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rules of thumb to help simplify your decisions.

“Razors” are rules of thumb to help simplify your decisions.

Here are some of my favorite razors: 

• Occam’s Razor

The easiest answer is often the right answer.

Don’t complicate your thinking when you don’t need to.

If you hear a meowing sound under the sofa, it’s probably the cat, not a hidden speaker playing cat sounds. 

• Hanlon’s Razor

Don’t attribute to malice what you can attribute to stupidity.

If your little brother colors on your homework, it’s probably not because he hates you.

It’s more likely he didn’t know how important your homework was. 

• Sagan’s Razor

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

The weight of proof rests with the person making a claim, and the more unusual the assertion, the more substantial the evidence needed.

You should ask for solid proof if someone says they saw a unicorn. 

• Parkinson’s Law

Work expands to fill the time available for its completion.

Setting tighter deadlines gets tasks done more quickly and efficiently.

If you have one day to clean your room, it will take one day. You’ll probably get it done in one hour if you have one hour. 

• Hofstadter’s Law

In contradiction to Parkinson’s Law, this one says things usually take longer than we think.

If you think you’ll finish your homework in an hour, it might actually take two hours.

Often, the last 10% of a task takes as much time as the first 90% did. 

• Anchoring Bias

The first thing you learn or see (the “anchor”) influences what you think next. 

Like guessing a jar has 30 candies because the first person guessed 25, when there really are 100. 

• Pareto Principle

80% of your results will come from 20% of your efforts.

For example, you’ll get 80% of your kid’s room clean by just picking up the toys. 


• Eisenhower’s Matrix

Dwight Eisenhower was the definition of PRODUCTIVE and once said:

“I have two kinds of problems, the urgent and the important. The urgent are not important, and the important are never urgent.”

Stephen Covey repackaged it as the Eisenhower Matrix: 

• Dunning-Kruger Effect

Unskilled Individuals overestimate their ability and experts underestimate their ability. 

When you first learn something, you may think you’re an expert even though you’re not.

Like all the people online who become “experts” on every topic of the day. 

• Gall’s Law

A complex system that works is invariably found to have evolved from a simple system that worked.

Great things start simple, like learning to crawl before you walk and then run. 

• Sayre’s Law

People often argue the most about things that matter the least. 

Spend enough time on Twitter and this one becomes obvious. 

• The Halo Effect

When you like one thing about someone, you start to think everything about them is good. 

This one can be a challenge for people who become very good in one area of life and automatically think they’re great in other areas. 

• The Law of Ruin

The longer you play a game of chance, the more likely you are to lose everything. 

If you keep betting everything on black, you’ll eventually lose. 

• Law of Triviality 

People spend a lot of time on small details but ignore the big things. 

Like worrying about optimizing your processes and systems all day instead of just getting shit done. 

• Sunk Cost Fallacy

You keep doing something because you’ve already spent time or money on it. 

Like eating more dessert even when you’re full because you paid for it. 

• Hawthorne Effect

When people know they’re being watched, they work harder. 

Like cleaning your room faster when your mom is watching.

When you want to perform at your best, set up a friend to work side by side with you to keep you accountable. 

• Chesterton’s Fence

Don’t change something until you understand why it’s there. 

Don’t take down a fence in your yard until you learn what it’s keeping out. 

• The Streisand Effect

When you try to hide something, it often gets more attention. 

If you spill juice and hide it with a rug, people will probably notice the rug and find the spill.

When you censor someone, you actually highlight them. 

This has been a “cheat sheet” to share some of my favorite razors with you to simplify your decisions.

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