I think I learned about the "decision stick" concept from Rory Miller and Kris Wilder, at any rate the idea is that instead of a decision tree with multiple choices, you have a "stick" that goes in one direction, simple, minimal higher brain function required.
I realized that my decision stick for Kata application works like this, and goes in either direction depending on need, and what we are forced to do, with each successive range/environment being less desirable (although arguably neccessary to know) for self-defense as you get down the stick.
pre emptive striking/ usually free movement range > flinch reaction/cover to "husband and wife hand" striking with tactile information <> "clinch" range striking <> vertical grappling/imblance/throw/knockdown <> groundwork with the purpose of regaining feet.
You can do this same mapping for any art, for instance if it were Judo it might be grips>entry>nage>newaza>shime waza>osaekomi etc. Although maybe that shows my limited time in Judo, you get the idea.
I try to apply this in my study and practice of application in the sense that something like a "clinch" range bunkai - willingly tying up with and opponent in something akin to a Thai/wrestling clinch etc. is a place I don't want to be unless I must, so it is down the "stick" from the previous choices - a product of neccessity, not choice. This seems to help conextualize what is a primary application vs. a secondary one both in terms of putting together a curriculum, as well as making sure that strategy dictates tactics when pressure testing. I could squeeze locks and holds in here, but for me they are not primary applications, are low percentage and are applied opportunistically in the clinch and vertical grappling range, they can lead to ground technique but I personally think joint locks (especially) on the ground serve very little purpose in self defense, though it's good to have working knowledge of them of course.