Making decisions, even inconsequential ones, wears us down. Each day we’re faced with thousands of decisions which sap our mental energy. As the day progresses, we tire and look for shortcuts which may cause us to make suboptimal decisions, or worse to not make a decision at all (one of the causes of Mental Clutter). I chose this topic because it’s something I struggle with. If you have the same problem, here are some ways to ease decision-making and boost productivity.
1. Limit your options. This is what creates the most havoc for me. Too many choices cause me to freeze like a deer in headlights. There are endless options especially when making purchases. You can get mired down in evaluating alternatives and second-guessing decisions you’ve made. Try to limit the number of choices and once you’ve made a decision, stick with it and move on. Very few decisions are of critical importance.
2. Reduce the number of decisions. Avoid random decision-making when possible. This conserves your mental energy for the important decisions you have to make.
· Use lists - grocery store, to do lists
· Plan ahead - choose your clothes the night before, plan meals for the week
· Automate certain decisions - exercise set days of the week or time of the day
· Develop routines - what you eat for breakfast, what you wear
3. Use a decision-making process. When you’re faced with important or difficult decisions, have a method to analyze the alternatives. You can weigh pros and cons or make a decision matrix to assign importance to the various factors. This will help remove emotion and help you make an informed decision. If you’re still on the fence, trust your gut feeling which usually leads you in the right direction.
4. Make big decisions in the morning. It doesn’t matter if you’re a morning person or a night owl. Studies show that morning is always the time because we’re more thoughtful and careful in making decisions. Our will power and self-control depletes as the day progresses and we get sloppier with our choices.
5. Delegate decisions. You can reduce the number of decisions you make by giving responsibility to others where possible. Managers can delegate to their employees; parents can delegate to their children. This is not easy if you have a tendency to micromanage - you’ll have to let go of control and have confidence in others, but it’ll relieve you of some decision-making responsibility and empower those around you.
6. Let go of fear. Don’t postpone making a decision because you believe everything must be “perfect” or conversely, that the “wrong” decision is irreversible. This is rarely the case. Ruminating over a decision creates anxiety. Right or wrong, people feel a huge relief in just making the decision and don’t look back as much as one would think. If it turns out not to be the best choice, learn from it, correct course and move on. Decisions will get easier as you practice. Learn to trust yourself – your first instinct is usually the right choice for you.
The benefit of improved decision-making skills is reducing stress and overwhelm while freeing up time to focus on the important decisions and priorities in our life. I’m going to make it my goal to work on this. How about you? I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences.