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“Life is an endless series of choosing between two things you want almost equally. And you have to evaluate and determine which awesome thing you want infinitesimally more, and then give up that other awesome thing you want almost exactly as much. You have to trade awesome for awesome. Everyone I knew, no matter what they chose, was at least a little in mourning for that other thing.” – Kristin Newman

When we struggle to make choices, I think Kristin Newman’s words really hit home.  Choices are not usually black and white, sure, but they are more often than not, between two amazing alternatives. We’re not usually choosing to do something because the other thing is something we hate, but something so close to what we want that it’s hard to choose.

Think about the last difficult choice you made.  Of course, there was a tradeoff, wasn’t there? If you read my post on tradeoffs, you’ll remember I have a few strategies for tackling those.

Today, though I wanted to share a few words on Randi Zuckerberg’s strategy that has been popular on social media lately. 


Randi Zuckerberg on Choices

Well, I came across this gem on Facebook, and I had to talk about it. In fact, I believe Randi is exactly right in what she says. We really can’t have it all, and choosing 3 of the five alternatives she gives in Jessica Stillman’s article about her is a perfect idea.

Family, friends, fitness, work, sleep. Choose three.  It’s that simple.

We’re only going to be able to focus on three, so we shouldn’t try to overload ourselves with more. 

Check out the video below to see if you agree with her classification. You could use this video with advanced ESL students, too, and have them consider their daily time management routine.  Of course, time management varies greatly across cultures, so a mixed-L1 ESL class would be the perfect place to play this 3 minute video and start a discussion.

Here are some more tips from her:



How To Choose Your 3

As you may know, I love making pros and cons lists, when trying to figure out what to do.  In fact, I even followed a Marketing professor’s advice once and make a Consumer Choice Matrix in a handy little spreadsheet when deciding on what to do with my career next.

So, let’s look at some of those pros and cons.  Zuckerberg talks about a few of them in her interview, but I came up with my own list.  I know she says we can “choose daily”, but I’m not 100% sure on that one.  Actually, I think we have to choose more like weekly, monthly, even yearly, to focus on all our goals well.  

For example, this is definitely not the summer that I become my absolute fittest, or that I spend a lot of quality time with friends or family. Instead, it’s the summer that I will finish that PhD thesis (with a vengeance!), sleep enough to make sure my energy is up, and really get business-planning for my upcoming projects.   (Okay, okay,  – I know that I just chose “work” in two different ways, but I feel like that’s how it has to be for now). If I had to throw in a third, it would be fitness, as the gym, training, and swimming classes are just about immovable on my calendar.


Pros and Cons of 5 Focal Choices

Okay, so how do you actually go about making that choice?  Here’s are my pros and cons: (Please comment at the end of the post if you have more to add – I’d love to hear from you 🙂 


Okay, so this one may seem like a simple choice, but as Zuckerberg points out, it’s not always so clear.  Yes, of course, spending less time with friends will allow you to focus more, to work more, and perhaps to be more productive.  However, if we don’t take breaks, it backfires. Also, networking sometimes happens when you least expect it.  I can definitely say that here in Barcelona there have been several times when I wouldn’t have received a job offer if I hadn’t started an (unrelated) conversation at a social event.


Freedom of Choice

Family is a tricky one!  They can be a support network, and important. Kiara, my beautiful black lab pup (ok, 9.5 year old pup) makes every day better for me.  Spending time with her is important and I really try not to sacrifice it. 


As important as fitness is for me, I seem to have to reduce it slightly when I have so much work. Running every day is not happening while I’m working, doing my PhD thesis, marking papers, and trying to get in sleep.  The pros can be amazing – better skin, better health, clearer mind to make other choices.  In fact, I think the only con would be overdoing it and being too tired for the rest of your schedule!


Over the last couple years, I have really tried to get in enough sleep, about 7 hours.  It worked really well for awhile, but when the PhD got too intense, it suffered. This is still one of my main goals as sleeping makes working easier, despite the time cost.



Well, this one speaks for itself.  Work can mean productivity, but overwork can lead to exhaustion.  Personally, work will never leave the “top 3”. If I follow Zuckerberg’s changing the 3 every day (which for me is just too much), I suppose I could have a work-free today. On vacation, too, it would work. Otherwise, I’m sticking to centering my life around work that I love.



How To Avoid Regretting Your Choices

Now, this is a tough one! I’ll be the first to admit that Newman’s quote – the last part where she says “everyone’s mourning at least a little” for the alternative is simply true.  As much as we hope we’ve made the right choice, the other choice is always staring us in the face. 

Here are three tips I use:

1. Focus on the positive –   No matter what choices you’ve made, there’s a bright side to the one you chose. Always write down the positive.  This helps me a lot, as it’s so easy to get negative about frustrating work. For my PhD thesis, for example, I made bold, colourful posters (in marker) to post around my apartment, reminding me why  completing the PhD is such a great idea.


2. Look forward (it helps you stop looking back!) –  love goal setting and visualizing, as you probably know by now.  Creating a vision board, mapping out your future or even just closing your eyes and thinking really hard about it helps. Remember to visualize (see tips here!)


3. Remember why we started   –   That’s right, if you remember why you started the project you are prioritizing, it’ll be a whole lot easier to stick to it without regret.  Whether it’s a sleep plan, a work deadline, or even a goal to get out of the house more, it’s worth remembering your why.

If you’re looking for some great tips on how to make choices, check out my motivational post on tradeoffs.


What was your latest trade-off?  The most difficult choice you’ve had to make? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below 🙂 

Have a lovely and productive week!


P.S. Photo fans, the photo for today’s post (and poster!) is one I took in Albir in the south of Spain – it’s so beautiful by the beach!

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