By using tools that give perspective before making decisions, like the 10-10-10 rule, we can minimize our missteps

David Fuller

We’ve all pushed send on an email or text and then regretted our actions 10 minutes later.

It happened to me just this week.

Someone shortened a deadline on a project and I questioned it. The person responded in a snarky manner. Squeezed by an already busy schedule with my temper rising, I sent an email back that may not have been as professional as it could have been.

Probably if I’d waited 10 minutes, or 24 hours, I might have taken the higher ground and just let the snarky email pass like water off a duck’s back.

I stumbled across the 10-10-10 rule in the book Decisive, but it was made famous by Suzy Welch in her book 10-10-10. The rule states that when making a decision, we should add an element of perspective. How happy will we be with our decision after 10 minutes, 10 months and 10 years?

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Giving our decisions an element of time can give us a point of view that may not be apparent when we’re struggling with a choice that could have a profound impact on our lives or our businesses.

Even little decisions like responding to a co-worker, business partner or our teenagers when we’ve been pushed to our limits could benefit from the 10-10-10 rule.

However, larger decisions like quitting a job, making an investment, taking our business in a new strategic direction or even getting married would benefit substantially from this type of thinking.

It’s easy to think that after 10 minutes we might still be happy with the decision we just made. In the case of my email, if I’d waited 10 minutes, I might have made it shorter but still sent it.

But if I had used the 10-10-10 rule, I would have considered the future consequences of my action 10 months out. I might have realized that there were underlying factors that raised my ire and from the point of view of 10 months in the future, the email wouldn’t have been necessary. In 10 years, nobody will care and, with the state of my memory, it will have been forgotten. So from the perspective of 10 months and 10 years, I probably wouldn’t feel the need to send the email.

So what do we do if we’ve sent an email or made a decision that we regret?

Let’s say we forget to use the 10-10-10 rule and make a mistake. If it’s a simple error in judgment and hasn’t caused deep grievous damage, a simple “I’m sorry” can make a big difference.

Often, we’re harder on ourselves than we are on others. Realizing that we’re not perfect and we’re going to make mistakes will affect us and others. Forgiving ourselves is often more difficult than we think, but treating ourselves with some gentleness can alleviate the stress we feel about our actions.

It’s easy to say we’ll never take the same action again. But that’s unrealistic without having strategies in place.

Eating more cake, chocolates or chips than we should when watching our favourite Netflix series can cause regrets. Chewing out an employee or co-worker for something they forgot to do might cause regrets. Cutting down a tree in your yard and falling it on your kids’ trampoline is regrettable. We’re likely to feel bad that night or the next day.

It’s probably unrealistic to think we’ll never be faced with those temptations again. So what do we do when faced with similar situations in the future?

We need to develop strategies that will be effective in such situations. Perhaps a 10-10-10 rule might be the answer.

Everyone makes mistakes and some of these errors in judgment can cause us regrets. Focusing too long on them isn’t healthy.

Strategic thinking tools that give perspective to decisions can reduce the chances that we’ll have regrets.

But not making decisions isn’t a valid option if we want to be successful and make the most of what we’ve been given.

Good decisions, however small, can make our lives and the world better.

David Fuller, MBA, is a certified professional business coach and author who helps business leaders ensure that their companies are successful. David is author of the book Profit Yourself Healthy.

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