This post was originally published on December 11, 2018, and updated most recently on July 26, 2020.
Flowcharts are a great way to distill big questions or complex processes into neat yes/no answers.
They’re commonly used in organizations to help visualize decision processes, but that doesn’t mean they should be confined to the office: flowcharts can actually help you navigate a multitude of big life choices.
For example, should you eat that slice of pizza you dropped on the floor? There’s a flowchart for that. Should you add an emoji to that email? Consult the flowchart! Should you leave the party early? Flowchart.
Is this a flow chart?
First of all, here’s an essential flowchart for anyone who’s still a little fuzzy about the concept. This one’s jazzed up the original ‘yes/no’ questions with slightly different phrases, but they’re still affirmative/negative responses leading you towards your big reveal.
Is this a flowchart, simplified
It’s the same idea, but if you remove all the unnecessary steps, you could end up with a flowchart as simple as this one.
Do you need a flowchart?
Next, you need to decide whether a flowchart is right for you. Of course, there’s a flowchart to help you navigate that question as well.
Here’s an example of a looping flowchart, which is designed to help you remember the lyrics to The Beatles’ most confusing song, Hey Jude. The loop comes at the bottom in the form of the ‘na’ lyric, which, if you know the song, goes on for hours. For those unfamiliar with the tune, you can listen to it right here on YouTube. All together now!
Is this flowchart a trap?
Flowcharts aren’t without their problems: all those arrows and loops could be your downfall if you’re not vigilant. Here’s a specially-designed diagram to illustrate these potential pitfalls.
Are you hungry?
Deciding what it is you want to eat is no easy task. Do you choose the carrot sticks or chow down on the carrot cake? Luckily, there’s a flowchart designed to help you navigate this complex decision-making process.
Now you know what to do with those leftover birthday treats sitting in the office kitchen.
Should you get takeaway?
Reaching a decision at the end of a long day can be difficult, which is why a dinner-based flowchart is all the more useful. Should you roll up your sleeves and start cooking dinner or splash out on a takeaway? Check the flowchart!
Should you stay?
After-work drinks. Networking. Team socials. Like accidentally hitting ‘reply all’ and tripping over in public, attending some kind of career-based group activity is just one of those things that professionals have to do at least once in their working lives. Some people enjoy it. Others are indifferent. And then there are those who would quite literally rather have both their eyebrows waxed off.
It’s not that they don’t like their colleagues, it’s just that they find large groups of people exhausting. Not only is the small-talk and mingling tiring; the event itself is fraught with complex decisions. For example, when and why should you leave?
Here’s a helpful flowchart for socially anxious individuals who find themselves in this predicament.
Do I say ‘hi’?
Getting someone’s name wrong is awkward for everyone involved. So rather than put you both through the trauma of it, let’s take a step back and consider whether you should be saying ‘hi’ in the first place. Here’s a handy flowchart full of probing questions designed to help you make that initial decision.
Do you eat it?
Ever heard of the five-second rule? It’s essentially a very accurate scientific formula that determines whether the food you’ve dropped on the floor is safe to eat. If it was there for five seconds or less, then it’s good to eat. Six seconds or more? Bin it.
But, like many scientific processes, the five-second rule isn’t without its limitations. For example, was the event witnessed by anyone who is likely to be disgusted by the sight of you eating floor food? Was the item sticky and therefore likely to have fluff attached to it? Did the cat lick it? The flowchart below takes all these important complexities into consideration.
Are you sure you can eat it?
Flowcharts can be as simple or as detailed as you like. The example below expands upon the five-second rule by adding more layers of questioning to the process. It takes a little longer to create (and answer), but the outcome will be more considered.
Should I use emoji?
One of life’s great questions: to emoji, or not to emoji? Use one and risk appearing unprofessional. Don’t use one and risk sounding grumpy, sarcastic, or stuffy. It’s a minefield! Luckily, there’s a way to help you decode emoji etiquette.
How do engineers fix a problem?
We don’t all have the passion or mathematic skills to go to engineering school. But, that doesn’t mean life isnt going to throw you some engineering problems. Here’s how to start get fixing like a professional.
Are you a horse?
Flowcharts can also help you get to know yourself a bit better. Like this example, which is designed to help you work out whether you’re a horse or not. Go on, give it a go. You never know!
Do you have too many pets?
Now that you’ve figured out you’re not a horse… is it possible you have too many cats at home? Here’s a quick and easy way to find out. Of course, answers are subjective.
Flowcharts are a great way to simplify the decision-making process. Whether you have serious business goals, or just fancy making a funny flowchart for you and your team, using a specially-designed diagramming tool can help keep things easy, while a mixture of different colors and shapes keeps things looking clear and fun.