A few years ago, Moneyball author Michael Lewis wrote an article in Vanity Affair by Moneyball author, Michael Lewis. Mr. Lewis followed President Obama for a period of time. He studied the President’s frenetic schedule. A typical day may include a breakfast meeting with a world leader, giving time to children in the Make-A-Wish program and ending with a cabinet meeting. Every meeting was meaningful and would completely drain the average person. How can a president make these monumental decisions and still have the capacity to attend a state dinner that evening?
Obama credits in part, the limited the number of decisions he makes. It’s not the size of the decisions it’s the quantity that creates fatigue. Every President has an ironclad routine. Small things such as what he wore were worked out well in advance. As president, he wore two color suits. He had the luxury of having a world-class chef create a variety of meals and thus limiting his food choices.
As a small business owner, I enjoy the freedom but miss the structure of working in an established business. Small business owners have another layer of decisions. With no boss, every decision is up in the air and without a template, decision fatigue will rob you of energy and clarity and for me my creativity nose dives. Decision fatigue is why your spouse looks stumped when you ask her where you want to go for dinner. Decision fatigue fills the drive-thru line at McDonalds with otherwise smart people.
Starting with my time working for Tony Robbins more than decade ago I’ve studying scores of successful people. Using what I’ve learned and through my own trial and error here are some of the best ways I try to make less decisions better.
Create Your Template
What are small things that monopolize your time – your clothes, what to eat in the morning, the time you wake and leave for work. Those are all decisions you make every day you could probably skip if you had a personal template.
Recently, my wife Karen realized she could be wearing scrubs to work. She’s in healthcare and it saves time every day. There is a decision Butterfly Effect freeing up hours of time to enjoy the morning a bit longer.
When the alarm goes off. Do you get right out of bed or do you snooze? How many times do you snooze. Will you skip your morning run? What’s for breakfast? What to make for the kids. You’re hardly awake and you’ve collected an inbox full of decisions. The you from yesterday set the alarm at a particular time for a reason.
There’s a reason why almost every successful person meditates. It’s a way to prepare for the onslaught of decisions coming down the pike. If meditating is not your thing, take a long walk, listen to quiet music or lift weights heavy enough you can only focus on the weights. This is not about giving you the answers, this is just about clearing out space on your decision hard drive.
If you do want to give meditation a shot, I recommend checking out some guided meditations by Tara Brach. I enjoy the mediation time in the morning and have been pretty good so far.
Write it Down
Download Wunderlist. Have your spouse download Wunderlist. Create to-do lists for yourself and ones, like groceries that you can share and maintain a single list. I have lists for our house, my film company, book I’m working on, movies I want to watch, stuff I need to buy. Use Evernote for ideas and thoughts. Stop trying to remember every little thing. Your brain will thank you for not treating it like Dropbox anymore. Downloading information in your head will free up a lot available brainpower. Everyone thinks I have too many lists, so I got this one.
If you can let others make the decision. If you can afford help, even on a rare occasion it’ll free you. If you have a schedule like ours deciding to take an hour to mow the lawn or work on projects for my clients adds more stress than just unhappy clients and an overgrown lawn. If you can pay someone to mow the lawn, so you can spend an extra hour on work or with the kids do it. Not great on this but as the budget allows we’ll get better.
No matter what your income level you likely make dozens financial decisions multiple times a day. Again some are easy, but they pile up with all the other ones. If they are the can I afford this question, a detailed budget should make it easier to know when to say yes and no as well as how to pay. You’re in essence delegating to your budget. We use You Need A Budget and have stuck with it because it’s the easiest and has worked. The budget has been our focus over the last couple years and feel like we’re in a good place.
You should know what you’re having for dinner on Wednesday on Sunday. Same with breakfast on Friday. There so many ways to plan from checking out Fit Men Cook to meal prep choices in Parenting magazine ideas are aplenty as well as Instagram or check out this Ethan’s mom’s lunches on Flicker. Figuring out in advance will save you time, money and stress that you can bank for something else.
When grocery shopping and planning, give the kids options and let them decide. From tacos to pizza there are healthy ways to prepare them. Letting the child into the decision-making process will improve the chances they’ll actually eat it. When, fatigue sets in and figuring out what to eat is impossible it may be time for a meal planner. We did last week and are excited to have someone to tell us what to eat.
Studies show that sleep abnormalities impair cognitive thinking. This tends to be my downfall. When our twins were newborns, it seemed like every decision we made were made by sleep-deprived teenagers. We tried to meal plan, budget and delegate but it wasn’t happening because we could barely get enough sleep to stand. We’re still paying for some of those decisions. Now, I give myself to ten o’clock to get things done because staying up significantly later will make me a horrible decision maker the next day. I fail at this more than I succeed, but I’ve never been one to sleep more that 6 hours a night anyway.