Simple Pen and Paper Exercise Helps You Make Better Decisions

By Alexis Rodrigo | Entrepreneurship

Apr 24
Better Decision Making

When you’re having a hard time choosing between two or more seemingly equal options, it pays to organize your thinking by using a matrix like this:

Decision-Making Matrix: Step-by-step guide

The idea is to plot your choices based on two dimensions. When the options are plotted visually like that, it often becomes obvious which one is the best.

Ready to give it a try?

Here are the steps:

1. Draw your matrix.

On a sheet of paper, draw two perpendicular lines that cross in the middle.

2. Decide on the two dimensions.

Consider the two most important variables or considerations in your decision making. This will require some thought. It can feel like there are so many things to consider. However, the matrix can only take two at a time, so you’ll have to pick which two are the most crucial for this decision.

In the example above, the two dimensions were:

  • profitability (horizontal line)
  • amount of time and mental “bandwidth” required (vertical line)

3. Label the matrix.

Add a label to each end of the line on your matrix. For the horizontal line, have it go from least desirable on the left to most desirable on the right. This is why on my matrix, the left-most end indicates least profitable and the right-most end is the most profitable.

For the vertical line, make it go from least desirable on the bottom to most desirable on the top. On my matrix, the high time/bandwidth is least desirable and that’s why it’s at the bottom. Low time/bandwidth is most desirable and therefore it’s at the top.

4. Plot the options along the matrix.

Write or draw the alternatives you’re considering on the matrix you’ve created. You’ll have to make assumptions and intelligent guesses, since we don’t always have all the information we need.

In my case, I don’t have a crystal ball to say for certain how profitable some of my options will be. 

That’s okay. You make your best guess and plot it out on the matrix.

5. Analyze the matrix.

Now look at your matrix, because the best decision will literally reveal itself to you! 

Decision-Making Matrix

The best decision visually jumps out at you when you make a simple decision-making matrix like this one.

Your best options will be in Quadrant 1: Items here will be high on both dimensions you’re considering. In my case, I only have one option that is both most profitable yet doesn’t require a lot of time/bandwidth.

In contrast, items in Quadrant 3 are the worst choices I could make. They’re high in bandwidth yet low in profitability.

Quadrants 2 and 4 can have good options as well. The three items in Q2 that are

inside the yellow box on my matrix, for example, can be considered low-hanging fruit. I can quickly and easily implement them, and they may yield a decent profit. 

 The highlighted items in my Quadrant 4 are things for me to consider as I have more time/bandwidth because they’re profitable.

Now do you see how a matrix like this can help you make better decisions?

Before I made this matrix, my thoughts were all muddled. I had so many ideas and I didn’t know how to begin! But after creating this, my next steps became crystal clear. It only took 15 minutes to do, and I got started on implementing my first choice straightaway.

Here's another example of when I used a matrix to evaluate different marketing strategies.

I hope this was helpful for you!

If you have any questions about using a decision-making matrix, let me know. I’m happy to help.

Oh and keep an eye on this space next week. I’m making a big announcement!

PS: You’re going to have the chance to grab some mind-blowing deals on tools for your online business. You won’t find them anywhere else, I promise! Watch your inbox for the details!


About the Author

Lexi Rodrigo is a communication and marketing professional for multimillion-dollar businesses, co-author of Blog Post Ideas: 21 Proven Ways to Create Compelling Content and Kiss Writer's Block Goodbye, and host of "Marketing Insights LIVE!." Connect with Lexi on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn.