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How Being a Minimalist Can Help You Make Better Decisions in Life

How Being a Minimalist Can Help You Make Better Decisions in Life
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Do you eat a healthy diet? Do you exercise? If you do, your purpose is probably to look and feel good.

But how about decision making? Have you considered its impact on your mental health?

You may be unaware of this, be we make an estimated 10,000 to 40,000 decisions every day.[1] It’s no wonder that something called ‘decision fatigue’ can rapidly set in!

Luckily, there are a number of rules that you can follow to streamline your decision making. These rules will help you reduce (or even eliminate) decision fatigue, and instead, free your mind to work on your personal goals and objectives.

Before I lift the lid on these rules, I want to first explain more about decision fatigue and its impact on your thought processes.

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When Your Brain Is Tired, You’re More Likely to Make Poor Decisions

Jean Twenge, a psychology professor at San Diego State University, states that the brain calls upon “a common resource akin to energy or strength” when it’s required to make decisions.[2] According to Twenge’s research, besieging your brain with relentless decisions, leads to a rapid depletion of the brain’s energy. In turn, this leads to poor decision making.

Jean Twenge is not alone in this discovery. A 2010 study published in Psychological Science found a link between blood glucose levels (the body’s energy) and the ability to make shrewd decisions.[3] Higher blood glucose levels were found to be associated with superior decision making.

It’s clear from these studies, that decision fatigue negatively impacts your ability to make good choices.

Let’s turn now to what you can do to say goodbye to decision fatigue.

Steve Jobs Is a Solid Proof That Being a Minimalist Can Improve Your Decision Making

Conserving your mental energy is the secret key to regular, top-class decision making.

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What’s the best way to sustain your mental energy? To embrace minimalism.

Steve Jobs, Apple’s co-founder, was a devoted minimalist. His enthusiasm for this philosophy extended from his house (described as having virtually no furniture in it), to his simplistic product designs (such as the iPad and iPhone). He also practised Zen meditation, so fully understood the need for quietness, space and detachment. (Qualities that all help in developing mental clarity.)

John Sculley, former CEO of Apple, said: “What makes Steve’s methodology different from everyone else’s is that he always believed the most important decisions you make are not the things you do – but the things that you decide not to do. He’s a minimalist.”

And Steve Jobs is not the only great decision maker practicing minimalism. Other examples include: billionaire Michael Bloomberg, actor Robert Pattinson, and artist Agnes Martin.

How to Save Your Mental Energy for Being a Good Decision Maker

As you would expect, the rules for living a minimalist life are simple. Let’s check some of them out now.

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Discover the patterns behind how you do things

Most of us live our lives dictated by habits. We get up at the same time, eat the same breakfast, take the same journey to work, etc. While good habits can help simplify our lives, bad habits can cause us lost time, stress and unnecessary work. For instance, if you have a habit of checking your work emails first thing in a morning, you may lose your most productive time to simply reading through and deleting mostly useless information. Instead, make a habit to do your important work first, while your mind and energy are still fresh.

Observe what situations make you anxious (and learn how to handle them)

The road to a minimalist life involves some soul searching. This includes paying attention to situations that cause you stress or anxiety. Let’s say that you have a fear of public speaking. You’re asked to do a talk to the directors of your company. While you know your subject matter well, you allow yourself to become massively stressed out by just thinking about the presentation. You need to address these types of scenarios head on. Learn to minimize their impact on you by developing your ability to relax or detach from them. If you can’t do this, you may be best trying to avoid the situations completely (if this is possible). Stress and anxiety disrupt your thought processes – and your ability to make decisions.

Focus on tasks that help you finish things

Where are you putting most of your efforts? Is it on things that aren’t contributing to the attainment of your goals? Minimalists know that where they put their energy – is where they want to see results. You should do this too. For instance, if you want your garden to look tidy, watch fewer gardening programs – and instead, get outside and cut the grass and weed the soil. This applies to decisions too. Don’t spend days thinking of a decision that will have little impact on your life. Prioritize important, life-impacting decisions.

Declutter your desk, home and mind

Removing unnecessary things from your environment, or unneeded thoughts from your mind, is the first step in transitioning to a minimalist lifestyle. For example, if your office desk is full of scattered papers, get rid of them. This may mean tidying them away in a drawer, or recycling them if not needed. This one simple action will give you more physical space – and more mental space too. The benefits? You’ll be able to make clearer decisions and choices.

Reduce the amount of electronic notifications you receive

If you’re like most people (especially those from the younger generations), you’re likely to be receiving relentless notifications via social media, email and SMS. These non-stop notifications are rarely of value. Instead, they act as a giant distraction iceberg. Be ruthless, and switch off as many of these notifications as possible. By doing this, you’ll keep your mind free from distractions, and primed to make great decisions.

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Choose items that are versatile

Have you noticed how some people need a different item for every task? At work, they have a personal cellphone for personal calls, a work cellphone for work calls, a personal laptop for personal use, and a work laptop for work use! They are charging, carrying and operating four devices, when they could probably reduce this down to just two. For example, many companies now operate a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy. This enables you to do all your work (personal and business) on your own laptop. By having items that are versatile, you’ll spend less money – and less time choosing which items to use.

Break free from toxic relationships

There’s no greater energy thief than toxic relationships. They can leave you feeling drained and depressed. If you have a way to step aside from these relationships, then do it. You’ll get back your energy and positivity. Both things that are crucial for making first-rate decisions.

By adopting a minimalist approach to life, you’ll conserve your physical and mental energy. This will allow you to defeat mental fatigue, and help your decision making become the best it can be.

Be productive. Be progressive. Be minimalist.

Reference

More by this author

Craig J Todd

UK Writer who loves to use the power of words to inspire and motivate.

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

More on Building Habits

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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