A few months ago, I listened to one of my favorite podcasts, “Women at Work” which is produced by the Harvard Business Review. In this particular episode, the hosts were interviewing Therese Huston, the author of How Women Decide, a book I reviewed on my blog a couple of years back.
Huston discussed the challenges women face in making decisions—particularly the various double binds we face--and she offered some strategies to help women make challenging decisions. One of those strategies was the 10-10-10 method. Business journalist Suzy Welch developed this method. Essentially this method works like this: if you’re trying to decide on the best course of action, ask yourself three questions: What are the consequences of this decision in 10 minutes? And what are the consequences in 10 months? And what are the consequences in 10 years?
Huston says: “All too often we’re only focused on one of those timeframes, and often it’s just the 10 minutes, right? How am I going to feel? Or, it might be 10 months. Should we move or not, and you’re thinking about wow, my life will be different 10 months from now. But it’s really helpful to think about all three because it can often put into perspective, like, 10 years from now it’s not going to matter. Or, 10 years from now, I am going to be set up for a much better position within the company, if you’re thinking about asking for a raise or a promotion. And so, even though it might make my life unpleasant for the next 10 minutes, it’s worth it in the long run. So, 10-10-10, that’s a really helpful one. Oh, also like even if you’re in a meeting, and you’re trying to decide should I make this point or not, it’s not going to matter probably 10 months from now, although maybe it will because you’ll be seen as someone who’s an innovative thinker.”
I thought back to some of the decisions I’ve made over the years, and I’d add an extra 10 to the formula: what will be the consequences in 10 days? I thought of a time when I hesitated to make a point in a project meeting because I knew that what I said had to say would be unpopular and might ruffle some feathers. But I made my point anyway, and then my comments helped folks sitting around the table think a little differently about the issue, and 10 days later in another meeting, someone said, “You know, I’ve been thinking about what Melissa said in our last meeting, and I think we may want to go at this in another direction.” And the results of that reframing turned out to be fruitful for the project we were working on. If I had kept my mouth shut, we might not have shifted our approach. And that shift made a real difference 10 months down the road.
Listening to that podcast helped me rethink my own process for making decisions, and I’ve also suggested the strategy to clients facing challenging decisions. We can get bogged down in elaborate lists of pros and cons as we face hard choices. But this method is a simple tool for evaluating the right decision in some circumstances. For example, when evaluating whether I should take on a new project, I can ask myself: how will the decision affect my life in 10 minutes, in 10 days, in 10 months, and in 10 years?
What about you? Can you evaluate a past decision through the 10-10-10 framework? What new insights does this framework yield? Can the strategy be helpful for a decision that you are facing right now?