Checklist for assessing options

1. Score options on priorities

Take your top two to five options, and score them from 1-5 on each of your priorities. We’re not suggesting that you should go with whichever option has the highest total score (see step 5), but explicitly assessing your options on each of your priorities should help you avoid getting misled by irrelevant factors. It also ensures that you’ve thought through each aspect of the decision. This is best done in a spreadsheet. You can use this template.

2. Question your gut

Pay attention to where gut judgements feed into your ranking. Your gut is good at making decisions where you’ve made lots of similar decisions before, so it’s probably good at judging something like “Will I get on with the people I’m working with in this job?” (if you’ve actually met them). But it’s bad at judging questions like “how much will I earn in this career?” or is this cause effective? See more on when to go with your gut.

3. Consider why you might be wrong

Ask yourself why you might be wrong about your ranking. This can help to reduce bias.

4. Focus on future pros and cons

Check that you’ve focused on the future pros and cons of your options, rather than what you’ve done in the past. This can help you avoid the sunk cost fallacy.

5. Check you’re not relying on one or two strong considerations

Have you considered the problem from many angles? Rather than basing your decision on one or two strong considerations, it’s often better to consider the issue from many independent perspectives weighted by their robustness and importance. This style of thinking has been supported by various groups and has several names, including ‘cluster thinking’, ‘model combination and adjustment’, ‘many weak arguments’, and ‘fox style’ thinking.

6. Look for dominant options

If you’re lucky, you’ll find one option seems better or equal from all perspectives than another. You can then rank this option above the one it dominates.