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Are You Sick and Tired of Making Decisions and How to Fix It

Holy shit. I make decisions all day long. Sometimes, I just don’t want to decide on what needs to be done, where to go, or what we will have for dinner. I really want to make life easier by reducing the number of decisions to be made on a daily basis.

If you are in a similar boat, this article is for you.

Do you Have a Love-Hate Relationship with Decision Making too?

Being tired of making decisions is a pretty common problem. However, I’m not certain people actually view it as a problem they have.

Making decisions utilizies mental energy. As we have to make decision after decision, we begin experiencing mental fatigue.

Do you have problems with decision fatigue?

Here’s why I don’t think people realize making decisions is actually their problem — We identify other pain-points as the source of our issues, frustrations, and overwhelm.

For example, you don’t want to make dinner. Is it that you don’t want to make dinner? Really, you may not want to make the decision about what to eat. (Ok, actually making dinner might be part of the problem, but avoiding making the decision is also in there).

TRUE STORY

As a dietitian, the most common request I received from people was for a meal plan.

Why? Well, they didn’t want to think about what to eat everyday. Their belief, if everything they needed to eat was spelled out for them, they were certain life would be easier.

Kristi Coughlin, MS, RDN

Despite the constant request for meal plans, it was something I was highly resistant to creating for people. But, I guess we will have to save that thought for another conversation. For now, we will leave it at: I knew a meal plan would not solve their problems.

Anyway, I could go on and on about all sorts of examples why decision making is actually the true pain-point, but for timesake, we will leave it at that. If you don’t currently recognize it as your problem, maybe this article will help you create awareness.

Make A Choice — Decisions, Decisions

Every single day, we are faced with hundreds (or thousands?) of decisions. No, I swear that is not an exaggerations. But, sometimes it does feel like we make millions of choices in a single day. 

Here is a massively abbreviated list of some of the choices we make on a daily basis:

  • What am I going to wear today?
  • Should I do my hair? Or, take the quick way out and put it in a ponytail?
  • Which direction am I going to drive to/from my appointments today? Hopefully traffic won’t complicate this matter and result in more choices.
  • Do I need to stop at the grocery store? Do we have everything we need for lunches tomorrow?
  • Should I get gas before or after work? Do I have enough time to do it before work? (Warning: There is NEVER enough time to do it before work!)
  • Would it fit my schedule better to run errands today or tomorrow?
  • Do I need to make dinner or will tonight be take out? Can I make dinner and use the left overs for another dish later this week, like chicken tonight and leftovers are served over pasta later this week?
  • Which take out place should I go to? Will everyone like that place? Will it take too long to drive there and back? Or, will the food be ready quickly? Are they even open today? The hours of places have changed so much lately.
  • Laundry needs to be done, should I throw it in right now? Or, will I forget to change it over before bed because it is late?
  • Do I have enough time to get in a quick workout after work or before dinner? If I don’t do it today, will there be another opportunity this week to workout?
  • Who’s going to pick up the kids from school today? Do I have to drop them off tomorrow? Or can my partner do that?
  • The bills need to be paid soon, do I need to transfer money to my checking account? Or, will there be enough. Wait, if I order take out tonight, will there be enough money in that account to cover bills and takeout?
  • Should I keep this subscription? Or cancel it because we don’t use it often enough? Will my kids be upset if I cancel it? Is there something else I should cancel instead? Or keep it until after Winter break so they have it for when they are off school?

These are just a few examples of the decisions I personally have made today and it isn’t even lunch time yet. The list of decisions on a daily basis can be seriously unending.

Confession: Sometimes things on my to do list go unaddressed not because I don’t have the willpower to get it done. Rather, I just don’t want to make anymore choices. By hiding from the task, I temporarily combat decision fatigure. But, avoidance is not something I recommend… it just makes the problem worse.

Making Important Decisions More Difficult

What can make decision fatigue even more exhausting? Having to make decisions for other people and/or groups. Not only is there the decision to be made, but then the different scenarios, concerns, objections, and so much more that need to be considered when taking others into consideration.

Tell me, have you ever sat in a meeting that was supposed to be all about making decisions, only to walk away with more questions than when you first walked into the room?

Uh, yea. I have been in way to many meetings like that over the years. Since no decisions were made, the meeting could have been an email… right?!

The Survivor Effect of Group Decisions

My husband used to watch the TV show Survivor religiously. If there was a trivia show about all the different seasons of Survivor, he would be like Ken Jennings of Jeopardy.

As each season would start, my husband would caution the contestants as they stepped forward to make decisions for the group. He’d tell them, “The person to take control of the situation and tell other people what to do will get voted off! They never make it to the end of the show.”

It kinda became a running joke in our house — Don’t be the person to speak up first, it is a Survivor death sentence. I kinda want to call it the curse of the decision maker. LOL

Long before I met my husband and learned of his Survivor theory, I went to Disneyland with my classmates for Grad Night. On the last night of school, all the seniors piled into buses and made the drive to Anaheim where we descended on the land of Mickey after hours with all the other local high schools. Talk about a fun concept for teenagers! Well, in theory.

A Story of My Group Decision Making Troubles — The Curse of the Decision Maker

As we walked up to Disneyland on Grad Night, a large group of us decided we would go on rides together. It was going to be an epic night of rollercoasters, good food, and fun time with friends.

Or, so I naively thought. 

Full disclosure, I can’t stand wasting time. Especially when you are on a time crunch at a place that has endless things to do.

As we started to zig-zag across the amusement park, I spoke up.

Based on the foreshadowing above, you should know what is about to happen. This was not going to end well.

As the group started to weigh the different options for tackling our Disney adventure, it was not met with the most amount of logical thinking. For example, we just got off Space Mountain. If you are familiar with Disneyland, you know that Space Mountain is in Tomorrow Land.

When someone suggests to Splash Mountain, well… we would be passing a whole lot of rides on the way and waste a lot of time walking. We should at least stop and ride Indiana Jones or Pirates of the Caribbean on the way. At the very least, pick up a Fast Pass for one of them!

Yep, you guessed it. I stepped up to help the group make a final decision. And, that decision was met with logic, not the idea origianlly presented by the favorite (read, most popular) person in the group.

Uh, why would I think that listening to the most popular person in the group would take precedences over maximizing our rollercoaster ridings adventure? Doesn’t everyone want to get as much out of our trip as possible? Apparently that is not the case.

In true Survivor fashion, the person to step up first to help the group make a decision gets blindsided. My decision to HELP the group optimize their time at Disneyland made me public enemy #1.

Ok, here’s where I am going with this: Someone needs to make the final decision. And, we need to stop giving the final decision makers so much shit!! Unless you want to step up and take charge – Shut it. Haha, not really. Though, I would love it if I had the balls to say that in real life!

Wait… here is the real point I’m trying to make with all of this….

Group decisions are often complicated by weighing the opinions of many people. And, depending on the situation, sometimes you just don’t want to be the person that steps up to help the group out — because you know about the Curse of the Decision Maker.

For those choices that are made on the behalf of several people (or a group), we need to learn how to simplify the process. We also need to learn how to make decisions easier — whether others are involved or not.

Let’s Stop Saying, “I’m Tired of Making Decisions.” Here’s How to Fix it!

Since we don’t want to only talk about our problems —experiencing decision fatigue— let’s discuss some ways to make our lives easier by streamlining the decision making process.

Ultimately, the focus of these solutions revolve around systems that help to set you up for making fewer decisions in the future.

New Systems to Help You Make Fewer Decisions

  • Schedule
    • The more consistency in your schedule you can create, the better. One idea could be Conference Call Tuesdays. That way, you don’t suddenly forget to hop onto an important phone call while engrossed in a project (Actual example given here, I have done this on more than one occasion).
    • Or, “Meeting Monday.” Any sort of meeting that needs to get schedule? Plan it on a Monday. I used to do this because Mondays can be an unproductive day for me if I try to schedule tasks that require brainpower such as writing. But, if I had meetings all day, I would clear the rest of the week when I had more brainpower. Plus, who wants to actually work on Mondays?
    • What are some other ways you can streamline your schedule/calendar?
      • Recently, my family has taken to shared calendars that sync across all devices in our home. This lessens the amount of miscommunication about who is going to be where. Or, who needs to pick up the kiddos from school.
  • Pre-Selected Clothing/Outfits
    • Do you remember Cher’s closet from ‘Clueless’? Cher, played by Alicia Silverstone, had the BEST way to pick out her clothes everyday. And, it didn’t require putting on 40 different articles of clothing to see what went together, what she liked, or to make sure it fit. It also meant there wasn’t a pile of clothes that needed to be returned to the hangers… but made it to the floor instead.
    • While there is probably an app out there somewhere (“there’s an app for that”), you can do your own version of Cher’s wardrobe program. Here are some “low tech” ways of streamlining this process:
      • Group like items together in your closet. Hang up clothing in pre-selected “outfits.” Or match shirts and sweaters that coordinate and hang them up next to each other. That way, if you need a sweater to go with your shirt, you have it already picked out.
      • Pictures! Take pictures of yourself wearing different outfits so you don’t even have to contemplate what shirt goes with that geometric-print skirt.
        • Words of wisdom, before you invest time in taking pictures of yourself wearing outfits, make sure you have a plan for how to use those photos.
        • For example, you could create a folder of photos on your phone that is titled, “Outfits” That way, each time you need to pick out clothes, you just swipe through the pictures.
          • Wait, is that better in theory — not so much real life application? I ask because I may have done a similar project before iPhones were mainstream. I took a ton of photos of myself wearing a bunch of different outfits. Only thing, I don’t recall ever going back and looking at the photos on the camera. However, I did have a better memory of some outfits that I could draw on. So, not all was lost.
        • Alternative option — Whenever you are feelin’ yourself in an outfit, take a picture of yourself and save it. This will take a little longer to get your collection of outfit photos, but won’t require a ton of work on the front end.
Cher’s Wardrobe from Clueless — YouTube

Bonus for having pre-selected outfits: You are more likely to wear all (or most of) the clothing in your closet. And, you will have less work putting clothes back because you won’t be trying on your whole wardrobe every morning. Maybe you can even go longer in between laundry days because you are wearing everything in your closet…. That would help to reduce decision fatigue!

  • Meal Plan
    • Wait, meal planning is NOT the same as meal prep. So, we are not talking about actually making the meals. Moreover, you do not have to worry about planning what you are going to eat six days from now. You have flexibility to pick the meal you are going to eat.
Leslie Knope from Parks & Rec on NBC
  • Lists
    • Ok, don’t make fun of me here. Maybe I have more than one Leslie Knope quark about me. When it comes to making a good list, I am all about it.
    • When you make these lists, consider keeping them in a digital place that can be accessed by phone or computer. The more accessible it is, the greater the chance you will remember to use them.
    • Some of the lists types that have saved my sanity:
      • Packing/Travel list
        • When traveling, if I find myself saying “Oh man, I forgot…” That item immediately gets added to the master list.
      • Camping supplies
      • Thanksgiving dinner and planning (can also be used for Christmas)
      • Ongoing chores, especially for the kids

A little more about my ongoing chores list

I am sooo good at thinking about things that need to happen around the house — when I can’t actually do those tasks. Best place to remember: While driving late at night since none of it will actually happen when I get home. And, I’m not going to remember to write them down.

Why did the ongoing chores list become a thing? I am really good at forgetting about all the things that need to happen. This has given me a false sense of freedom to relax and take the day off. There’s been a lot of “Sure, go ahead and take the whole day off. You don’t have anything to do anyway.

That false sense of nothing to do is inevitably followed by remorse when I realize there was a mile long list of things to do. None of it happen because I had forgotten to write it down or only remembered late at night while driving. (Maybe decision fatigue isn’t my only issue here. Forgetful much?! LOL)

First a Few Words of Caution

There may be some “upfront” work to do with some of these things. However, it will be easier to do because you are focused on making a set of related decisions all at once.

A quick example of the “upfront work” can include pre-selecting all the meals you will have for one or two week period. This way you will be in the dinner making decision mode. Plus, you can make a grocery shopping list and make only one trip to the store (fingers crossed no forgotten items!).

When you have this meal plan system in place, you won’t have to worry what to eat every night at 5 pm when your whole house is full of hangry family members.

Remember: Don’t allow yourself to be overwhelmed by these ideas. Take a deep breath. Then, decide where to start based on what will be easiest for your to implement in your life — do not. Repeat, do not do them all at once. You must start at the very basics before you can fully implement these ideas into your everyday life.

That’s All For Now + a Pro Tip for You

Ok. This is starting to turn into a textbook instead of a blog post. So, we will go ahead and leave our list of ways to reduce decision fatigue to this for now.

Perhaps at some point, I’ll add another blog post with more ideas in the future. What do you think? Would that be helpful? Is there anything on the list above that you think you’ll try to implement in your life to streamline the decision making process? Drop a comment below and let me know what you think.

Pro-tip: Take an idea above that resonates with you. Then, modify it to fit your needs, thought process, and life. Just because I am presenting an idea here, doesn’t mean you need to do it exaclty the same way. That is the beauty of life! 

That’s all for now.

Hugs Kristi

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