39 - How to know when to stop gathering evidence



By now you would know that the 2X2 decision matrix is really a prioritization tool. Its point is to help you strip down what’s on your mind to the most essential.

Imagine you do that. You make the smaller decisions as soon as possible and are willing to wait until as late as possible for the consequential-irreversible decision. You may be wondering: How do I now know when it’s time to act on the information I have and not wait any more? How can I avoid being too late?

I’ve learned a simple shortcut from the Decision by Design course from Shane Parrish from Farnam Street that helps me time a big decision. It’s called STOP, FLOP, or KNOW.

It’s time to decide:

When you STOP gathering useful information

When you First Lose an OPportunity

When you have gathered a piece of evidence that you just KNOW makes the choice clear


If you’ve held onto a job or a relationship for too long, you would know that there’s a point beyond which new information yields diminishing returns. Research shows that beyond a point you tend to cherry-pick information that supports what you want to happen (confirmation bias). You feel twice as confident but are not any more accurate with the additional information. That’s risky if you think of your big decision as a consequential-irreversible bet.


You wait on a big decision because competing options could be equally compelling and you want to look for evidence that sets them apart. But when you lose an opportunity while holding out, consider that you have activated the tripwire for action. Waiting further is counterproductive. You are losing birds in the bush and you’ve nothing in hand.


Sometimes a critical piece of information that you’ve gathered confirms your decision. It is the clincher. It leads to an ‘Aha’ moment. It clarifies all doubts.

While waiting to make an irreversible-consequential decision, you’re trying to reduce uncertainty. You could find that process agonizing and jump too early, or you could be obsessed with finding certainty and never jump. Knowing the markers in advance primes you to look out for them and be ready to jump when the moment arrives. This is a welcome relief from the endless back-and-forth that you may be forced into without these markers.

Once you have collected evidence and made up your mind, give yourself some distance before deciding. Emotions create false urgencies. Like online retailers that show a dwindling stock counter, our minds too can push us into action by a sense of scarcity or by pure excitement. When you find yourself in the midst of emotions, it’s a good idea to take a step back.

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