How to make quick decisions: the 10-10-10 rule

“In 10 minutes, I’ll feel relieved. In 10 months, I’ll be glad I participated and included myself with the group. In 10 years, it probably won’t matter at all.”

“It sounds to me you’ve already made your decision, haven’t you?”

Have you ever been stuck at a decision and unsure of how you should decide? Wouldn’t it be great if you could make quick decisions, even to life’s most difficult challenges?

What you just read is a recent conversation I had with a friend. They were concerned about an upcoming decision but were feeling stuck at an impasse. Thankfully, we had a tool at our disposal, the 10-10-10 rule.

Make quick decisions with the 10-10-10 rule

Invented by best selling author and columnist, Suzy Welch, the goal of 10-10-10 is to take a step back and view a decision from various future viewpoints, looking backwards. I’ll let her explain it:

Every time I find myself in a situation where there appears to be no solution that will make everyone happy, I ask myself three questions:

  • What are the consequences of my decision in 10 minutes?
  • In 10 months?
  • And in 10 years?

Three little questions. It’s so simple yet profoundly powerful for making quality, quick decisions.

10-10-10 gets it’s power from retrospective thinking, meaning it allows us to look retrospectively at a decision before we’ve even decided. In fact, we’re far better at coming up with ideas when thinking retrospectively than when thinking prospectively.1

In their study on retrospective thinking, Planning Forward by Looking Backward, authors Bruce Rollier, and Jon Turne state:

Retrospective thinking occurs whenever one remembers something from the past, but one can also think retrospectively about hypothetical future events, by imagining that the event has already transpired and then working backward in the mind from the future toward the present.

Applying 10-10-10 in your own life

I’ve sometimes found I have difficulty remembering to do the 10-10-10 rule when I’m stuck. Here’s some suggestions for application:

  • Teach it to your confidant. Let the person you usually go to for talking out a challenge help you, teach this technique, and let them know that next time you come with a challenging discussion you want them to use it on you.
  • Write it in your journal. If you write regularly in your journal (you should!) have 10-10-10 written on the inner flap or somewhere highly visible.
  • Use it within one week. Preferably one day. It doesn’t have to be a hard decision, but the sooner you apply this technique in your own life the more readily available it will be when you really need it.

So the next time you’re stuck with a decision, either large (“should I quit my job and take this other fantastic opportunity”) or smaller (“should I apologize to my wife, she was in the wrong”) remember the power to make quick decisions via the 10-10-10 rule.

Be driven.

PS. If you liked this post and feel there’s quality content, don’t forget to like or tweet about it so that your friends can benefit as well.


More resources

You can read more about Suzy here or buy her book: 10-10-10: A Life-Transforming Idea (note I’ve neither read nor am endorsing it).

Like to read other’s accounts of 10-10-10? It’s widely documented but here’s a few that stuck out:

  1. Rollier, B. “Planning Forward by Looking Backward: Retrospective …” 1994. <>

About Garrett Dunham

Garrett Dunham is a Silicon Valley born-and-raised entrepreneur, keynote speaker, and startup advisor. His companies have been featured on the New York Times, NBC, TechCrunch, Fast Company, and Venture Beat, among others. He spends his days mentoring startups at Start-up Chile and Singularity University, building products, and blogging about entrepreneurial success and self optimization.