Improve your decision process with the decision book

Lately, I’ve made and recorded several tough decisions like quitting video, quitting Facebook and Instagram, and saying no to a potential customer.

What strikes me as I record these decisions in my decision book is that I think about them differently and more. Sleeping on it for me has less to do with using system 1 or intuition, but more with finding the arguments to fill in in the decision book.

Why do you want to improve the decision-making process?

In you and me there are actually two people: a person who experiences everything and a person who remembers the events.

The experiencing person experiences everything, every moment, but does not remember anything. The remembering person keeps the memories of events, but does not keep every detail. The remembered self preserves the experience as a story built around the highs and lows.

From The Art of Living Well:

“While the experiencing self is wasteful (it throws almost everything away), the remembering self is extremely prone to mistakes and thus tempts us to make wrong decisions. Because of the appraisal error of the remembering ego, we tend to judge short moments of intense joys too strongly and too weakly in response to these quiet, sustained, non-exciting moments of joy. ”

Rolf Dobelli

Because we remember intense moments, we make choices for the future. A few intense moments with an employee or customer, in combination with the functioning of our brain, ensure that we cannot assess future situations. Our brain is also unable to estimate how long an experience has lasted (duration neglect).

Two or three moments with customers that deliver intense, fun experiences make us forget the long days when we toil to maneuver through all kinds of tricky customer systems and the extra work we put in. Especially when we have experienced the end as positive, we have a good memory of the project. As a result, we say yes to a new application without really thinking. Our experiencing self then runs into the same problems in the implementation as in the previous assignment and wonders why we accepted the assignment.

Or an employee who continuously shows in his daily behavior that he misses a certain core value. Your remembering self especially remembers the euphoric moment of an assignment that he won or delivered. While everyone in the company is bothered by this person’s behavior on a daily basis, which does not change (core value), your remembering self comes up with arguments to keep working with him.

Because of that valuation error that Dobelli mentions, in The art of good living, new projects where you are optimistic about good results for the future attract you more than steadily working on the ongoing projects that are now generating profit. My remembered self skews what happened in an ongoing project. Based on the highlights, I make wrong decisions for the future.

By improving my decision-making process, I pay more attention to decisions and I turn to help to gain other insights that are not necessarily supported by my remembering self.

The decision book is part of this. How does it work?

Filling in the decision book

I use as a tool for developing and saving decisions. This is a handy tool, but you can also use a notebook, Word, or something else.

The core is the PMIXA method (Van Osch). Below you can see the parts that I fill in in my decision book.

Describe the decision

Here I explain in my own words what the decision is.

What was the background to the decision
What is the original reason for consciously thinking about a decision on this topic?

What emotions do you feel?

Emotions play an important role in decisions. The emotions are influenced by many circumstances, such as whether you slept well, whether you are fit and whether you were angry, sad or happy beforehand. If I write down the emotion as I feel it at the time of the decision, I can use this when I look back later in the evaluation of the decision.

Do you have a hunch? What does your intuition say? Also write this down so that you can later review how your intuition develops.

What positive consequences do you expect?

What’s good about it? Consider the pluses of the decision.

What negative consequences do you expect?

What’s wrong with it? Consider the minuses of the decision.


What all comes to mind? Consider alternatives, for example. Also write down the possible costs if you decide not to?


What expectations do I have of a positive outcome of my decision?


What action (s) will I take after making a decision? Who should I inform of my decision?

Schedule a reminder in the calendar

After making a decision, I post a follow-up on the calendar (for example 3 or 6 months later) to evaluate what I can learn from the decision.


Analyze what can go wrong after making the decision. Then write down how you can prevent all these failure situations. Here you can read about the premortem.

Who can help?

Who can help provide other insights into the decision? Is there an expert by experience? Who can you turn to as the devil’s advocate to reveal potential problems?

Example of the decision book

I keep my decision book in Notion. If you are also working with this, I have a template for this decision book. Make a copy of the template for your own decision book here.

Learning from the process, not the outcome of the decision

It takes about half an hour to fill out the decision book for myself, especially when I have taken the space to think about the decision for 24 hours. In the meantime, I have already filled in the PMIXA in my head in the background. By consciously writing everything down now, I can look back and learn from my decision-making process. For example, am I being influenced too much by others or by my emotions?

The outcome of almost all decisions you make is much more linked to luck than to your own expertise. We overestimate ourselves on this point. You have no influence on the environment or how others react to your choice. The only thing you can influence is your own behavior, how you react to the result of a decision. Because I record my decision in the decision book and thereby improve my decision-making process, I deal with the consequences of my decisions in an increasingly balanced way.

That is what I help entrepreneurs with: coaching in the decision-making process, so that they take the right decision step by step, in order to ultimately create a healthy growth engine, so that the company runs naturally. Do you also want to get started with this? Check out Set Priorities For Your Day.

By Erno Hannink

Sparring and accountability partner for entrepreneurs who create sustainable positive impact. Explores decision-making. Shares his insights on this in, articles, books (Dutch), podcast, newsletters, and tools. Has a life mission to reduce social and ecological inequality. Father of two children, husband of M., runs, referee for the national soccer league, and uses stoicism for calm. Lives in the Netherlands. Speaks Dutch, English, and German.