Bulletproof your mind against decision fatigue

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Do you suffer from decision fatigue? We are facing more decision making now than at any other time in history. Most of them are trivial or a waste of time but there are there all the time. The choice in food, drinks, notebooks, books, magazines, courses, alternatives to milk, Art supplies, ways of spending your leisure time, ways to get to work, where to shop, where to eat, where to work, how to work, how to have your coffee, what clubs your child should attend, what link to click on and the list goes on and on.

We have to make decisions all the time and some of them are impossible to escape but there are many others that we can avoid having to make. By reducing the number of decisions we make in a day, we can prevent that fatigue that results in indecision, inertia, procrastination or making the wrong decision.

The seemingly endless choices we have in most areas of our life have fooled us into believing that we needed to entertain this notion of choice all the time. It has become our prerogative, our freedom. But is it?

The truth is, we don’t have to consider all the choices because they’re there just as we don’t have to answer the phone just because it’s ringing. It is your right to refuse wasting your time and energy making decisions that are not life changing.

If you want to be more effective in your decision making ability and save some precious mental energy and time, I suggest that there are two tools that can support your battle against decision fatigue:

  • a bullet journal
  • routines

Bullet journal

Bullet journals are gaining popularity and coverage. Just a look at some Instagram’s hashtags such as #bulletjournal or #bujo will offer thousands of pictures of beautifully crafted bullet journals along with affiliated products. However, its initial concept was one of simplicity. No calligraphy, no stickers, no specific notebook, no page adornments, just straight to the point – or bullet! You can see the original idea here.

Depending on your style and the time available for this, you can choose your own level of simplicity or sophistication. I use it for taking notes, for my shopping lists, for doodling, for ideas, for recording information that I might need again and if I am out and in need of journalling, I will journal in it. I am not fussy about it. It is there to help me. Youtube has many videos but be careful not to fall in the rabbit hole!…

A bullet journal will help you fight decision fatigue because every morning or evening, when you plan your day, you know exactly what needs to be done or to happen. As you write them down and go through the items, there is no decision to make, no hesitation, no choice. When I don’t use it, I can waste my whole day procrastinating because I think about what I could or should be doing instead of doing things.

Rules and routines

The second tool is really a set of rules you create for yourself in order to bypass the decision making process. Once your rules to live by and routines are in place, your mind is free to focus on what matters. If you don’t like the world ‘rules’, replace it with whatever word or phrase that suits you, such as ‘life choices’, ‘habits’, ‘principles’, ‘practices’, ‘guidelines’, etc.

It is essential to have morning and evening routines that work for you and that you can stick to most of the time. Write down in detail what an ideal morning routine would look like with specific times, then write down what needs to be in place. For instance, if you want to journal or read something inspirational as soon as you wake up, your journal, favourite pen or book need to be on your bedside table. Then if you want to do some physical exercise afterward, you need to leave your fitness gear in the bathroom for instance and maybe a Fitness Programme in the DVD player, etc. what time do you need to have breakfast or have your shower taking into account the other people living with you. Your routine needs to be timed so that you know what to do at what time and you can leave home without having to rush.

In the evening, your routine can incorporate creative expression, reading, quality time with loved ones, reflection, time dedicated to an online course and so on. Make sure that you include things that will lift your spirits up even if it is only ten, twenty or thirty minutes. Crucially, you have to have two reminders in your phone: one an hour before you need to be in bed that says ‘Get ready. Plan tomorrow. Wind down’ and one at the time you need to be in bed or switch off the light. And you need to stick to them! That way, your mind won’t have to nag you to get ready, to go to bed, to stop watching TV, to get off the internet, to close that book. Decision made.

These personal ‘principles’ you set up can be extended to as many areas as you want. Steve jobs always wore the same type of black clothes. No time wasted shopping for clothes, no money wasted on ‘mistakes’ in your purchasing, no time in front of the wardrobe wondering what you are going to wear. It works for women too. My grandmother had a range of black trousers and white blouses, some more comfortable for gardening and housework, some more tailored for day wear. She was always chic and never had to think about what to wear which freed time for a daily series of muscle stretches. And in case you are wondering, she had occasion wear that differed…

Creating a meal list for the week also avoids mind struggles about what you should buy or not. I have my shopping list in my bullet journal. I whizz around the supermarket without having to make any decision or wonder whether it would be nice to buy this or that.

Review the different areas where you are faced with too much choice and waste your time, and formulate guidelines to reduce this. You will be surprised at the peace of mind you experience and how your decision making time shortens when needed.

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