Useful Heuristics for Decision Making

How to make quick decisions using simple rules

Wang Yip
3 min readJun 6


Photo by John Cameron on Unsplash

We make thousands of daily decisions: what to wear, what to eat, what to work on, how to interact with colleagues, how to sign off on emails, etc. While I can’t help you with any important decisions, I can share a few heuristics to help with some of the more low-risk ones (and heck, maybe you will find some of these helpful for big decisions too).

By the way, I didn’t come up with these — for more excellent heuristics, check out Madeleine Dore’s book I didn’t do the thing today.

If you don’t know if it will make you happy, ask if it will expand or diminish your life

My preferred heuristic for impulse purchases as I’m torn between spending money for items I don’t need and envisioning a future where I have the item and I’m using it. Instead of asking myself if it will make me happy, I think about whether it expands or diminishes my life. And I’m all for expanding my life.

If you have two good options, imagine a future day

Sometimes, the power of regret (also the name of a great book by Daniel Pink) helps you find the path forward. Do you want to go to the party or stay at home to read? If you imagined yourself tomorrow looking back at today, which would you have rather done?

When neither choice is appealing, choose the problem you want to have

Sometimes, my friends come to me asking me whether they should take a job or not. If they have gotten to this point, it’s because the job is better in some ways and worse in others and they can’t decide. In this case, I often point out that it’s sometimes better to deal with the devil they know. If their boss isn’t great, getting another job (and another boss) could be even worse.

When you’re anxious and worried, remember your past successes

Every time I start a new job, I get anxious and worried. Am I an imposter? Did I sign up for something too big? Am I going to fail right away? But then I remember each time I started a new job, I felt the…



Wang Yip

Author of Essential Habits. I write about personal development, work and managing your career. Connect with me at