Our capacity to make well thought-out decisions is finite.
So here’s how to make better choices by eliminating ‘decision fatigue’:
Every day we all have to make literally hundreds of decisions. Some of them tough and important, others simple and mundane. From what to have for breakfast and which clothes to wear, through to whether or not to call at the gym on the way home or pick up a pizza. I know, which I’d choose. And in between there are countless decisions to be made at work too. But here’s the problem. Studies show that our capacity to consistently make well thought-out decisions is finite. So if you use too much brainpower early in the day, your decision making in the evening will suffer. Hence the late night you didn’t plan, the one too many drinks you consumed, and the strange bed you woke up in the next day.
Psychologists call it ‘decision fatigue’ and it explains why normally sensible people occasionally spend money on things they don’t really want, buy junk food they don’t really need, and try to squeeze into clothes that no longer fit. What’s more, unlike physical fatigue, we’re not consciously aware of being low on mental energy and willpower. It’s no coincidence that politicians and business leaders reduce the amount of decisions they have to make by wearing the same outfit day in and day out. For example, Theresa May grew out of that trouser and jacket suit years ago but she keeps on wearing it. President Trump almost always wears a patriotic blue suit, white shirt and red tie. And Steve Jobs habitually wore the same black turtleneck, blue jeans and New Balance sneakers every day. It’s one less thing to think about.
So how do you conserve your mental power for the important decisions throughout the day? Firstly, learn to ‘automate’ the trivial ones like what to wear and what to eat. Find an outfit that’s comfortable and suits you and buy multiple quantities in different styles. Then essentially wear the same thing every day. Personally I stick to blue. I also stick to anything that’s really sticky.
One of the interesting things about living and working in Australia in February and March every year is that I have to limit what I bring with me. So I have one blue suit ands three white shirts for work. No decisions to make. The commute into Circular Quay is pretty good too.
Another tip is to do your grocery shopping at the same time and make sure you’re not hungry when you do it.
Next, try to exercise at regular times during the week and make it part of your schedule rather than using up brainpower trying to work out when to fit it in. Six press ups every morning and six at night is my regime. It doesn’t work but at least I’m regular.
Finally, allocate your ‘best time’ to do the most important things in your life. Like spending more time with the family.
Ideally, your own.
Experts say that we can probably automate and eliminate about 80% of the decisions we have to make each day. That leaves you fresh, alert and clear headed to make the right decision for the other 20% that really matter. So all you have to do now is decide when to start.