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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

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 March 23, 2021

Manage Your Energy so You Can Manage Your Time

Manage Your Energy so You Can Manage Your Time

One of the greatest ironies of this age is that while various gadgets like smartphones and netbooks allow you to multitask, it seems that you never manage to get things done. You are caught in the busyness trap. There’s just too much work to do in one day that sometimes you end up exhausted with half-finished tasks.

The problem lies in how to keep our energy level high to ensure that you finish at least one of your most important tasks for the day. There’s just not enough hours in a day and it’s not possible to be productive the whole time.

You need more than time management. You need energy management

1. Dispel the idea that you need to be a “morning person” to be productive

How many times have you heard (or read) this advice – wake up early so that you can do all the tasks at hand. There’s nothing wrong with that advice. It’s actually reeks of good common sense – start early, finish early. The thing is that technique alone won’t work with everyone. Especially not with people who are not morning larks.

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I should know because I was once deluded with the idea that I will be more productive if I get out of bed by 6 a.m. Like most of you Lifehackers, I’m always on the lookout for productivity hacks because I have a lot of things in my plate. I’m working full time as an editor for a news agency, while at the same time tending to my side business as a content marketing strategist. I’m also a travel blogger and oh yeah, I forgot, I also have a life.

I read a lot of productivity books and blogs looking for ways to make the most of my 24 hours. Most stories on productivity stress waking up early. So I did – and I was a major failure in that department – both in waking up early and finishing early.

2. Determine your “peak hours”

Energy management begins with looking for your most productive hours in a day. Getting attuned to your body clock won’t happen instantly but there’s a way around it.

Monitor your working habits for one week and list down the time when you managed to do the most work. Take note also of what you feel during those hours – do you feel energized or lethargic? Monitor this and you will find a pattern later on.

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My experiment with being a morning lark proved that ignoring my body clock and just doing it by disciplining myself to wake up before 8 a.m. will push me to be more productive. I thought that by writing blog posts and other reports in the morning that I would be finished by noon and use my lunch break for a quick gym session. That never happened. I was sleepy, distracted and couldn’t write jack before 10 a.m.

In fact that was one experiment that I shouldn’t have tried because I should know better. After all, I’ve been writing for a living for the last 15 years, and I have observed time and again that I write more –and better – in the afternoon and in evenings after supper. I’m a night owl. I might as well, accept it and work around it.

Just recently, I was so fired up by a certain idea that – even if I’m back home tired from work – I took out my netbook, wrote and published a 600-word blog post by 11 p.m. This is a bit extreme and one of my rare outbursts of energy, but it works for me.

3. Block those high-energy hours

Once you have a sense of that high-energy time, you can then mold your schedule so that your other less important tasks will be scheduled either before or after this designated productive time.

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Block them out in your calendar and use the high-energy hours for your high priority tasks – especially those that require more of your mental energy and focus. You also need to use these hours to any task that will bring you closer to you life’s goal.

If you are a morning person, you might want to schedule most business meetings before lunch time as it’s important to keep your mind sharp and focused. But nothing is set in stone. Sometimes you have to sacrifice those productive hours to attend to other personal stuff – like if you or your family members are sick or if you have to attend your son’s graduation.

That said, just remember to keep those productive times on your calendar. You may allow for some exemptions but stick to that schedule as much as possible.

There’s no right or wrong way of using this energy management technique because everything depends on your own personal circumstances. What you need to remember is that you have to accept what works for you – and not what other productivity gurus say you should do.

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Understanding your own body clock is the key to time management. Without it, you end up exhausted chasing a never-ending cycle of tasks and frustrations.

Featured photo credit: Collin Hardy via unsplash.com

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