There are a lot of decisions to make every day. What to eat. What to wear. Financial decisions. How to prioritize your time. For me, I only seem to have so much "decision energy" for any given day. My will power runs out and I start to avoid decisions or make poor decisions later in the day. Apparently I am not the only one. The field of psychology has identified decision fatigue as a contributing factor in many poor decisions.
I have found a way to reduce the stress caused by decision making. I look for different ways to find single decisions that eliminate many future decisions. Here are some examples:
Follow a meal plan. These past couple months I have been following the slow-carb diet. One of the diet axioms is to eat the same few meals over and over. I have found a few meals that I am comfortable eating again and again. Almost all of my breakfasts and lunches are the same each day. Not deciding what to eat for most meals has been a big win for me. I spent a small amount of time selecting a plan, and now all I have to do is follow it.
Set arbitrary exercise rules. In 2019 I decided to run my first half marathon. I found a training plan and followed it for months. The main reason I wanted to run a half marathon was to become a runner - not just to finish a race. After the race, however, I no longer had a training plan to follow. I felt guilty on days I did not run. There was guilt even when I ran. I wondered if I was doing enough. So, after a few months I made a rule for myself: I was going to run at least three miles every other day. Done. One decision that eliminated hundreds of future decisions. Now each day is either a running day or it is not. I no longer have to make these decisions.
Keep only your favorite clothes. I only have one pair of tennis shoes. I have one suit. I have one pair of jeans. I have only kept a small number of my favorite T-shirts. I would wear any of the shirts any day the weather is nice enough. During winter I wear one of my two hoodies. These few choices in outfits is not only part of my desire to live with less. It also reduces the amount of time I spend deciding what to wear each morning.
Limit when your email application is open. I have decided to only check my work email twice a day. My email application is only allowed to be open while I am sifting through and processing email. (If you're curious, I process email using the 4Ds approach). Outside of those set aside times, my email application is closed. When you do this, you do not have to feel guilty. The constant urge will eventually disappear. You will no longer have to decide "should I stop this task and follow up on that notification?" or "should I quickly check my inbox to see if my boss responded?" Those decisions have already been made.
Remove social media apps from your phone. Without social media on your phone you can only check your accounts from a web browser or a computer. You will not be constantly nagged with notifications. You will not have to face the "should I open this app or not?" decision 50 times every day. The decision was already made. There is no app to open.
Here are a few questions to ask that should help identify a few of these types of decisions: