Make better decisions

Make better decisions

Using the Farnam Street framework to prompt you to document and reflect on important decisions. Digitally templated in Notion.

Shared: Nov 3, 2020

"Your success will be the sum of the decisions you make over your career."

Says Shane Parish, author, mental model expert and the founder and CEO of Farnam Street (FS), a company focused on timeless ideas for upgrading life and business. FS runs a remarkable newsletter, podcast and community on multidisciplinary thinking and mental models.

Members include students, teachers, CEOs, coaches, athletes, artists, leaders, followers, politicians, and more. They’re not defined by gender, age, income, geography, or politics but rather by a shared passion for living a meaningful life, doing good, and avoiding problems before they happen.

I found Parrish on Twitter, where he compresses and shares FS learning into digestible fire tweets like these ones (that's why I love Twitter):

Decision Journal

In 2014, Parish shared the "decision journal ", a tool to "collect accurate and honest feedback on what you were thinking at the time you made a certain decision that will help you see when you were stupid and lucky as well as when you were smart and unlucky; all to make better decisions."

Read more about the thinking and structure behind this decision making framework at the link below.

Later, FS came out with a pocket-sized journal capture decisions with a pen (who uses those anymore).

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The journal invites you to break down an important decision with the following prompts:

  • Mental or Physical State
  • Situation or context
  • Problem statement of frame
  • Variables that govern the situation
  • Complications or complexities as you see them
  • Range of outcomes
  • Expectations and probabilities
  • Outcome
  • Reflection (six months after decision was made)

I found this framework to be quite thought provoking and challenging. Like most, I'm not used to documenting decision-making whatsoever. But approaching decisions this way and writing even just a few lines invited me to think deeper.

After using the journal digitally (more on that below) for a few months, I've integrated it across Optemization. I find documenting hiring and strategic decisions to be the most useful. And that in turn, will make me a better person and entrepreneur.

Now paper and physical journals are great but if you know me; you know I have an obsession with digitizing my operations and productivity in Notion.

Decision Journal in Notion

As you might know, Notion is a incredible all-in-one software tool that works like a digital paper. Many use it for journaling, so keeping decisions alongside with notes, for example, would be a perfect use case.

Recently, I digitized FS's decision journal and integrated it into my personal life and our work at Optemization. Here's how it looks

A real decision that Shane Parrish documented and I re-created in Notion (dark mode) πŸŒ‘
A real decision that Shane Parrish documented and I re-created in Notion (dark mode) πŸŒ‘

How it Works

Here's a video breakdown on YouTube (or Loom). You can read a deeper dive below or on Optemization, which is formatted nicer.

Grab the Free Template

How it Works (Deep Dive)

I structured each decision to be a database entry while splitting the aforementioned decision factors into database properties (columns) and page contents. If you haven't used Notion yet, that's one of the coolest features: any content can be stored as a property or inside of a database record.

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To contextualize a specific decision record in the database, apply the template that brings up the aforementioned prompts . A new decision by default will be marked as undecided. The rest of the properties will be left for you to fill

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One of the core tenets of decision making in this framework is reflection and feedback. It's so easy to overlook this part but reflecting on past decisions will improve your decision making 10x (don't @ me). Anyway, I built a three properties that help with facilitating this behavior:

Firstly, Review in, a single choice label for the duration of weeks or months after which you want to review your decision. Parrish recommended six months as the default time frame but I thought that was too constrained, so I expanded it to one week, two weeks, one month, three month and six months. Below I will explain how you can add your own .

Secondly, I find unnecessarily annoying to add the dates and figure out where you need to set the reminder, so I wrote the Review at formula. It's a bunch of nested IF statements that look at Review in and add the corresponding timeframe to Created at. It looks like this:

if(prop("Review in") == "One week", format(dateAdd(prop("Made at"), 1, "weeks")), if(prop("Review in") == "Two weeks", format(dateAdd(prop("Made at"), 2, "weeks")), if(prop("Review in") == "One month", format(dateAdd(prop("Made at"), 1, "months")), if(prop("Review in") == "Three months", format(dateAdd(prop("Made at"), 3, "months")), if(prop("Review in") == "Six months", format(dateAdd(prop("Made at"), 6, "months")), "Decision has not been made yet")))))
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Right now, you can only compute one result in Review at that's why Review in is single choice. That can be changed but I didn't find it necessary.

There's probably a way to run this better, so let me know if you think there are better ways to write it.

Note that if the Made at property is empty the Review at will return "Decision has not been made yet" string.

If you want to add a new time segment to Review in do this:

  1. Add the label. For example "Three weeks"
  2. In the formula, after the last comma add if(prop("Review in") == "Three weeks", format(dateAdd(prop("Made at"), 3, "weeks")),. There are three variables that you need to input the if condition (Three weeks), the duration (3) and the time format (weeks).
  3. Add one ) to the end of the formula and press cmd+enter to accept.

Finally there's the Remind at property, which is a simple text field where you can put your actual reminder. Unfortunately the formula field cannot do that for you. To add a reminded type @ remind and enter the date that Review in gave you.

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Notion reminders will default to the current year, so make sure to specify 2021 as the year for your reminder.

That's it! Farewell and I hope this helps you make some great decisions. Please share on Twitter if you found this post insightful or the template useful β€” I'm @optemization πŸ‘‰

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