20, it is likely you will have already made many decisions within the most important areas of your life and some of these will be irreversible in their making.
Typically, those decisions will involve education, career, relationships, and or finance. Of course, there is a stream of advice available to you. Most of us pay little attention to the wisdom of our parents. Maturity is still lacking in those first two decades—and besides, most of the advice is pitched at helping you decide what to do.
What no one tells you is how you should decide.
It is like receiving advice on what car to buy before you’ve even learnt to drive. If you can’t drive, it is largely irrelevant.
And it is the same with making decisions. You’re faced with big choices—choices which will affect the rest of your life, and once made, can’t be undone. In many instances, once you’ve started, it is hard to undo what’s been done and start again. And yet, regret is rarely never far away when we reflect on what might have been.
So, if I could live my time again, what would I change about the way I made my decisions?
Well, the short answer is I keep a decision log.
The Power of The Pen
Writing is the most underrated skill of the modern era. Despite all the talk about Netflix and YouTube, blogging is still incredibly popular. Twitter is primarily words, with the 280-character limit driving a concise use of vocabulary. The internet makes creating your own platform to reach others increasingly easy. Unsurprisingly, these newer forms of communication have captured our imagination.
Bizarrely though, writing is still a reactionary activity.
When people write, it is to tell stories. Informing about the past, whether it be from events we imagine or live, is where every story comes from. In turn, we take stories and turn them into films, theatre shows, or lengthy series to stream. Whatever the medium, writing is where ideas become meaningful.
With proactive writing, the words often come with a corporate tinge. Business plans paint a picture in words of a future the writer aspires the business to become. Without one, a new business idea is nothing more than an idea. But with it, access to funding is a presentation away.
So where does this leave writing about decisions?
Why You Should Write About Your Decisions
No one will pour more doubt into your choices than you. According to Dr Steve Peters, we have three separate brains. A human brain, a chimp brain, and a computer brain. All three usually work together, but sometimes they vie for control. Each brain carries arguments weighted in logic, emotion—or instinct (your computer brain). It means there can be turmoil over the information you receive, the outcome you want, and the action you need to take.
When there is a three-way battle over your decision, clarity is hard to find within your thoughts.
You need a way to force some order on your thoughts. Order comes from the pen—or the keyboard. Shane Parrish said, “Good writing requires good thinking.” To take your thoughts and turn them into words on a page isn’t easy. But as you search for the right words, so the clarity comes. It is a forcing function which can’t be achieved without the pen.
It is why journaling is such a popular practice.
When you journal, you question your mind. You have to make sense of the dreams and nightmares which fly around like bats in a cave. Journaling is like taking a torch with you so you can begin the process of good thinking.
Now imagine what impact it can have on your decisions.
Make Writing Part of Your Decision Process
Very few articulate their decisions in prose before making them. The issue seems to be one of effort. Annie Duke suggested people see filling in a decision journal as an extra step. She makes the point that people are missing the value of such evidence.
“You want to have some sort of record of not only what you thought at the time, but also exactly what you said.
Like, what are the ways that we think this could turn out? Like, what are the payoffs of each of those possibilities? How probable do we think those are? So, you can actually look at, generally, two things — what’s the expected value, what’s my downside risk. And then you can, obviously, compare options to each other. What I think is actually really important, though, about thinking about this, like, evidentiary record — that you’d like to create at the time of the decision, as opposed to [trying] to reconstruct, is that it’s not actually an extra step.
Like, people talk about decision journals, which feels like work. Because it feels like an extra step where you’ve done the decision, and now you’re trying to record everything. The fact is that a really great decision process is going to produce this evidentiary record naturally.” 
A good decision journal guides you through your decision—it should be the default way you decide. Journaling in a decision journal creates an evidentiary record because it allows you to write about the decision as you make it.
A blank page won’t suffice.
That is why I created a guided decision journal. Nine questions help concentrate your mind on the decision ahead, helping you clarify your thoughts as you write down the answers. Upsides, downsides, your emotions, the probability of the outcome, and most importantly—your decision.
Then, the decision journal allows you to record the outcome.
After a period of time, a review process allows you to look back at your decision and the outcome and learn from the process. What worked? Did luck play a part? What didn’t?
What this does is make writing part of your decision-making. It doesn’t feel like an extra step because it is how you make important decisions.
We all need to grasp this principle: Decide slowly. Act quickly.
It should never be the other way around, but it frequently is. Don’t get me wrong, there will be times when quick decision-making is essential. But, in moments of big decisions, speed rarely helps. How can it be when everyone is giving you their opinions on what you should do? What you need is a process for you to find clarity in your thoughts about what you want to do.
What matters is how you decide, not what you choose.
So, adopting a decision-making process that includes writing is a step forward to deciding slowly. Writing brings the clarity your decision needs—something you can’t gain from mulling it over in your head. Using a decision journal—especially a guided journal—gives you the questions to begin thinking through the various aspects of your choice.
Undoubtedly, the value comes from creating an evidentiary record naturally. You take a look at all your big decisions and get information to help you make more effective decisions in the future.