35,000 decisions per day. Let that sink in for a moment. On average, adults make 35,000 decisions per day. I’m getting a headache just thinking about it. Decisions like what to wear, what to eat, which way to drive to work. No matter how small or large, decisions take up bandwidth in our brains. And just like the internet when the bandwidth gets taken up by useless stuff, our decision-making can slow down our effectiveness at work, in relationships, basically in every facet of our lives.
What to do about it (there’s another decision!)? I’ll play Marie Kondo of your brain and tell you to tidy up and declutter your decision-making process. It’s easier than you think.
First, habits are the superheroes in the fight against overly aggressive decision-making responsibilities. Get into some routines where you don’t even have to think about what to do next, your body moving in autopilot. Your morning ablutions are a good example; you mindlessly step into the shower upon rising. Do you agonize over which soap to use? Nope, it’s right there for you, you just reach up and lather up. So, knock several dozen decisions off your list for the day following your normal bathroom routine. Taking the same route to work at the same time each day saves having to think too hard about which direction to take. Grabbing the same coffee at your favorite Starbucks and going to the same place for lunch each day relieves your overtaxed brain of more decision-making tasks.
Next, lists are a fantastic weapon against too many decisions. If you are a reader of my blog, you know I worship the humble To Do list, like it is air. Or water. Or peanut butter pie. Make use of this low-tech and handy tool to plan out your day, week, month, life. Watch decisions on what to do next fade away into insignificance against the power of dealing with what is on your list of things to do.
How about the “phone a friend” trick if you have a complex or time-consuming decision to make? Ask around, look on the internet, check out social media, or just ask a trusted companion what he or she thinks you ought to do. Be careful not to end up in the deadly spiral of paralysis analysis though, you might never escape to make another decision.
Finally, deploy a massive filter in some of your other decision-making responsibilities. If we had to consider the entire universe of options for every pen, box of cereal or paint color, we would be like zombies, lurching from egg shell to mayonnaise to song of summer every time we needed to choose an off-white shade of wall covering. Just say no to too many options. When I bought my first house as a no-little twenty-something and discovered the limitless paint colors available, I just said eff it, I’m painting every wall in my house white, and be done with it. I mean white. Not Navajo white. Not pearl white. Not even angel white. Just plain, garden variety white. Done and done. Did my house win any awards? Nope. Was I able to maintain my sanity throughout the zillion other decisions moving into a new house entails? Yup.
Bonus: once you are old, um, sorry, more experienced, like I am, and more and more decisions become rote and thus easier, you are able to free up some brain bandwidth and spend a little extra time making choices. For instance, I just painted a room Dorian Gray.
Here’s a song about having too many choices: