Sample rates of decision making

One of the many ongoing arguments in the corporate world revolves around short-term incentives. Some argue that quarterly reporting schedules force managers to think to much in the short term. They argue that this Wall Street focus harms the companies long term strategy and ultimately its performance to its shareholders. While other argue that quarterly reporting is in the best interest of the shareholders who should be informed about the company’s performance.

I would like to argue that individuals are suffering from this avoidable fate. Our decision loops are too short-term focused and are only getting tighter. [Technology allows for increased precision and increased data collection for decisions, but its not always more accurate]

This gradual move to real-time decision making and real-time data in our daily lives has made us perform worse and be more miserable. People do not need real-time sample rates to reevaluate decisions. We often do not give ourselves enough time to understand the real implications of our decisions before switching them. We give up on a diet after one week since the scale did not change. We constantly think through the pros and cons of every decision we make. This decision making “overhead” is highly inefficient.

This is all about making sure we’re dialed into appropriate perspective or “zoom levels” when we think about problems in our lives. These zoom levels range from the second to second (Scanning Electron Microscope) level to your entire life until you die (Hubble Telescope) level. Do not switch between these two levels! Those are expensive perspective levels and you must use them thoughtfully. Pickup that high school science microscope or old pair of binoculars and think six months out. This should be your default perspective.


Do you want to try not drinking coffee? Don’t just do it for a week. Do it for at least six months. You’ll then have a very good mental modal of the impact of that decision.

My Recommendations

  1. Set longer windows for decisions. Collect more data! Increase the sample size of your feedback.
  2. Days go up and down, and so do your motivation levels. Take advantage of high days and lock yourself into a six month commitment and see how it goes. Write it down, make it public, and reflect only at the end.
  3. Try to think in years not months and months not weeks.

Thanks to Brett Heliker for reviewing!

· thinking