Tips for Making Fewer Unneeded Decisions

In the last few days I’ve read two articles and listened to a podcast about decision fatigue. Decision fatigue is based on the idea that there is a finite number of decisions that a person can make during the course of the day. The idea is that in this age of information overload, we are so worn out by the end of the day that we use up our willpower on mundane things and have nothing left for the decisions that really count.

This parallels my own experience with Christmas shopping. I quite liked it when I was a young teenager. I enjoyed choosing thoughtful gifts that fit the recipient’s taste and personality. By the time I was in my late twenties I absolutely hated it. Christmas shopping drove me into a state of panic. Luckily, most members of my family could be accommodated in a bookshop so I pulled through. Then I had children… and when you have children not only do you have to get them gifts but you have to suggest things for other family members to get. So you resort to Amazon…

Now, I like e-commerce as much as the next person but if you really want to drain your decision making power, this is the place to do it. If you do manage to find what you want on the first try you’re still not free and clear. There is doubtless another publisher, another colour, or the same thing sold by another merchant, perhaps just a little bit cheaper. But that’s before you count the delivery. Or something.

How can not even leaving your house be so exhausting? In the end you end up getting everyone gift certificates and since they know exactly how much you value them you have to put the price-tag up pretty high. This is also to relieve any guilt you might have about not getting them a real present.

So I was eager to find a solution to this problem before the Christmas season hit and as I have this problem all year in some form or another. The solution is (hold your hat now): Make fewer decisions.

Well that’s easy. If you don’t do anything and live in the woods and don’t have internet or children. But if that doesn’t describe you here are a few small tips on automating your life so you don’t have to decide unnecessarily.

  1. Wear a uniform: Steve Jobs apparently always wore black but not everyone can get away with that. When you find something that suits you get it in a few colours and have a few pairs of solid black trousers. Get your clothes ready the night before then you have one less thing to think about in the morning.
  2. Make sure that things that come into your email inbox actually warrant your attention. Most email clients allow you to automate your emails and apply rules to them. If yours doesn’t get a new one. Learn how to do this and update the rules whenever you notice you’re not reading something or that its bothering you. You can always stuff things into folders and look at them later.
  3. Clean off your desktop. Every time you have to look for something and find something else you have to make a decision.
  4. Use bookmarks and Folders. Take a look at your browser window and see how many tabs you have open there. I usually have about 20, and that’s when I’m making an effort. How many times do you end up opening a new tab because you can’t find one you already had open? How well organised is your bookmark bar? Move things that aren’t as pertinent to bottom of the list.
  5. Use keyboard shortcuts: Experience the freedom of doing things without thinking about them at all. If you don’t know keyboard shortcuts then learn them.

And for Christmas, do yourself and everyone a favour, go ahead and get gift certificates for the adults, or get them all the same thing. Like reindeer socks. There I saved you a decision. You owe me one.