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How To Make Fewer Decisions Every Day

How To Make Fewer Decisions Every Day

Filling your schedule with tedious tasks and chores will kill your productive power. It isn’t the amount of decisions you make that matters, but rather the impact of them. If you want to stop being “busy” and start being effective, make fewer decisions every day in these seven ways.

1. Set a “wake-up” time and stick with it.

I know, I know, “stop hitting the snooze button,” is an obvious tip you’ve heard a million times now. But there is no denying that the quality of your morning tends to determine how the rest of your day goes. Think about it: how do you think you’re going to feel if you…

  • Hit the snooze button too many times
  • Look at the clock and jolt out of bed, because you’re going to be late if you don’t hurry
  • Rush through a shower so quickly that you can’t even enjoy it
  • Feel bad for having to make your dog hurry up about going to the bathroom
  • Skip breakfast because there’s no way you have time for that
  • Feel like you’re starving, probably eat too much at lunch as a consequence, and get a bellyache

Sounds miserable, doesn’t it? Observe how much better things would be if you just woke up when you’re supposed to:

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  • Get up when you’re supposed to
  • Look at the clock and gently roll out of bed, because you’ve got plenty of time to get ready
  • Take a relaxing shower that you can actually enjoy
  • Walk your dog through the neighborhood and let it potty at its leisure
  • Eat a healthy breakfast including fat and protein
  • Feel like you’re nourished, eat “just enough” at lunch, maybe even pack it to save some money?

2. Rotate a few established outfits every week.

Treating trivial matters like what you’re going to wear today as if they are life-changing decisions is as foolish as it gets. While you should try to establish a professional appearance if your job calls for it, that doesn’t mean you need agonize over your outfit every morning. To make life easy, you could simply pair a matching top and bottom together in your closet after you do laundry every week. If you want more variety, just shift things around on a weekly basis, but don’t get carried away with it, because you shouldn’t need to think about what to wear for more than a minute.

3. Treat exercise like an important appointment.

There is no “best” time to exercise. Just make it fit your schedule, however you need to do it. If you use a day-planner or online calendar, go ahead and grab it. Do you see 3-5 days with time slots of at least 30 minutes that are wide-open most of the time? If so, congratulations… you just found the time to exercise! Exercising at the same days and times every week makes it easier to stick with a fitness routine, because eventually you will become so accustomed to this behavior that it feels like second-nature (read: you will just do it without thinking about it so much).

4. Cook in bulk to put your meals on autopilot.

It’s interesting that a lot of people eat the same thing for breakfast every day without batting an eye, yet they’d never imagine eating the same thing for lunch or dinner. I’ve gotta ask… why not? Cooking in bulk, or more specifically, preparing 5-7 days of meals at one time is a great way to make healthy eating more convenient and less expensive. You don’t need to be a master chef: for example, you could simply grill a pound or two of chicken at once, chop up a whole onion or pepper, and refrigerate in reusable containers. These foods could be used to make chicken tacos (make sure to get salsa, sour cream, and shredded cheese!) or chicken salad (all you need is spinach or lettuce and a healthy dressing), which could serve as lunch or dinner for the entire week. If you’d like to learn more about cooking in bulk, my favorite book on the topic is “Fix, Freeze, Feast: The Delicious, Money-Saving Way to Feed Your Family.”

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5. Plan the next day of work before bed time.

Do you ever feel so overwhelmed by all the work you need to do that you don’t know where to start? Me, too, but it’s best not to dwell on that feeling, because it leads to procrastination. It will never feel like there is enough time in the day, and the longer you stress out about how “busy” you are, the harder it will be to motivate yourself to get to work. When you’re caught up in the daily hustle, it can be hard to look at things with any perspective, so I recommend planning your workday the night before. Write down the three most important things you need to get done in a notebook (or you could even email it to yourself to make sure you don’t miss it). As long as you tackle those priorities, consider your day a success.

6. Admit that not all tasks are worth doing.

No matter how well you might plan, your intentions could be ruined if you allow distractions to interrupt your flow. People have a tendency to perform “busy-work” that makes them feel better about the fact that they are procrastinating. For example:

Are you organizing your desk for a good reason, or are you putting off that presentation you don’t want to work on?

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Are you checking your email because you need to, or are you delaying those sales calls you should be making?

Are you washing the dishes to be a good Samaritan, or are you avoiding that report that’s due today?

There is nothing wrong with having a tidy desk, responding to emails, or being nice enough to do the dishes; but it would be silly to do these things while you have more pressing concerns that need to be addressed.

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7. Dedicate your decision making power to the right people.

Why should you waste your time trying to please people who will never appreciate you? If a person can’t accept you for who you are, then they aren’t worthy of your time. Be more selective about who you spend your time with, because friendships should be reserved for people you trust.

The fewer decisions you make, the more time you’ll have for the important things. Tell us how you set priorities in the comments, and feel free to share with anyone who might be helped by it.

Featured photo credit: crossroads/Carsten Tolkmit via flickr.com

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Daniel Wallen

Daniel is a writer who focuses on blogging about happiness and motivation at Lifehack.

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Last Updated on March 21, 2019

11 Important Things to Remember When Changing Habits

11 Important Things to Remember When Changing Habits

Most gurus talk about habits in a way that doesn’t help you:

You need to push yourself more. You can’t be lazy. You need to wake up at 5 am. You need more motivation. You can never fail…blah blah “insert more gibberish here.”

But let me share with you the unconventional truths I found out:

To build and change habits, you don’t need motivation or wake up at 5 am. Heck, you can fail multiple times, be lazy, have no motivation and still pull it off with ease.

It’s quite simple and easy to do, especially with the following list I’m going to show to you. But remember, Jim Rohn used to say,

“What is simple and easy to do is also simple and easy not to do.”

The important things to remember when changing your habits are both simple and easy, just don’t think that they don’t make any difference because they do.

In fact, they are the only things that make a difference.

Let’s see what those small things are, shall we?

1. Start Small

The biggest mistake I see people doing with habits is by going big. You don’t go big…ever. You start small with your habits.

Want to grow a book reading habit? Don’t start reading a book a day. Start with 10 pages a day.

Want to become a writer? Don’t start writing 10,000 words a day. Start with 300 words.

Want to lose weight? Don’t stop eating ice cream. Eat one less ball of it.

Whatever it is, you need to start small. Starting big always leads to failure. It has to, because it’s not sustainable.

Start small. How small? The amount needs to be in your comfort zone. So if you think that reading 20 pages of a book is a bit too much, start with 10 or 5.

It needs to appear easy and be easy to do.

Do less today to do more in a year.

2. Stay Small

There is a notion of Kaizen which means continuous improvement. They use this notion in habits where they tell you to start with reading 1 page of a book a day and then gradually increase the amount you do over time.

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But the problem with this approach is the end line — where the “improvement” stops.

If I go from reading 1 page of a book a day and gradually reach 75 and 100, when do I stop? When I reach 1 book a day? That is just absurd.

When you start a habit, stay at it in the intensity you have decided. Don’t push yourself for more.

I started reading 20 pages of a book a day. It’s been more than 2 years now and I’ve read 101 books in that period. There is no way I will increase the number in the future.

Why?

Because reading 40 to 50 books a year is enough.

The same thing applies to every other habit out there.

Pick a (small) number and stay at it.

3. Bad Days Are 100 Percent Occurrence

No matter how great you are, you will have bad days where you won’t do your habit. Period.

There is no way of going around this. So it’s better to prepare yourself for when that happens instead of thinking that it won’t ever happen.

What I do when I miss a day of my habit(s) is that I try to bounce back the next day while trying to do habits for both of those days.

Example for that is if I read 20 pages of a book a day and I miss a day, the next day I will have to read 40 pages of a book. If I miss writing 500 words, the next day I need to write 1000.

This is a really important point we will discuss later on rewards and punishments.

This is how I prepare for the bad days when I skip my habit(s) and it’s a model you should take as well.

4. Those Who Track It, Hack It

When you track an activity, you can objectively tell what you did in the past days, weeks, months, and years. If you don’t track, you will for sure forget everything you did.

There are many different ways you can track your activities today, from Habitica to a simple Excel sheet that I use, to even a Whatsapp Tracker.

Peter Drucker said,

“What you track is what you do.”

So track it to do it — it really helps.

But tracking is accompanied by one more easy activity — measuring.

5. Measure Once, Do Twice

Peter Drucker also said,

“What you measure is what you improve.”

So alongside my tracker, I have numbers with which I measure doses of daily activities:

For reading, it’s 20 pages.
For writing, it’s 500 words.
For the gym, it’s 1 (I went) or 0 (didn’t go).
For budgeting, it’s writing down the incomes and expenses.

Tracking and measuring go hand in hand, they take less than 20 seconds a day but they create so much momentum that it’s unbelievable.

6. All Days Make a Difference

Will one day in the gym make you fit? It won’t.

Will two? They won’t.

Will three? They won’t.

Which means that a single gym session won’t make you fit. But after 100 gym sessions, you will look and feel fit.

What happened? Which one made you fit?

The answer to this (Sorites paradox)[1] is that no single gym session made you fit, they all did.

No single day makes a difference, but when combined, they all do. So trust the process and keep on going (small).

7. They Are Never Fully Automated

Gurus tell you that habits become automatic. And yes, some of them do, like showering a certain way of brushing your teeth.

But some habits don’t become automatic, they become a lifestyle.

What I mean by that is that you won’t automatically “wake up” in the gym and wonder how you got there.

It will just become a part of your lifestyle.

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The difference is that you do the first one automatically, without conscious thought, while the other is a part of how you live your life.

It’s not automatic, but it’s a decision you don’t ponder on or think about — you simply do it.

It will become easy at a certain point, but they will never become fully automated.

8. What Got You Here Won’t Get You There

Marshall Goldsmith has a great book with the same title to it. The phrase means that sometimes, you will need to ditch certain habits to make room for other ones which will bring you to the next step.

Don’t be afraid to evolve your habits when you sense that they don’t bring you where you want to go.

When I started reading, it was about reading business and tactic books. But two years into it, I switched to philosophy books which don’t teach me anything “applicable,” but instead teach me how to think.

The most important ability of the 21st century is the ability to learn, unlearn, and relearn. The strongest tree is the willow tree – not because it has the strongest root or biggest trunk, but because it is flexible enough to endure and sustain anything.

Be like a willow, adapting to the new ways of doing things.

9. Set a Goal and Then Forget It

The most successful of us know what they want to achieve, but they don’t focus on it.

Sounds paradoxical? You’re right, it does. But here is the logic behind it.

You need to have a goal of doing something – “I want to become a healthy individual” – and then, you need to reverse engineer how to get there with your habits- “I will go to the gym four times a week.”

But once you have your goal, you need to “forget” about it and only focus on the process. Because you are working on the process of becoming healthy and it’s always in the making. You will only be as healthy as you take care of your body.

So you have a goal which isn’t static but keeps on moving.

If you went to the gym 150 times year and you hit your goal, what would you do then? You would stop going to the gym.

This is why goal-oriented people experience yo-yo effect[2] and why process-oriented people don’t.

The difference between process-oriented and goal-oriented people is that the first focus on daily actions while others only focus on the reward at the finish line.

Set a goal but then forget about it and reap massive awards.

10. Punish Yourself

Last two sections are pure Pavlovian – you need to punish bad behavior and reward good behavior. You are the only person who decides what is good and what is bad for you, but when you do, you need to rigorously follow that.

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I’ve told you in point #3 about bad days and how after one occurs, I do double the work on the next day. That is one of my forms of punishments.

It’s the need to tell your brain that certain behaviors are unacceptable and that they lead to bad outcomes. That’s what punishments are for.

You want to tell your brain that there are real consequences to missing your daily habits.[3]

No favorite food to eat or favorite show to watch or going to the cinema for a new Marvel movie- none, zero, zilch.

The brain will remember these bad feelings and will try to avoid the behaviors that led to them as much as possible.

But don’t forget the other side of the same coin.

11. Reward Yourself

When you follow and execute on your plan, reward yourself. It’s how the brain knows that you did something good.

Whenever I finish one of my habits for the day, I open my tracker (who am I kidding, I always keep it open on my desktop) and fill it with a number. As soon as I finish reading 20 pages of a book a day (or a bit more), I open the tracker and write the number down.

The cell becomes green and gives me an instant boost of endorphin – a great success for the day. Then, it becomes all about not breaking the chain and having as many green fields as possible.

After 100 days, I crunch some numbers and see how I did.

If I have less than 10 cheat days, I reward myself with a great meal in a restaurant. You can create your own rewards and they can be daily, weekly, monthly or any arbitrary time table that you create.

Primoz Bozic, a productivity coach, has gold, silver, and bronze medals as his reward system.[4]

If you’re having problems creating a system which works for you, contact me via email and we can discuss specifics.

In the End, It Matters

What you do matters not only to you but to the people around you.

When you increase the quality of your life, you indirectly increase the quality of life of people around you. And sometimes, that is all the “motivation” we need to start.

And that’s the best quote for the end of this article:

“Motivation gets you started, but habits keep you going.”

Keep going.

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More Resources to Help You Build Habits

Featured photo credit: Anete Lūsiņa via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Sorites paradox
[2] Muscle Zone: What causes yo-yo effect and how to avoid it?
[3] Growth Habits: 5 Missteps That Cause You To Quit Building A Habit
[4] Primoz Bozic: The Lean Review: How to Plan Your 2019 in 20 Minutes

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