When you read the word “bracket,” what do you think of? If you are into March Madness and the NCAA college basketball tournament, you’re aware that yesterday, the top 64 (+8) men’s teams were announced. Perhaps, like me, you have already downloaded the PDF so you can follow your favorite teams and write in the scores. (I am also interested in the women’s competition and am looking forward to those teams being announced tonight.)

This post is not about basketball. I could make it about basketball because six Big Ten teams made it into the tournament, including Purdue University where I earned three degrees. The University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, where I was a professor, also made it. But this post is about something more important.

Do you have decisions to make? Or maybe your children are stuck and unable to move forward because they’re overwhelmed by the choices they need to make. Let me recommend the use of brackets like the NCAA uses.

For years, I’ve used sports brackets for making simple decisions and decisions that are more complicated. For instance, not too long ago, I was trying to decide what part of my house to clean and I realized I was wasting a lot of time by being indecisive. So, near the top of a piece of paper, I wrote “kitchen counters/cupboards.” At the bottom, I wrote “find clothes that no longer fit.” Below the kitchen comment, I wrote “sort through papers” and above the one on the bottom about my clothes, I wrote “clean the bathtub.” Under papers, I wrote “dust nativities” and below that I wrote “clean the top of the dresser.” It looked like this.

#1 – kitchen counters/cupboards
#3 – sort through papers
#5 – dust nativities
#6 – clean top of dresser
#4 – clean bathtub
#2 – find clothes that no longer fit

Now, just like the University of Wisconsin – Green Bay will compete against Texas A&M this week, the kitchen counters competes against sorting through papers and I make a decision on which of those two I am more willing to do. As you can see from my diagram below, I continued the competition until the task of “sort through papers” won.


I know young people who successfully use this system to decide who to invite to see a movie.


Couples can use this idea when they can’t agree on which restaurant to go to on a Saturday night.

Olive Garden
Red Lobster
On The Border

Homeschool parents can use this system when being indecisive about what kind of art medium to use for a project or which kind of spelling review to use. Can you picture these lists and predict the process?

The key is to always put the first thing you think of at the top, the second thing at the bottom, the third back up at the top, the fourth near the bottom, etc.

There’s one more key. When using this idea for things like cleaning, I choose among the remaining five the next time, and then four, etc. If I don’t, and I always start over with new ideas, I may never clean my bathtub!

We must stop being disappointed in ourselves when we can’t seem to make up our minds. We must stop yelling at our children when they can’t make decisions. Instead we can offer hope and help with practical suggestions. Today, I hope that my suggestion to use a sports bracket method of deciding has been helpful to you.