Too Many Choices

Coffee or tea? And make that beverage hot or cold? Burgundy, navy or gray bathrobe? Work a little or play an online game? English muffin, yogurt, or eggs for breakfast? Dry or wet food for Kali?

All these decisions I make within the first few minutes of getting up in the morning. They represent only a handful of the hundreds of decisions I make every day.

Deciding takes up a lot of time and mental energy.

It’s not just the black vs the white outfit or deciding what to eat at any of our 1,095 meals a year. Behind every decision, big or small, is a flash-forward look at the entire day or beyond. If I wear the black outfit today, then I won’t have it to wear tomorrow when I’m going to that thing where I need to wear black.

Can you see how making gobs of decisions snowballs into a major time suck? My head hurts just thinking of all that mental work.

It’s because of this time vortex that I became interested in the concept of making more time in my life by reducing the number of choices I need to make. (Disclaimer:  Wanting to make fewer decisions stems from a healthy load of laziness too!)

What do Mark Zuckerberg and Barak Obama have to do with this issue?

Both Zuckerberg and Obama are big proponents of minimizing decisions as a way of having more time for the more important stuff. They have accomplished downsizing a couple of ways. One of the most significant ways is in their wardrobes.

Look in Mark Zuckerberg’s closet and you’ll see that gray t-shirts and dark hoodies make up the clear majority of his wardrobe. Barack Obama’s outfit of choice – unless he’s on the golf course – is a gray or blue suit with a blue-ish tie. It’s not a signature statement they’re making; it’s not a brand identification. The reason these guys (and many other corporate types) wear the same thing day after day is because they don’t want to choose.

An interesting concept about decisions

Its been suggested by some researchers that making lots of decisions weakens our willpower.

Evidently making lots of inane decisions (more or less cream in my coffee, dish in the sink or directly in dishwasher, shower now or in ten minutes) cripples performance by not leaving sufficient energy to make the bigger decisions. In this way our willpower to rally for the more important decisions (yogurt or donut, third alcoholic drink or not, buy or lease) weakens. Each decision makes us less creative, less in control, and less focused.

So, Zuckerberg and Obama choose to make fewer inane decisions so they never have to take their eye off the fast balls of more critical decisions hurtling toward them. They have too many choices, but they realize choice isn’t always good. Having to make too many decisions leads to decision fatigue.

What to do about decision fatigue

First, you don’t have to ditch all your cool clothes for gray t-shirts. We are not, after all, titans of industry who need to conserve brain efforts and willpower.

If you’d like to save time, however, to have more oomph for the bigger things in your life, or just to live more simply, here are a couple of things you could do:

~Observe:  take a look for a day or a week at all the decisions you regularly make.
~Categorize:  see if there is a pattern to your decisions that includes a bunch
that don’t do much to enhance your life.
~ Plan: devise a plan to reduce or eliminate useless decisions:
* Take a look at some of the new concepts offering ways to pare down the
number of items in your closet(s). (I’ve been checking out this method for
emptying my five closets of clothes, but, well, truth is, I still have three
* If you eat the same breakfast every day, that’s a lot of decisions you don’t
have to make, and it helps to reduce shopping time and money.
* Develop routines wherever possible. This works especially well for me in
the morning when I can be half awake and get several things done without
a lot of thought.

Don’t be surprised if your decision to reduce choices stems from multiple desires. For me, I want to spend less money on needless clothes, and I always want to minimize time spent on choosing what to wear. It’s a goal for my retirement days to spend more time having fun and less time wasted on things that don’t matter.

Take it slow. Make it work for you. Don’t plan to be perfect at having more energy due to making fewer choices.

Play and have fun and let me know how it works for you.