How to Use Brackets in Everyday Life

In honor of March Madness basketball, today I’m reposting one of my most popular posts. Think brackets are just for basketball tournaments? Prepare to revolutionize decision making in your everyday life!

We make about a million decisions every day. Should I get up or hit the snooze button? Should I eat a salad or pizza for lunch? Should I pay rent or buy those new shoes?

Wouldn’t it be great if there were a fun, easy way to help you make a decision when you have a ton of choices?

There is—say hello to brackets! (dun dun DUN!!!)

OK, so maybe the concept of brackets isn’t entirely new to you. Sports like basketball use brackets to keep track of the winning teams. After a few rounds of play, a large number of teams is narrowed down to a single winner.

I’m on a budget so I use brackets to help me decide what to buy next. Since I’m such a greedy, greedy girl (have you seen my Pinterest?), I have a list of stuff to buy that’s a mile long. Let me show you how brackets make my shopping easy.

First, I write the title of my bracket at the top of a sheet of paper (mine is “What should I buy next?”) Your title might be “Where should I go on vacation?” or “Who should I fire?” or “Which guy should I booty call?”

Next, write 16 choices down the side of the page. Brackets also work when you have 8 choices or 4 choices. Do I need to mention that this is NOT my real shopping list?

Feel free to analyze my handwriting.

Now, going 2 by 2, judge pairs of choices against each other and decide the winner of each pairing. You might be thinking, “But, Sage, if I reordered the choices then Choice #1 might beat Choice #5.” It doesn’t matter what order they appear in the list, really. Every item needs to be able to stand on its own regardless of where it’s placed.

Keep choosing the winner from each new pairing…

Until you have a final winner…

Ta-da! There’s your answer. You should buy Twizzlers, go to Maui, fire Dilbert, and hook up with Antonio.

When Chris saw my fake bracket he asked, “How did dental floss make it to the semifinals?” What can I say, I like clean teeth.

Brackets help me prioritize what’s really important and plan next steps. It’s nice to get my thoughts out of my head and onto paper so I can make a rational decision.

UPDATE, PLEASE READ: This worksheet has been moved to the Life Editor Clubhouse; however, you can still download dozens of other free resources in the Editor’s Toolkit.

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  2. Aki! on March 13, 2012 at 5:52 pm

    Definitely useful in large scope decisions, but I often have trouble deciding between two things!

  3. xvavaveganx on March 12, 2012 at 8:57 pm

    Love this post! Definitely put it to use already 😉

  4. Molly on March 12, 2012 at 2:38 pm

    Such a fun decision making tool!

    • Sage on March 12, 2012 at 4:33 pm

      Thanks, Molly! I know nothing about basketball, but I use brackets all the time.