The simple decision to make less decisions, can be a big stress-reliever in your life. Have you ever considered how much time and mental energy is spent on making everyday decisions?
"Should I go out for lunch today, or bring a lunch from home?" Then, you have to weigh the pros and cons...
"If I bring a lunch it will be healthier, and cheaper, than going out to eat. But going out is much easier, and will save me time."
"I have so much work to do, where should I start?"
"I should start on the writing. That will take the most time, so I will get it done first. But I could do the social media updates, it will only take a minute. Then I'll tackle the editing. Or, maybe the editing first, since it will take the most mental focus."
These internal dialogues take time. And, they take mental energy. This time and mental energy steals away our focus on the task at hand. Focusing on the decision-making process, and analyzing what we're going to do each day, will take away from our overall productivity. When we become mentally worn, it can be a result of decision fatigue.
Decision fatigue is a thing
Decision fatigue is a newly discovered phenomenon, that explains that humans are limited in our mental ability to make clear decisions. This excerpt, from the New York Times Magazine, explains how decision fatigue affects humans: "Decision fatigue helps explain why ordinarily sensible people get angry at colleagues and families, splurge on clothes, buy junk food at the supermarket and can’t resist the dealer’s offer to rustproof their new car. No matter how rational and high-minded you try to be, you can’t make decision after decision without paying a biological price. It’s different from ordinary physical fatigue — you’re not consciously aware of being tired — but you’re low on mental energy. The more choices you make throughout the day, the harder each one becomes for your brain, and eventually it looks for shortcuts, usually in either of two very different ways. One shortcut is to become reckless: to act impulsively instead of expending the energy to first think through the consequences. (Sure, tweet that photo! What could go wrong?) The other shortcut is the ultimate energy saver: do nothing. Instead of agonizing over decisions, avoid any choice."
One way to combat decision fatigue is to lessen the number of options we give ourselves, therefore lessening the number of decisions we must make.
Example 1: "Everyday this week, I am bringing my lunch to work."
Example 2: "I will plan my work day the night before, so I don't have to wonder where to start."
The good news is that you can greatly simplify your life by eliminating day-long decision-making. Making your decisions beforehand, and predetermining what you will do, and how you will do it, eliminates the unnecessary stress associated with making successive decisions. Marie Forleo describes how making less decisions gives you more freedom.
Wouldn't life be easier if you had already decided on how to approach situations?
Hasty decision-making can lead to situations where you overspend, overindulge, and waste time. Deciding on your budget, your dietary goals, and your schedule, can give you clarity. Limiting your choices will help relieve the mental energy it takes to make a decision.
Spend the next few days observing your habits, and how your decision-making hinders or helps your overall productivity.
What areas of your life take up the most decision-making energy? Where do you have too many options?
Maybe you will find that you spend a lot of money eating out, or making impulse buys. Or, maybe you'll discover how much energy you put into deciding what to eat for dinner.
The next step is to determine where you can eliminate excess options, subsequently eliminating the need to make decisions on the spot. For example: for the next two weeks, I will give myself two hundred dollars to spend on needs. Or, for the next two weeks, I will not go out shopping so I can eliminate impulsive buys. Eliminating options can dramatically decrease the time and energy spent on making those choices.
What areas of your life could afford to lose some options? Share your thoughts on how decision-making hinders or helps your life in the comments below!