Jump to content

    Decision Making Frameworks

    FAQ Question Marks

    It’s easy to get bogged down with a big decision.

    But your choices don’t have to be overwhelming.

    You can use these frameworks to break things down, find clarity, and make confident decisions, regret-free.


    #1) Eisenhower Matrix

    Used by: President Eisenhower

    When to use it : When you have an overwhelming to-do list and limited time

    Core question: “What should I actually focus on right now?”

    Eisenhower matrix

    If you’re overwhelmed with a long list of different tasks, the Eisenhower Matrix can help you focus on the right things.

    Everything on your plate can be organized into 4 categories, each with an associated action:

    Important + Urgent? Do it right now
    Important + Not Urgent Decide when you’ll do it
    Not Important + Urgent Delegate it to someone else
    Not Important + Not Urgent Delete it

    If you go through the process, you’ll probably realize only a handful of tasks are actually both important and urgent. You can immediately prioritize them and create a short term focus list to get done first.

    The Eisenhower Matrix goes a little further, though. It also helps you decide what to outsource to someone else, what to schedule, and what to just get rid of.

    Instead of a messy list of 10+ bullet points, you can strip them down into a clear set of immediate priorities, future actions, things to outsource, and stuff to toss.


    #2) Regret Minimization

    Used by: Jeff Bezos

    When to use it: When you have a big life decision to make

    Core question: “Am I going to regret this when I’m 80? Yes or no?”

    regret minimization

    Instead of trying to focus on every possible pro and con, sometimes it’s easier to strip down a big life decision into a simple yes or no question:

    “When I’m old, am I going to look back at my life and regret (this one decision)?”

    If it’s a “yes, I’ll regret this”, don’t do it.

    If it’s a “no, I won’t regret this”, do it.

    Most of us tend to stress out over a lot of things that don’t deserve that much energy. By framing things in terms of regret instead of success/failure, you’ll be able to slice through most big decisions and move forward with less anxiety.


    #3) Flipping it around / inversion (Marcus Aurelius, Neville, etc)

    Used by: Marcus Aurelius

    When to use it: When you need inspiration and clarity

    Core question: “What would the opposite look like? How do I avoid that?”

    Inversion flipping it

    Sometimes the best way to get clarity on something is to look at its opposite - then work backwards to avoid it.

    If you’re thinking, “I want to run a successful business……”, you’ve got an endless jumble of scenarios that could look like a successful business.

    It’s easier to say “What does a terrible business look like?” and identify key points to avoid.


    Inversion Example

    Vague goal Flipped into clarity
    I want to be a great athlete. What should I do? Where do I start??

    • Train

    • Eat right

    • Get coaching

    • Have talent

    • Get into program X

    • (it’s an endless list….)

    What does a great athlete absolutely not do?

    • Miss training

    • Eat poorly

    • (this is much simpler)


    #4) What would ___ do?

    Used by: Me

    When to use it: When you need clarity and confidence

    Core question: “What would _____ do?”

    what would do

    Big decisions sometimes freeze me up.

    I’ll research, plan, make pros/cons lists ...but won’t actually take action.

    The way that I get past these hurdles is to think of a person who would immediately take a confident action instead of overthinking it.

    Sometimes it’s a famous person, a family member, or a friend.

    Thinking about these people helps me get out of my head and act.


    What would ___ do? examples

    “Should I order dessert?” What would my buddy Kareem (a personal trainer) do? Oh yeah, he’d laugh at the idea and say no.
    “Should I sleep in or get up?” What would David Goggins do? Oh yeah, he’d jump out of bed and punch life in the face.
    “Should I take the job offer even though I’d have to move overseas?” What would my dad do? Oh yeah, he’d be ready to move the same day.


    #5) If it’s not a “Hell, Yes!”, it’s a “No”.

    Used by: Derek Sivers

    When to use it: When you’re considering a new opportunity.

    Core question: “Am I actually excited by this?”

    This is a strategy that’s aimed at people who want to go from good to great.

    The thing that holds back a lot of people (at jobs, in business, with happiness) is that they tend to scramble from mediocre opportunity to mediocre opportunity. You might feel obligated to say yes to everything that comes your way.

    But if you want to do great work and really enjoy it, you’ve got to be a little more selective with your choices.

    It’s a pretty simple idea - just ask yourself how you feel about an opportunity in front of you. Is it a no-brainer, jump for joy, “Hell, Yes!!”? If so, do it!

    But if it’s anything less than that, pass on it.

    This is a great question to slow yourself down and engage with things that you really think will be memorable winners instead of filler work.

    “Hell Yes!!” version

    Not “Hell, Yes!” version

    “My dream client just offered me a fantastic deal” “A company I’ve never heard of offered me a deal. It’s less than I’d like and not exactly in my wheelhouse….I guess I should take it?”
    “I’ve been with the love of my life for 5 years, we’ve built an amazing life together and I can’t wait to spend the rest of our lives together!!” “I’ve been with my partner for 5 years, I guess I should propose because it’s about time, right?”
    “My buddy wants to start a side hustle and asked me to join him. Last time we worked together we killed it! We’ve got complementary skill sets and I think this could be a huuuuge thing!” “My buddy wants to start a side hustle and asked me to join him. I like him but I’m not sure we’d work well together and I’m really not sure it’s a great project idea anyway…”


    #6) Circle of Competence

    Used by: Warren Buffett

    When to use it: When you’re taking on a new project or task.

    Core question: “Is this actually my specialty?”

    Circle of Competence

    Warren Buffett is famous for focusing on his strengths - he only invests in industries he thinks he knows as an expert.

    He also consciously avoids areas where he’s not an expert.

    All of your tasks and decisions can be assigned to one of three categories:

    1. Stuff you REALLY know
    2. Stuff you sort of know
    3. Stuff you don’t know at all

    It’s easy to avoid #3, and #1 is usually pretty easy to identify.

    It’s #2 (stuff you sort of know) where most bad decisions and big mistakes happen. It’s where you know just enough to be dangerous, but not enough to actually be great at.

    Buffett’s Circle of Competence is all about reminding us to step back and really consider whether we’re 100% focused on our core strengths, or if we’re taking on things that are better left to other people.

    Profession Inside the Circle of Competence Outside the Circle of Competence

    • Writing

    • Storytelling

    • Communication

    • Web design

    • Advanced graphic design

    • Video editing


    • Baking

    • Creating recipes

    • Buying the right ingredients

    • Building an online store for the bakery

    • Advertising the bakery on Facebook


    • Camera equipment

    • Photo editing software

    • Visual composition

    • Social media ads

    • Running a gallery show


    #7) Fear Setting

    Used by: Tim Ferriss

    When to use it: When you need clarity and motivation

    Core question: “What would the nightmare version look like?”

    fear setting

    It’s easy to get overwhelmed thinking about the future.

    If you’re nervous about things going bad, it’s often helpful to define exactly what the worst-case scenario would look like.

    If you can attach clear parameters to that worst case, you’ll probably find that it’s a lot easier to deal with.

    Instead of vague fears, you’ll be able to consider specific numbers. Then you can make a rational decision about whether you can handle the risk or not.

    Fear Setting Examples

    fear setting filled in


    #8) The Scientific Method

    Used by: Elon Musk

    When to use it: When you need to step back and get input

    Core question: “Do I have new evidence that disproves my hypothesis?”

    scientific method

    Many people are unintentionally emotional about their decisions, especially the important ones.

    If that sounds familiar, you can use the scientific method to create rational, evidence-based decisions.

    It’s pretty simple. Just turn your decision into a question, form a “best guess” conclusion, then test that conclusion with more data and external input.

    If the process can’t “break” your conclusion, then it’s probably right. You can move forward knowing that you tested the idea properly.

    If the process does “break” your conclusion, then you should either pass on the decision or form an adjusted conclusion to test again.


    Cheat Sheet

    Decision Framework When to use it
    Eisenhower Matrix To figure out your priorities and clean up a messy to-do list
    Regret Minimization To make big life decisions
    Inversion / Flipping it around To find clarity
    What would ___ do? To find inspiration
    If it’s not a hell yes, it’s a no To be more selective and protect yourself.
    Circle of competence To be more selective and focus on your strengths
    Fear setting To add rationality and remove anxiety
    The Scientific method To remove your ego and add evidence to your decisions



    Dan McDermottdan mcdermott

    User Feedback

    Recommended Comments

    Thanks for sharing such a nice and helpful article about these frameworks. I enjoy reading.
    Link to comment

    Create an account or sign in to comment

    You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

    Create an account

    Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

    Register a new account

    Sign in

    Already have an account? Sign in here.

    Sign In Now

    • Join 55,000+ people getting our newsletter

      nev-and-logo-going-into-email (3).gif

      - Get notified of new posts -
      - Get weekly S.W.I.P.E.S. Email -
      - Get a free masterclass in copy -
      - People love our emails, see testimonials -

    • Create New...