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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

Freelance Writer helping businesses and people to thrive.

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Last Updated on August 16, 2018

16 Productivity Secrets of Highly Successful People Revealed

16 Productivity Secrets of Highly Successful People Revealed

The same old motivational secrets don’t really motivate you after you’ve read them for the tenth time, do they?

How about a unique spin on things?

These 16 productivity secrets of successful people will make you reevaluate your approach to your home, work, and creative lives. Learn from these highly successful people, turn these little things they do into your daily habits and you’ll get closer to success.

1. Empty your mind.

It sounds counterproductive, doesn’t it?

Emptying your mind when you have so much to remember seems like you’re just begging to forget something. Instead, this gives you a clean slate so you’re not still thinking about last week’s tasks.

Clear your mind and then start thinking only about what you need to do immediately, and then today. Tasks that need to be accomplished later in the week can wait.

Here’s a guide to help you empty your mind and think sharper:

How to Declutter Your Mind to Sharpen Your Brain and Fall Asleep Faster

2. Keep certain days clear.

Some companies are scheduling “No Meeting Wednesdays,” which means, funnily enough, that no one can hold a meeting on a Wednesday. This gives workers a full day to work on their own tasks, without getting sidetracked by other duties or pointless meetings.

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This can work in your personal life too, for example if you need to restrict Facebook access or limit phone calls.

3. Prioritize your work.

Don’t think every task is created equal! Some tasks aren’t as important as others, or might take less time.

Try to sort your tasks every day and see what can be done quickly and efficiently. Get these out of the way so you have more free time and brain power to focus on what is more important.

Lifehack’s CEO has a unique way to prioritize works, take a look at it here:

How to Prioritize Right in 10 Minutes and Work 10X Faster

4. Chop up your time.

Many successful business leaders chop their time up into fifteen-minute intervals. This means they work on tasks for a quarter of an hour at a time, or schedule meetings for only fifteen minutes. It makes each hour seem four times as long, which leads to more productivity!

5. Have a thinking position.

Truman Capote claimed he couldn’t think unless he was laying down. Proust did this as well, while Stravinsky would stand on his head!

What works for others may not work for you. Try to find a spot and position that is perfect for you to brainstorm or come up with ideas.

6. Pick three to five things you must do that day.

To Do lists can get overwhelming very quickly. Instead of making a never-ending list of everything you can think of that needs to be done, make daily lists that include just three to five things.

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Make sure they’re things that need to be done that day, so you don’t keep putting them off.

7. Don’t try to do too much.

OK, so I just told you to work every day, and now I’m telling you to not do too much? It might sound like conflicting advice, but not doing too much means not biting off more than you can chew. Don’t say yes to every work project or social engagement and find yourself in way over your head.

8. Have a daily action plan.

Don’t limit yourself to a to-do list! Take ten minutes every morning to map out a daily action plan. It’s a place to not only write what needs to be done that day, but also to prioritize what will bring the biggest reward, what will take the longest, and what goals will be accomplished.

Leave room for a “brain dump,” where you can scribble down anything else that’s on your mind.

9. Do your most dreaded project first.

Getting your most dreaded task over with first means you’ll have the rest of the day free for anything and everything else. This also means that you won’t be constantly putting off the worst of your projects, making it even harder to start on it later.

10. Follow the “Two-Minute Rule.”

The “Two-Minute Rule” was made famous by David Allen. It’s simple – if a new task comes in and it can be done in two minutes or less, do it right then. Putting it off just adds to your to-do list and will make the task seem more monumental later.

11. Have a place devoted to work.

If you work in an office, it’s no problem to say that your cubicle desk is where you work every day.

But if you work from home, make sure you have a certain area specifically for work. You don’t want files spread out all over the dinner table, and you don’t want to feel like you’re not working just because you’re relaxing on the couch.

Agatha Christie never wrote at her desk, she wrote wherever she could sit down. Ernest Hemingway wrote standing up. Thomas Wolfe, at 6’6″ tall, used the top of his refrigerator as a desk. Richard Wright wrote on a park bench, rain or shine.

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Have a space where, when you go there, you know you’re going to work. Maybe it’s a cafe downstairs, the library, or a meeting room. Whenever and wherever works for you, do your works there.

12. Find your golden hour.

You don’t have to stick to a “typical” 9–5 schedule!

Novelist Anne Rice slept during the day and wrote at night to avoid distractions. Writer Jerzy Kosinski slept eight hours a day, but never all at once. He’d wake in the morning, work, sleep four hours in the afternoon, then work more that evening.

Your golden hour is the time when you’re at your peak. You’re alert, ready to be productive, and intent on crossing things off your to-do list.

Once you find your best time, protect it with all your might. Make sure you’re always free to do your best uninterrupted work at this time.

13. Pretend you’re on an airplane.

It might not be possible to lock everyone out of your office to get some peace and quiet, but you can eliminate some distractions.

By pretending you’re on an airplane, you can act like your internet access is limited, you’re not able to get something from your bookcase, and you can’t make countless phone calls.

Eliminating these distractions will help you focus on your most important tasks and get them done without interruption.

14. Never stop.

Writers Anthony Trollope and Henry James started writing their next books as soon as they finished their current work in progress.

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Stephen King writes every day of the year, and holds himself accountable for 2,000 words a day! Mark Twain wrote every day, and then read his day’s work aloud to his family to get their feedback.

There’s something to be said about working nonstop, and putting out continuous work instead of taking a break. It’s just a momentum that will push you go further./

15. Be in tune with your body.

Your mind and body will get tired of a task after ninety minutes to two hours focused on it. Keep this in mind as you assign projects to yourself throughout the day, and take breaks to ensure that you won’t get burned out.

16. Try different methods.

Vladimir Nabokov wrote the first drafts of his novels on index cards. This made it easy to rearrange sentences, paragraphs, and chapters by shuffling the cards around.

It does sound easier, and more fun, than copying and pasting in Word! Once Nabokov liked the arrangement, his wife typed them into a single manuscript.

Same for you, don’t give up and think that it’s impossible for you to be productive when one method fails. Try different methods until you find what works perfectly for you.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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