Sometimes it seems like we spend the entire day making choices.
- Get up or hit snooze?
- Dress or pants?
- Hair up or down?
- Pack lunch or eat out?
- Chicken or fish?
And those are the easy ones.
- Break up or stay together?
- Start a new business or keep the job?
- Move to a new town ... or stay?
By the end of the day, we often feel like our brains are simply worn out. Have you ever thought to yourself "if I have to make one more decision I'll explode"? But the day's not over yet; the evening has just begun.
- Out to dinner or stay in?
- Movie or Netflix?
- Call your parents or soak in the tub?
You may be suffering from decision fatigue. We as humans have a finite storage of mental energy for exerting self-control. Each decision we make depletes our ability for making further decisions without a mental break in between. It's why we make better decisions in the morning, and are less able to resist the things we love (like that big piece of chocolate cake) later in the day.
What can you do about it?
The more choices you have, the more fatigue you'll face. A closet full of clothes isn't just messy, it also creates overwhelm every time you open the doors. Simplify your life; get rid of the clutter. Keep only the things that motivate you, that stimulate you, that inspire you. The rest just gets in the way.
Two year olds have a mind of their own - you know what I mean if you've ever had one in your care. They love to make their own decisions, have control over their own situations. But if you give them too much leeway, they'll never make a decision at all. Choosing an outfit from the closet can turn into a major meltdown. That's why you give them "either, or". Wear this or that. It gives control without overwhelm.
It doesn't have to stop when you're two; why not eliminate some of the most mundane choices you make. Steve Jobs only wore black turtlenecks and jeans, and President Obama only wears gray or blue suits to eliminate decisions. If you take away simple decisions, you can spend more time making important decisions that truly impact your life in a big way.
Restructure your days
Are you the type of person that gets up and checks in? Check email? Play on Facebook? Scour your newsfeeds for the latest news? What if you spent the first couple of hours focused on your most important tasks instead? By putting your most important tasks first, you'll be the most awake and have the clearest mind for getting the most - and your best - work completed.
We're a nation of overschedulers, trying to fit an entire workweek into an eight hour day. Yet back to back meetings will not only wear you out, it will shut down your ability to make clear decisions. Instead, choose the most important thing you can do each day and schedule downtime around it. Prepare yourself to only do what's most important each day.
What's the one tempting treat you can't keep in your house or you'll eat it all the time? For me it's ice cream, so I don't keep it in the house. I never suggest going to an ice cream shop, and avoid looking at the dessert menu when I know it's an option. If I avoid it, I won't indulge in it. It makes the process easy.
Take the decision process away
Have you ever had to make the decision of whether to get up and exercise or spend another 30 minutes in bed? Guess which one wins every time? Instead of giving yourself the decision making power, put the power in someone else's hands. Sign up for a workout class three mornings a week. Or hire a personal trainer to monitor your goals. If you're held accountable, you'll do it.
There's something to be said about gut instinct. How many times have you contemplated decisions for long periods of time, only to revert back to your original decision? We've all done it. It's also a clear indication that in most circumstances, the right decision is within you almost from the start. Don't over think an issue; give yourself a fair amount of time for research and contemplation. Then choose based on what your gut is telling you to do.
Stop worrying over past decisions
You've made a decision. Now what? Was it the right decision? What if something goes wrong? Worry can be just as time consuming as making the decision itself. It can even stop you in your tracks from moving on in a positive way. If you make a decision for the right reasons, trust and let it go.
Change your actions
Think you can work 12 hour days 7 days of the week and remain sharp? Working on the same tasks in the same structure again and again leads to higher degrees of mental fatigue. Humans need creativity and variance to thrive. A walk around the park can change your mindset. So can a tai chi class, or taking up the art of French cooking. By switching gears, it gives your mind something else to focus on. That's why our best solutions often come when we're in completely different environments.
Conserve your willpower
The only way to become better at making great decisions is to give yourself the opportunity to only have the most important things face you each day. The more you can schedule things, build things into a routine, and allow others to control the non-essential parts of your day, the more time you'll have to dedicate to the things that truly matter.
The best decision makers aren't somehow smarter or better prepared; they are simply the ones that set their days up in the most efficient manner. They know when to trust themselves, and when to allow others to step in and do what they do best.