Thursday, May 9, 2013

The One Pager


When my husband and I were planning our wedding, my mother and I acted as wedding planners. Mom knew my hometown options, and I managed everything else in my three-ring binder. My husband had opinions but didn't want to slog through an infinite number of invitation options, cake options, or any other options.

What he wanted was a one pager. As in: "You research the options, narrow them down, and write me a one pager summarizing them. Then I will choose."

One pager survived wedding planning and entered our marital vocabulary. Need to choose a school for our kids? Write me a one pager. Need to buy a sofa? Write me a one pager.

I'm the day-to-day detail-oriented person, and he is the big picture, long-term planning guy in this relationship. The one pager system permits me to sift through the data without responsibility for a final decision. I am paralyzed by decisions.

That's the irony of the one pager. I'm the person who really needs one. My husband is decisive, but I am completely overwhelmed by too much information. A multitude of options causes decision paralysis.

A couple years ago, we were visiting New York and wanted to order pizza. We didn't know the neighborhood and used a restaurant app to choose a place. I narrowed it by neighborhood, rating, and any other criterion I could think of and still had thirty or more potential dinner spots. While normal people would be overjoyed with the selection, I wasted an hour trying to choose among pizza joints, nearly cried from frustration, ate a granola bar, and went to bed. Really. It happened.

This also happens with paint colors, vacation destinations, and restaurants on a regular basis.

While my husband will never understand my behavior, he has had to learn to adapt. Without him, we would never go on vacation. I can't decide where to go; there's a whole world to visit. Too many options. Once we decide on a destination, I can't look for a place to stay. Too much data.

Each summer, we take the kids to the New Hampshire mountains for a few days. Each year, we wait too long to plan the trip. My husband reminds me. I do nothing. Sifting through vacation rentals and deciding on our accommodations stresses me out.

Tonight, the New Hampshire rental is tentatively booked because my husband turned the tables and sent me a one pager--an email with our short list of rentals from the previous two summers. Rather than scouring the Internet for vacation rentals, I looked at only 14 specific properties. Four are no longer listed. Three are fully booked. Of the remaining seven, I contacted four. All are still available on weeks we are free.

We solved the data overload problem, but I still can't take responsibility for the decision. I sent my husband a return one pager with the pros and cons of each rental. After more than twenty years of this nonsense, he knows that I won't make the final selection.

That's how a marriage works. You complement each other's weaknesses and fill in each other holes. You create your own system for doing things and adopt your own language to accomplish it.

Thank goodness for the one pager. I like to get out of town every now and then.


  1. Your husband sounds like my boss. It was a rough entrance into the corporate world of the law firm for me from academia because I was used to talking over decisions in committees -- in the firm my boss the CFO just wants me to do all the research (fine that's my job) and then give him a brief "one pager" in fact he'd like a "half pager" even better! Great insight on marriage though -- that is how it works. In mine I do the research too, and sometimes get decision paralysis too. (Ask me about my research into replacing my laptop!) We usually "write" the one pager and make the decision together

    1. I like that your corporate legal world is my marriage. Good to know that those associate years prepared me well for home life!

      I'm with you on the laptop/desktop debate. I need to upgrade but I keep waffling about which makes the most sense. I'm far too easily persuaded by other people's opinions on the matter.

  2. I know exactly what your talking about ..... I'm the very same too! I will happily spend hours, days even, researching the smallest of decisions -but I do not like being the one who has the responsibility of making the final decision. Gosh, sometimes I wish I was not so indecisive!