“If there are nine rabbits on the ground, if you want to catch one, just focus on one.” – Jack Ma
If you are like me and feel overwhelmed at times with the sheer number of decisions you have to make daily – what to wear, what project to focus on first, what to eat, when to call your client back or whether to make a big purchase now or wait until Black Friday. The list is endless!
We’ve been conditioned to believe that having more choices is a good thing – it offers us more value and we can hone in on what we really need in order to find the best option. But that is not necessarily true. How do you feel at a bakery when you’re confronted with all those delectable treats behind the glass case? Almond Chocolate Croissant or Almond Nutella Croissant? Are these two choices even necessary? Psychologist Barry Schwartz detailed in The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less, too many choices often leads to second-guessing and dissatisfaction.
“The alternative to maximizing is to be a satisficer. To satisfice is to settle for something that is good enough and not worry about the possibility that there might be something better,” writes Schwartz in his book.
Below is a Ted Talk by Schwartz in which he elaborates on some of his key tenets The Paradox of Choice. Schwartz’s believes that choice has made us not freer but more paralyzed, not happier but more dissatisfied.
Perhaps that’s why big box store Costco and grocery chain Trader Joe’s are successful. They only offer one option per item. A regular grocery store may carry around 50,000 different products, whereas Trader Joe’s has only 4,000.
Enter in Decision Fatigue – a term coined by psychologist Roy F. Baumeister, co-author of Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength.
“Making decisions uses the very same willpower that you use to say no to doughnuts, drugs, or illicit sex,” says Baumeister. “Your ability to make the right investment or hiring decision may be reduced simply because you expended some of your willpower earlier when you held your tongue in response to someone’s offensive remark or when you exerted yourself to get to the meeting on time.”
Think of your brain as a muscle, just as your body aches after an intense workout, so does your brain after a day of making 35,000 (gasp) decisions. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that by the end of the day, deciding where to go for dinner can seem more like a burden than a fun get together with loved ones.
How can you “Trader Joe’s” your life up a bit? (And no, this is not a commercial for them)
Here are 3 Simple Ways to avoid Decision Fatigue
1. Consciously make decisions that minimize further decision making
Make your decisions work for you, not the other way around. There are simple ways you can implement this, one of them is by forming a productive morning routine to get your day started on the right note. By repeating the same things over and over again, you save yourself time and the energy spent on making more decisions.
Meal Prep – Take a day off on the weekend to plan out your meals for the week, cook and store them in individual containers for quick meals at work or at home. It might feel time-consuming when you first do it, but the time that you save will absolutely make up for it.
Wardrobe – Consider getting rid of clothes you haven’t worn in 6 months. It’s so much easier picking out an outfit when you’re selecting from clothes that actually fit and that you like. Alternatively, you could take this Art Director’s approach who wore the same outfit to work for three years.
2. Stick to your decisions
If you’ve intentionally decided to do something, for example: finish a report by noon, then whatever distractions come your way, greet them with a firm NO as you stick to your previous decision. Making and sticking to a decision, not only helps you form healthy habits, but it also helps you become focused, reliable and consistent. All wonderful traits that will help you professionally, as well as in your personal life.
3. Constraints are a good thing
Now that you’ve implemented routines to cut out everyday mundane decisions, and you’re sticking to your choices – what’s the next step? Changing your mindset when it comes to constraints – time/money/knowledge. If you believe that you will only have a successful business or blog once you have more money to invest in it, or time – then you’re limiting your growth.
Constraints force you to get work done. For example, I personally only have a set amount of time that I can devote to my blog. Once the clock starts ticking, I hone in and do what needs to get done. Sometimes it’s only an hour, and that can be enough.
Constraints inspire creativity. For example, Dr. Seuss’s Green Eggs and Ham (which has sold more than 200 million copies to date) uses only 50 different words, which was part of a bet he made with Random House founder Bennett Cerf. It’s the fourth-bestselling English-language children’s hardcover book of all time. I bet Dr. Seuss (real name Theo Seuss Geisel) didn’t anticipate what a success the book would become. This formula of constraining his word options was so helpful, that he continued using it in his follow up books.
All in all, you will still have to make countless decisions. However, by following these quick tips you’ll be able to cut back on some decision fatigue and take control of your day.
Good luck and remember…
~ Persist and Grow Forth ~
What are some you use to combat decision fatigue? How do you limit time spent on making the same daily decisions and boost your productivity? I’d love to hear your thoughts, please share them in the comments below.