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Published: June 06, 2017

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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