Partition time and money to unhook yourself from bad choices

We think we’ve self-control in spades. We think we’re not the type to throw good money after bad. Not the type to continue with something doomed just because we’ve started it.

But hand us a jar of cookies, and we plonk ourselves on the couch and wolf them down in one sitting.

This problem of autopilot isn’t limited to our cookie consumption. We lack pause more than we care to admit.

On top of that, we hate to admit failure. Especially if we’re known to be any good at what we do. Success raises the stakes for failure.

💡What we lack–and perhaps hate to admit so–is partitions. Partitions set boundaries, stopping us from slipping into autopilot. They make it possible for us to change course.

Investors don’t pump in money all at once into projects they believe in. They separate their investments across rounds and make each contingent on specific milestones being hit.

Actor Gene Hackman tells the story of actor Dustin Hoffman asking him for money back when both were struggling actors in Los Angeles. Upon visiting Hoffman’s house, Hackman finds several jars labeled rent, electricity, and so on. Only the one marked food is empty. Turns out Hoffman understood the value of partitions.

How can you use partitions?

👉If a newly launched service has stalled, set a time or resource budget to prove it has got business potential. If a turnaround doesn’t arrive, drop the project. Don’t be daunted by the culture of success you see around you. They’re all faking it.

👉If you fear a relationship is going nowhere, give yourself a window to make or get a commitment. Sometimes, it’s better to quit than to persist.

👉If you happen to be around dessert after eight, don’t pick up a spoon. Stick to your rule.

Time is fungible, so is money. But they give vastly different returns depending on where you invest them. Creating partitions ensures you don’t throw good money (or time) after bad.

Partitions may remind us of failure. Or, sometimes as bad, make us examine success (what if we find it was a fluke?). But remember that they can save us from living the consequences of decisions that are past their use-by date.

It is better to be short-term wrong and long-term right than the other way round.



I write about decision-making, mental models, and better thinking and things in between

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Satyajit Rout

I write about decision-making, mental models, and better thinking and things in between