Every day we make hundreds of decisions, most of which are irrelevant, but others are important and can even change the course of our life. The whole day, from the moment we get up to the moment we go to bed, involves constant decision-making. In fact, Cornell University psychologists have estimated that we make an average of 35.000 decisions every day.
If we don't know how to handle those decisions correctly, we can end up suffering from decision fatigue. Since our "cognitive capacity" is limited, the more decisions we make, the more we will exhaust our resources. In fact, even though it may not seem like it, there is a complex mental process behind every decision. We must weigh the possibilities at our disposal, weigh the pros and cons, analyze the possible consequences, estimate the resources we will need and only then can we make the decision.
Therefore, making many decisions can end up overloading our cognitive and emotional resources. Once we reach the “breaking point”, the decisions we will make from that moment on will not be optimal. We can become more impulsive or, if not, lazy and start putting off decisions.
To avoid decision fatigue, we must learn to simplify decisions. So we can save cognitive energy to direct it to the most relevant decisions that can really make a difference in our life.
How to simplify the decisions you make every day?
1. A minute for "insignificant decisions"
To simplify decisions, the first step is to identify those that are less important or that do not have a correct or incorrect answer, because one possibility is as good as the other. Some examples of these decisions are: What color am I wearing today? Do I watch a comedy or a drama? Do I eat rice or pasta?
You can also keep a small journal to help you distinguish meaningful decisions from irrelevant ones. You may find that you spend a disproportionate amount of time making petty decisions where one answer is as good as another. In these cases, the key is to simply choose in a minute. You can flip a coin or let your unconscious decide. You will see how you begin to free up cognitive resources.
2. Don't postpone what you can decide today until tomorrow
Continuously postponing decisions is not a good idea. That pending decision remains active in your mind, like a flashing alarm that prevents you from resting and whose call can assail you at any moment, generating anxiety. In fact, pending decisions tend to be more stressful and carry a greater burden than choosing one option and putting it into practice.
Seneca stated that "luck has a habit of behaving as it wants", so postponing decisions, thinking that they will increase the chances of success, is a mistake. In fact, it often only serves to accumulate obstacles along the way.
With some exceptions, postponing decisions will not help us gather more decisive information, so it is more convenient to decide as soon as possible to move on and avoid problems accumulating, generating a level of unnecessary stress and overwhelm that will prevent you from thinking clearly. .
3. Apply what has already worked
Automations often have a bad reputation. However, they exist for a reason: to help you be more effective and to free up cognitive resources. So, the more unimportant decisions you automate, the lighter you'll feel. When it comes to decisions you need to make regularly, if the conditions of the game haven't changed much, you can apply routines that have worked in the past.
You don't need to continually question proven options unless you want to make a deliberate change. Experience is for just that: to help you decide without stressing yourself too much. The crystallized intelligence you develop over the years allows you to decide better and faster based on what has already worked.
Resorting to the known isn't a bad thing, it saves you precious psychological energy that you can use to make more important decisions that can really make a difference. So don't feel guilty about “automating” certain daily decisions. In the long run it will be beneficial.
At first glance these three rules for simplifying decisions may seem irrelevant, but if we consider that every day we face on average 226 decisions related to food, we can understand that the whole cognitive economy is small. We have to think of mental effort as a cost / benefit ratio. If we get bogged down in irrelevant decisions, we will take resources away from the most important decisions. Following these rules will take a burden off our shoulders and make everything flow better.