The Pros of Making a Pros and Cons List

Do you ever get bogged down with little daily decisions?

Deliberating back and forth about two options takes up a lot of valuable head space that you can’t always spare.

Forget about pondering over things in your already bogged-down mind.

For easy(‘ish) decisions, nothing quite beats a good old Pros and Cons list. Don’t write it off as being too simple to work. You may be pleasantly surprised!

The next time you recognise that you’re playing a decision back and forth in your mind, whip out a piece of paper, draw a line down the middle and put the pros and cons into two columns. When one column easily outweighs the other, voila! There’s the answer.

Of course the sheer number of reasons in one column doesn’t always outweigh one major reason in another.

This is when it’s good to get clear about your values and what’s truly important to you. Decisions made from the heart usually feel better than ones made only with your head.

Last summer  I needed to make a decision about having our cats looked after while we went away for two weeks.

Our normal cat sitter wasn’t available and they’ve never gone to stay in a cattery before, so I wasn’t too keen on that option.

Our vet told me that her intern student from Austria was looking for accommodation for a month. If she stayed with us, she’d be here over the two weeks we’d be away – as well as two weeks while we were home.

The decision over whether to do this or not began playing on repeat in my mind and as the date grew closer, it was beginning to stress me out.

When I realised this was going on, I sat down and whipped up a Pros & Cons list.

Should the vet student come to live with us for one month?


Someone who loves animals to live with the cats

Free of charge

She can also water the garden / house plants and take in the mail

She can cut the clip their claws and give them their deworming tablets (Won’t have to drive them to the vet for that, which is a nightmare!)


Don’t know the foreign student (Responsible? Trustworthy?)

Having her live here for two extra weeks that we don’t need her help (What if we don’t like her??)

So the Pros list was longer, but the Cons list was meatier.

Seeing it right there in black and white made me realise what I could do.

I asked the vet for the student’s email and then contacted her. She sounded absolutely lovely in her mail and she also sent me glowing references. I immediately felt better about this option.

Then – eureka! I thought of a friend who was going away too and sending her dog to a kennel. Her family were travelling during the two weeks before we were and she leaped at the idea of having someone stay with their dog instead of kennelling her. A quick no-brainer for her.

Decision made.

The vet student went to my friend’s house for the first two weeks and ours for second. She turned out to be wonderful! We went away with complete peace of mind – and we’ve made a new friend in Austria!

Sometimes decisions come down to our core values.

Let’s look at this example.

Several years ago Christmas was coming up and I was pondering gifts for my two boys. We didn’t have any kind of games console – Wii, Playstation – nada. I’m not a fan of this stuff. Board games all the way, baby!

They were beginning to make noises about wanting a Wii as they’d played it with friends. I was feeling really torn about the whole thing.

My Pros & Cons about buying them a Wii for Christmas looked like this:


They will freakin’ love it.

It solves the dilemma of what else to get them.

Other kids their age have it. They will feel part of the crowd that can talk about this stuff.


They will freakin’ love it. (And never come off it.)

It might take them away from board games and other creative play.


I just don’t like this kind of stuff!

They can always play it at friends’ / cousins houses so need to own one.

I looked at my lists and still felt stuck. The Cons list was longer, but points one and two in the Pros list were having a strong pull. So I flipped my list over and wrote out what was going on in my head:

I feel like I’d be getting this just because it solves the problem of what to get them that they will love. I get great joy out of seeing their eyes light up on Christmas morning. I know they would be over the moon.

But… it goes against my values. I have a thing about kids and video games. I know they will eventually get one, but can they hold off for another year, play with their toys and board games, use their imagination a bit longer?

I knew in my heart what the answer was. I needed to stick to my values and re-address the issue next year. Whew – decision made!

On Christmas morning, after they’d opened (and were delighted with) their presents of board games, art supplies, puzzles and books – my husband, a twinkle in his eye, said he thought there might be one more present from Santa in the other room…..   The boys raced in to find…

A new Wii console.

It seems some decisions are just out of our hands.

Do you ponder decisions in your head? Stop that right now! Write out a Pros and Cons list to get it out of your head and onto paper.

Your busy brain has too much to process on a daily basis and you owe it to yourself to do this.

Maybe your Pros & Cons list won’t instantly solve the dilemma, but you can’t know until you try.

Share your thoughts about this. Are you a fan of Pros & Cons lists and making decisions on paper? Has this inspired you to start doing it? Is there anything you’re trying to make a decision about right now? Hash it out right in the comments below! 

Photo by By Luis Llerena

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  1. Sara on October 26, 2015 at 11:31 AM

    OK, here it goes, and I’m sure this is going to all sound very silly to others, but all weekend I’ve been deliberating over something and yes, it’s taking up too much brain space for sure. I need to just make a decision and move on.

    It’s my daughter’s birthday party next Saturday here at home. My younger daughter has been invited to a party the same day. It feels wrong for her to miss her sister’s party (they are just 18 months apart.) But she’s been struggling socially and I’m so relieved she’s been invited to a party! I’ve asked her which one she wants to go to, but I did lead her more towards choosing her sister’s party.

    Pros of letting her go to the other party:
    This may improve her social life and her self confidence
    She needs her own friends and not to live in her sister’s shadow.

    Her sister might feel hurt that she’s going to a different party
    I will have to leave our party to drive her there and pick her up. Logistically hard!
    She’ll need to bring a gift. (stupid reason, but I have such little time this week to go shopping again when I just bought everything needed)

    ok so seeing it all here in writing does help because I now see that some of these points I don’t know enough about – like I have not asked my older daughter if she would mind, maybe she wouldn’t and so that’s an invalid point until I know. And I also don’t know who else is invited to the other party so maybe I can ride share with another family. And I think the lack of a gift is silly because I can order an Amazon voucher easily.

    I now feel in a better position to get the missing details I need to make this decision (together with my girls, instead of alone in my head). Thank you Kelly! You’re right about needing to write stuff down as I can make better sense of it that way. It’s amazing how much stupid head space this has been consuming!

    • Kelly Pietrangeli on October 26, 2015 at 11:47 AM

      Excellent brain-dump Sara! It’s amazing how getting stuff out of your head and onto paper (so to speak in this case!) gives clarity. You now know what the missing pieces are to this decision. It makes good sense to speak to both of your daughters and share the decision-making process together. Too often we think we need to figure everything out on our own. Good luck! I’ll be curious to hear what you decide. xx

  2. Kate on October 26, 2015 at 11:50 AM

    It’s funny that this has come up today as just yesterday I was showing my 12 year old how to make a pros and cons list over something he was trying to decide on. I also believe in this simple technique. It doesn’t always solve the problem immediately, but it gets things moving faster than in your head for sure. 🙂

    • Kelly Pietrangeli on October 26, 2015 at 1:32 PM

      YES to the Power of the Pros & Cons List Kate!!! Great idea to share this simple problem solving technique with your child. 🙂

  3. Paola on October 26, 2015 at 1:28 PM

    It’s very funny for me too to have received this email today. I’ve been deliberating over something extremely important, it’s been in my head for the past two weeks and this morning I woke up with a big lump in my throat because I know that is time to make the decision. Then I did as you suggested Kelly, which gave me a bit more confidence on my final decision!
    Thank you

    • Kelly Pietrangeli on October 26, 2015 at 1:39 PM

      I usually recommend this for easier decisions, as I know huge life decisions can need more heavy artillery than a simple pros & cons list. HOWEVER, the process of writing down anything that requires a decision is incredibly powerful itself and brings clarity.

      A few months back my hubby and I had a HUGE decision to make over our move back to London and which schools the boys should attend. We went to a local restaurant so we could talk without the boys overhearing us. Of course I took along a notepad and pen…. I made a page for each of the three choices and we began writing our pros and cons for each one. Suddenly my hubby came up with a fourth option we hadn’t considered, which is what we ultimately went for. I really don’t know if we’d have sorted it out so easily without sitting down together (with pen and paper!) and focusing on a solution.

      Paola, I wish you nothing but the very best in your big decision and I’m glad reading this post has helped you to move forward with more confidence. xx

      • Paola on October 28, 2015 at 2:58 PM

        Thank you Kelly! The decision was made, whether is the right one only time will tell, but I feel as if a big stone has been taken away from my chest!

        • Kelly Pietrangeli on October 28, 2015 at 4:12 PM

          Whew! Good job Paola! That’s the best you could do. Now take a deep breath, let it out, and let it go. Trust that all will be ok. x

  4. […] I got proactive. First, I wrote down the Pros & Cons of each choice. Next, I closed my eyes and visualised what my daily life would look like in each […]

  5. […] proactive. I did what I do best and got it out of my head and onto paper with a good old-fashioned pros and cons list. Next, I used another potent tool: visualisation. I closed my eyes and imagined what my daily life […]

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