Take control of your life by deciding to decide less
At last year’s Team Retreat, while enjoying the breeze on Khao Lak Beach in Thailand, I told the rest of the team that I don’t care about people. We were playing Two Truths One Lie and there are times when I’m unsure if that statement was true or a lie.
Studies have shown that willpower is a limited mental resource. Every time you make a decision, it depletes that same energy resource your willpower uses and eventually you’ll give in to your desires. This is known as Ego Depletion.
In order to preserve my precious mental resources, I prefer to only care about people and things that matter most to me. I tend to decide upfront if I should care about something and stick with it until something changes. It frees me from making a decision every single time. And this is why I don’t care about people, at least those I feel don’t matter to me.
But I’m still human after all and I do care about some people. I care about my family, my friends, my co-workers and many other things that others may think isn’t worth the trouble. This is a good thing because these people are the perfect candidates to make my life simpler.
Knowing that my time and my mental resources are limited, I decided to further simplify my life by making the decision to decide less. Besides only caring bout people and things that matters to me and ignoring the rest, I outsource as many decisions I can to those around me who cares about the issues at hand. (hopefully more than me)
It may seem like I’m taking advantage of them but if they do really care about the problem, they will be willing to solve it for me. This allows me to save my mental resource and use them on decisions that are more important. Let’s go through some examples of decisions you can choose to outsource.
Deciding on what to eat
Start with small decisions like what to eat. I’ve been blessed that I never have to put much thought into deciding what to eat. Between my wife, my mom and my mother-in-law, my breakfast and dinner menus are taken care of and I only need to decide what’s for lunch.
And since they have my health in mind, I have the added benefit of eating healthy. The key here is to realize that you have already outsourced some decisions in your life. Get used to it and outsource even more.
Deciding on what to wear
You probably have read about how successful people like Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg wear the same outfit every day. Some say they do it to build their own personal brand. Some say it prevents decision fatigue and that’s exactly what you should strive for.
Every decision they make will drain their mental strength and makes it harder for the next one. These people are running large organizations and needs every ounce of mental energy they can have to deal with complex problems and challenges.
You may not be running Apple or Facebook but every little bit of extra mental energy helps. Simplify your wardrobe so you don’t have to spend much time deciding on what to wear. But I’ll never wear pink, that’s where I draw the line.
Decisions at work
In the workplace, this isn’t a new concept and it is known as delegating. If you are in a position where you have to manage people and make decisions, learn to delegate some of it to your trusted co-workers and colleagues. Let them take ownership of the problem and elevate their responsibility.
This is hard for company founders and team leaders at first but is critical if you want to scale your team and company. Don’t fall into the trap of micro-managing and let your team do their job. Take on an advisory role and focus on more important areas like company culture or team dynamics.
Leverage the power of habits
Besides outsourcing your decisions to other people, you could also outsource it to yourself or more accurately to your subconscious mind. Humans are creatures of habit and once ingrained, habits are notoriously hard to alter. Habits are also fatigue-free so you should take advantage of this to form good habits that frees and prevents you from making wrong decisions.
Your fitness is a great place to start. Set a schedule to get some exercise every week and if you do it consistently, you’ll turn it into a habit. Once it is ingrained that you exercise on a certain day at a certain time, you no longer have to make any decision. It just happens. You will automatically plan your day around it to make it work.
Habits are basically pre-made decisions and they don’t tax your mental energy. Leverage its' strength to your advantage. Just make sure you are developing good habits.
Have fewer opinions about things
Opinions are decisions too. The act of taking a side is a decision. Honestly, most things aren’t worth your time so why waste energy to care about them. Social media is, in fact a waste of time if you are devouring and responding to every single piece of “news” that shows up there.
If something is that important, you will hear about it from someone. Let your friends and family decide if something is worthy of your time and opinion. This will free up your time to actually have meaningful opinions on subjects that actually matters to you.
Take control of your life, outsource your decisions
Life is too short to waste on pointless decisions. Take back control of your life and channel your energy towards things that are more meaningful. Outsource decisions you care less about so you can care more about things that matter to you.