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How To Use 10-10-10 To Get Unstuck

QuestionsEvery day we are faced with decisions. Some are more urgent than others while others can just appear that way.

Some decisions are easy, while others can make us break out in a cold sweat so much that we can’t really decide.

Some decisions fill us with so much angst that we don’t know how to get unstuck from our analysis paralysis.

Do I stay with my current job or take the new job opportunity in a new city?

Do I stay late at work tonight as my boss asked me, even though I had plans with the family?

Do I buy a new car or lease one?

Do I quit my job, sell all my belongings, and go traveling?

Do I go to Church this Sunday or sleep in?

Do I accept the proposal or not?

We are faced with so many decisions each day that it’s difficult to know the repercussions of our decisions, particularly as there are competing priorities and we are faced with information overload.

One technique which I have successfully used is the 10-10-10 method.

This method was proposed by Suzy Welch and I first read about it back in a 2006  issue of  ‘O’ magazine when Suzy had a recurring column in the magazine.

While browsing a bookstore recently, I came across Suzy’s new book called 10-10-10 and it brought back how useful the method was for when facing decisions and I thought I would share it with you.

We all use different methods when making decisions.

How do you normally make decisions? Do you use your gut? Using your gut reaction to something can be done on the small things in life, but do you really want to rely on gut instinct for your major life decisions?

Do you go with the decision that everyone else thinks you should go with? That kind of gives everyone else the power over your own life though, doesn’t it? Why abdicate your life to the consensus of others? Are they going to live with the consequences of the decisions? Only you can live your life.

Do you take the easy way out and do nothing? Sure, that can alleviate some pain in the short-term, but how about in the long-term? Your entire life can be wasted away while you do nothing. Time stands still for no (wo)man.

The 10-10-10 method puts your decisions into perspective so that you can quantify your decision-making and it also allows you to live authentically according to your values.

The first step in the method is to determine your personal values in life.

Does family or relationships come first? Or maybe it’s your career or your faith? Do you value your independence above all else or is it the mighty dollar?

When you are clear what your values are you can then ask yourself the important questions to use 10-10-10 for any decision that is facing you.

You have an important decision ahead of you. You don’t know what to do.

Try the 10-10-10 method and ask yourself the following questions:

  • What are the positive and negative consequences of the decision options across 3 timeframes?
  • How will this decision play out in 10 minutes?
  • How about in 10 months?
  • What are the long-term consequences of this decision in 10 years?

It can be fairly easy to see how a decision will play out in 10 minutes. It gets a little harder when it’s 10 months, but when we think of the long-term consequences of our decisions, things can put into perspective.

Would you make the same decision today if you knew the ramifications of that decision 10 years from now?

For instance, let’s say that you are thinking of ending a relationship that doesn’t seem to be working out quite the way you expected. You will have to decide what your values are before you can decide anything. If you value family and relationships above all else, you will be using that bias when looking at the different timeframes. 

Ask yourself: what are the pros and cons of staying within this relationship in the next 10 minutes? Perhaps a pro would be that you have someone who is cooking your dinner. A con is that in ten minutes you know the food will be eaten and you’ll have to clean up the kitchen because they never do.

What about in 10 months? If you end the relationship, where will you be in ten months? A pro might be that you have learned to take care of your own finances because your partner was very foolhardy with money. You may provide them with 10 months to see positive action on their part and to re-evaluate again. A con might be that you faced depression and embarrassment 10 months from now because you failed again in another relationship.

What about in 10 years? If family and relationships are values that mean the most to you, how will your decision play out in 10 years? A pro may be that because you are no longer in that downward spiral of a relationship, you had time to work on what’s important to you and you have gained confidence in yourself. You’re now able to better understand what you want and don’t want in a partner. A con could be that you are still single and are not in a relationship. You are not able to provide financially as much as before and your living standard as suffered.

Your answers to the 10-10-10 questions will be entirely different because everyone is different and their values affect how they see the various timeframes play out on their decisions.

The important part is to ask yourself how a decision affecting you right now will play out in the short-term, middle-term and in the long-term. Suzy says that the 10-10-10 doesn’t necessarily have to be 10 minutes, 10 months or 10 years. It the concept of the various timeframes that is important to consider when analyzing your decision.

I may think that staying in the relationship right now would be best for me, but would it still be best for me in 10 months and in 10 years? I’m able to analyze the long-term consequences of my decision using this method.

No longer are we governed by the pressure of the moment when you are using the 10-10-10 method. The 10-10-10 method gives us time to deliberate over the various timeframes and then act according to our personal values and analysis.

Try it out the 10-10-10 method and let me know if it helps you make better decisions for you

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1. Top 5 Reasons To Leave Your Job
2. My Top 5 Secret Success Factors
3. Invest In Your Most Important Asset – Yourself
4. 10 Things You Can Do Right Now To Improve Your Life
5. Are You Being Your True Authentic Self?

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21 comments… add one

  • I’ve never heard of this method before, but I can see the merit. I make values-based decisions now and do tend to look at the impact beyond the moment, but this is even more intentional. I’m going to give it a try and see how it works for me..
    .-= Jean Sarauer´s last blog ..Eating Live Leeches, Kissing Dick Cheney, and Marketing =-.

    • Hi Jean,

      Great, let me know how it works out for you. The book is very good and goes into more detail with specific examples, but I the core of the method is using your personal values into the 3 different timeframes to help you make decisions.


  • Great post Karen, I have never heard of the 10-10-10 method until now. I just wish they had methods for people that like to change their minds a lot (like me). I want one thing one minute and then I want something else the next. I quit paying attention to my impulses and just move in a direct that I think will benefit me at this moment and hope I end up somewhere exciting later. I know there is so much wrong with that concept but it has it’s pro’s/con’s. I will try implementing this more with my decisions to see if helps me make up my mind on matters. See where that goes.
    .-= Ryan Hanzel´s last blog ..Keep it simple =-.

    • Hi Ryan,

      Then, I’m happy to introduce you to a new concept :-)

      I can appreciate that you change your mind a lot (the young tend to do that), but I would really consider carefully using something like the 10-10-10 method on decisions that are not simple ones. Decisions about what school to go to, what career to take, what city to move to, to stay in a current job, etc – decisions that that are complicated and have far-reaching consequences should not be based totally on gut instinct.

      Using the medium and long-term questions for these decisions will really help you. What might seem great today, could actually set you farther back in life when you play out that decision in the long term.

      Again, it all boils down to you sticking to your values, too.


  • Interested method karren, will definitely try it out and post a comment.

  • Hi Karen

    Another great post and an interesting concept, definitely one that will benefit us all. I think I might go for a 5-5-5 timescale though, ten years just seems to far ahead to me!


    • Hey Tony,

      I know what you mean. So many things can change in the long-term. The important part isn’t so much the 10 as it is the minutes, months and years part of the method. 5 years is just as valid – whatever works for you.


  • Great post as always Karen. This one really got me thinking.

    Personally, I rely on gut reaction probably a little too often. I really can’t stand over evaluating options because I feel like I’m wasting time. This 10-10-10 idea can actually help me balance both. I can quickly analyze a scenario without over thinking it. I can still get away with being a little impatient but assure myself that I have at least considered my options from three different levels of thought.

    Thanks for the tip
    .-= Justin Popovic´s last blog ..Going from Employee to Full Time Business Owner =-.

    • Hi Justin,

      Nothing wrong with relying on gut instinct on the small stuff, but do you want the really big life-decision made by gut instinct alone? Glad that you will be giving this method a shot in your decisions.

      Thanks for stopping by,

  • I think the 10 minutes and 10 months are pretty simple, but for me, thinking of how a decision can affect me 10 years after might be a bit difficult. But it’s worth a try I believe.
    .-= Julius´s last blog ..Why Is Braille on Drive-Through ATMs? =-.

    • Hi Julius,

      As I said to Tony, it’s not so much the 10 that’s important, it’s the taking mid and long-term consequences into affect when we make decisions. Some things are so urgent that we can make rash decisions just to have it done within minutes without taking the longer view into consideration. Using this method, all three timeframes are considered.

      Thanks for the comment,

  • hi karen,
    how are you?
    thanks for sharing this article.
    it was enlightening and i’d have to join fellow commenters in saying i have never heard of the 10-10-10 rule but it sounds great and is packed with useful information.
    reading this post I ‘m reminded of what happened 2 days ago deciding on whether to go to church or not because i was tired (came in 2am), needed rest……& also purchasing a hyundai accent against a volkswagen polo.
    after reading your post I came to a conclusion i actually used some elements of the 10-10-10 method lol!!
    enjoy the rest of the day
    .-= ayo´s last blog ..Introducing The Life Skills Challenge (Win A …….) =-.

    • Hi Ayo,

      I’m well and I hope you are, too.

      Looks like you’ve already internalized the method for your decisions – that’s great!

      I’m glad that I was able to introduce something new to you, then :-)

      Congrats on the car. I hope you are happy with your decision.


  • Hi Karen,

    This seems to be a great method for looking at options in the context of the possible outcomes. I have used a very similar method when making some of my better decisions (there were a few anyway). The 10-10-10 makes it a bit more clear, and I think that it would be beneficial to many people who tend to react too quickly.

    I am glad that you posted on my blog as it allowed me to find you here. This is a very useful site. Thank you very much!
    .-= mark´s last blog ..When Is Doing Something Well Not Enough? Now. =-.

    • Welcome Mark,

      Yes, one of the strengths of the method is the ability to take the time to analyze the different timeframes for each decision scenario.

      Glad that you liked the article and find the site useful.

      Thank you! :-)


  • Thanks for the insight Karen.

    It’s important to analyze the outcomes of decisions and it’s great to read about a “theory” or “principle” that most of us probably use anyway (to some extent) without even realizing it. . If I think back and wonder “what if?” I’d never decided to start my own business, I know that I’d never be able to live the life I’m living- seeing the world because I can work from anywhere I want. It’s great!

    • Hi Steve,

      I agree that analysis paralysis and the what if scenarios can stop us from moving forward, which is why this method is so great. Think of the next 10 minutes and move forward from there if there are no major repercussions. It’s a great method for making a decision based on various timeframes.

      Glad that you made the move to work from anywhere. Good for you for taking the chance!


  • I like it Karen
    Most of us have probably drawn up lists of pros and cons, but this is much better.
    The 10 minutes, months, years make you add the all important time element.
    Could stop you making a decision now that will have a negative effect in ten years time.

    We should have shown the Bankers this before they started looking at their short term profits

    Great way to make decisions.
    .-= Keith Davis´s last blog ..Flying in formation =-.

    • Welcome Keith,

      Yes, that would have been a good idea. Also, for all those people who bought homes that they couldn’t afford – they should have used the method to see whether they could afford a home 10 years down the road. Maybe a lot of things would be different if people didn’t live for instant gratification and thought of the various timeframes that their decision would play out in.

      Thanks for sharing,

  • Hi Karen, I think this is a great concept because it lets you choose the short term pain for the long term gain. However, I agree with Tony that 5-5-5 works better for me. Ten years ago I couldn’t have imagined the life I’m living now.
    .-= Jennifer Barry´s last blog ..Retirement Pitfalls =-.


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