Organizing Your Thoughts

Posted by Jennifer Suarez onMarch01,2012

I've been doing some thinking lately. An opportunity has presented itself, and I can't decide whether to take it or not.

As with most decisions, doing so means giving up some other items, so there are pros and cons both way. There are so many factors that go into the decision, from time and money to my goals in life. The various aspects are overwhelming. What I need to do is organize my thoughts.

So how do you do that? Simple: Write them down. This will create a visible "map" of what's rolling around in your head and heart. In addition, putting it all down on paper removes the burden of trying to remember everything. You will feel lighter, and that in itself will make the decision easier.

The easiest way to do write down your thoughts for decisions is to create a Pro/Con list. You can buy these already made, or just use a sheet of paper, drawing two columns. If you're an electronic person, use Evernote or a word document to create your list.

How to Use It:

  • Just start writing. Don't worry about organizing the thoughts in any order on the page. Just write them down under the correct column as they come to you.
  • Take a break. Although your head and heart may be heavy with this decision, you may not have all the information at one time. Set the list aside for one day and return to it to add more items. Maybe a conversation with your spouse or good friend will help clarify some ideas. 
  • Review the list. What jumps out at you? What are you not writing down because you're afraid to "say it out loud"?
  • Consider how you measure them. Sure, you can make the decision based on the length of the columns, but some of the items might carry more weight than others. In that case, give each item a number, one through five. Five is the heaviest, meaning it's a huge influencer on the decision. One is the lowest, meaning that aspect is part of the decision, but less important. Add up the totals and see how that works.

In some cases, a Pro/Con list won't work. That's OK. Other options:

  • Just write down all your thoughts in paragraphs. You can do this as if you're writing a letter to someone, but it doesn't have to be that formal. No one is grading this for grammar, appearance or sentence structure. Just write until you can't think of anything else to say on the topic. Write until you are completely empty. Then leave it for a day. Return and read your thoughts. Something might now jump out at you that helps you make the decision.
  • Flip a coin. The point of this is not to let the coin decide, but to find out in your gut how you feel about the issue. While the coin is the air, you'll hope for either heads or tails. That should indicate your true feeling on the matter. 
  • Talk it out. Talk out loud to yourself about the decision, or talk to a friend about it. Ask yourself:
    • Why am I having trouble making this decision? 
    • Is something holding me back, such as fear? What am I afraid of? 
    • What are the consequences of deciding one way? What about the consequences of the other option? 

No matter which method you choose, eventually, you have to decide. If the decision doesn't already have a deadline, give yourself one. If you haven't made the decision by then, that's sort of a decision in itself.

Good luck!