‘The Paradox of Choice’ written by psychologist Barry Schwartz takes a look into modern life and number of decisions we make on a daily basis. He talks about the freedom of choice we now have and how it affects us day-to-day.
My take is that our life is built around the decisions we make. Not just the big ones, like what to study, what career to follow etc. but each and every little decision too. If we choose to sleep a little longer one morning we are likely to do so again. A few of these, seemingly insignificant, choices later and we have developed a habit. It works in both positive and negative ways. We have to choose to set ourselves up to make positive choices and build positive habits.
On any given day we make hundreds of decisions. When to get up, what to eat, what to wear, how to respond to someone and so on. The character Raymond Tusk on the show House of Cards goes to his office where he sits all day, answers the phone and decides yes or no. This is an extreme version of what we might face but it is an interesting depiction of modern business life (and life as a whole).
The problem with having to make hundreds of decisions each day is that we suffer for it. Decision fatigue is a very real thing, each choice made takes up a little more of our mental energy. After a long day, the decisions we make deteriorate. That’s why we order takeout when we get home instead of cooking like we planned.
The best method of combatting this fatigue is by having systems. Systems can seem like a very stuffy and business-like way of approaching our life but it can help us get more out of a day. There are of course, notable examples of these systems in play with public figures. Most notably, Mark Zuckerberg wearing the same outfit every day (something Barack Obama also does). By not having to think about what to wear each morning, one fewer decision has to be made. Tim Ferriss recommends a similar idea when sticking to a diet. He suggests eating the same pre-planned meals over and over. No decision to make means we are less likely to stray from the diet.
So food and clothing decisions can be automated. The same could be done for grocery shopping (if you know what you are eating every meal you can buy it all online and have it delivered weekly or fortnightly). I am sure there are other choices in your life that you could create a system for. It’s all about experimenting and finding out what works for you. If you are trying to create or build something, removing these little daily decisions can go a long way.
I am personally experimenting with some ideas around this and am very interested to see how it goes. I know my life today is due to the decisions I have made for the last 26 years and that my future is built upon the decisions I make today. I want to make better decisions, choices that line up with my values and goals. In order to do so, I need to avoid the fatigue that comes with the little daily decisions.