Diagrams to live your life by

by Sam Collett
As part of our Practically Academy Sam shared a whole series of diagrams that help in the strategy work that he does, and beyond.
May 16, 2024

Updated and added to for 2023. This post is a collection of diagrams and methodologies collected over the years, used in teaching and in business. Learn about the curve of learning, the best strategic model we employ, why deadlines are useful, why we all need an alter-ego, and how we ask how are you today? Art and animations by Agate.

Part #1

Business Diagrams


Understand the problem.

What is the brief? How are you going to tackle it

When to use?

Any marketing situation when you need to start, or check you are doing the right thing

4xPs of Marketing

Get the right product, in the right place, at the right price at the right time.

Have you got the right thing to sell?

When to use?

At the start of thinking about how to sell a product or even make one in the first place.
Think holistically on the problem.

SWOT Analysis

Know your strengths – think about the future

What are you good at?

When to use?

Business planning. Startups especially

Consequence Models

Consequence model #1

To do is often equivalent to not doing.

Consequence Models

Consequence model #2

What is the least worse decision?


To do or not to do.

When to use?

When deciding to do a task ahead of signoff. To work out whether you need to make that investment or even back up system.

A really useful tip to work out when to start projects and how far to continue. Thank you to my old Geography teacher who taught these ones.


20/80 Model

20% hold the key

Long Tail Model

What the web was built for?



20% is your target, the rest is “long tail”

When to use?

In countless examples, from SEO, to bugs, to product sales, to influencers its always the 20% “mass” that really matter.


Decision Timeline

Problems generally start at the beginning. Know your strengths – think about the future.

The more a project goes on the more fine-grained the decisions are with regards to consequences

When to use?

Just keep in mind that your decisions have different impacts at key times. Sort of obvious but a model none the less.



Keep It Simple Stupid


When in business, UX, design and especially with developing code. Go with simple.

When to use?



The Swiss cheese Model

You cannot stop every bad thing happening


We have built around ourselves many checks and safeguards. All have holes – some more than others. On a really bad day those holes line up and you have a disaster on your hands.

When to use?

Protect yourself with multiple layers of protection – especially when it comes to backups!


Business Canvas Model

When your business or business idea gets stuck.


A map of your business functions and inputs. Draw it large on the whiteboard. See if your idea or plan is viable and see where the gaps in knowledge, revenue or flow need help.

When to use?

For startups or any company looking to grow. Does your business plan stack up? What are the areas of weakness?

This version is downloaded from Wkipedia. The original attribution is non functioning. There are other versions.


Part #2


What to do first?

Get your priorities sorted

Do this now or later?

When to use?

Evaluate every task.


Parkinson’s Law

Tasks spread to match available time.

If a task has 2 hours it will take 2 hours. If you have 2 weeks it will take 2 weeks.

When to use?

Planning and action. Shorter timelines are often better and more focused. Longer timelines end up being shorter as you put off the tasks. Short, sharp, focused but finite tasks work better. See also SPRINTS.


Collett’s Law

“No good can come of a phone call after 5pm on Friday.”


Turn your phone off. Go have a drink. If someone has left it that late you are last on their list, or whatever it is needs some more planning or thinking.

Or for you younger folks, the Gremlin Law. No good decisions are made post 12 midnight.


Curve of Learning

(In teaching) At a given point, you are ready to go out into the world.

At a point in time you are trained enough to be a [insert job title here]

When to use?

When learning new things.

In university we are aiming for somewhere between the end of year 2 and 3. Some students are ready for the big wide world before others.


Choice vs happiness paradox

Too many choices equals confusion.

Monkeys and Bananas

Even one choice equals confusion.

Especially in UX design any choice, even if just two buttons or items slows you down.

When to use?

Especially when creating a walkthrough or flow, like a booking engine or shop. Make choices for the user for them to confirm, or highlight a recommended choice.

The Diderot Effect

In our house, known as the “French Dressing gown dude”.

When you buy a shiny new thing, then you are happy for a short while, until you notice that all around you is old. The cult of capitalism laid bare.

Gell Mann Paradox

You are an expert in your field. You read an article on that field written by a journalist. You can tell that a percentage of the article isn’t quite right. 

Therefore the rest of the articles are also not quite right.

Check your sources and be careful of what you read.

The Gift Matrix

What to give to whom

Four Columns

How is life?

Family, Work, Health, Friends.
How much effort are you putting into each?
How are they doing? How is your balance?


When to use?

When judging your life, when seeking what is important and most of all when someone asks “How are you?” 

I thank David Gross for this one. I use this most weeks.






Self explanatory, and a difficult thing when you are trying to earn a living. No one regrets on their death bed not finishing that email. Go hug your family.

Love yourself

You are going to spend an awful lot of time with yourself. Slightly depressing but also liberating.

This last one is not our diagram, see the full graph


References & More

Most of the diagrams above come from The Decision Book – I urge you to buy it.

Update: I also urge you to visit Laws of UX for a whole wealth of diagrams (and then look at the wonderful Jon Yablonski who designed it)
And also to read Danny Dorling’s SLOWDOWN, and also examine some of his amazing graphs mapping change. Try this on your client or your organisation to map change.

It should also go without saying anything from the Information is Beautiful team led by David McCandless.