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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

More by this author

Daniel Wallen

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

Less Thinking, More Doing: Develop the Action Habit Today Why Instant Gratification is the Villain of Success How To Be Happy Alone and Enjoy Life Why You Procrastinate: 7 Possible Reasons You Can’t Get Anything Done 9 Things to Remember When You’re Having a Bad Day

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Last Updated on July 13, 2020

How Not to Feel Overwhelmed at Work & Take Control of Your Day

How Not to Feel Overwhelmed at Work & Take Control of Your Day

Overwhelm is a pernicious state largely caused by the ever-increasing demands on our time and the distractions that exist all around us. It creeps up on us and can, in its extreme form, leave us feeling anxious, stressed and exhausted.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed at work, here are 6 strategies you can follow that will reduce the feeling of overwhelm; leaving you calmer, in control and a lot less stressed.

1. Write Everything down to Offload Your Mind

The first thing you can do when you begin to feel overwhelmed is to write everything down that is on your mind.

Often people just write down all the things they think they have to do. This does help, but a more effective way to reduce overwhelm is to also write down everything that’s on your mind.

For example, you may have had an argument with your colleague or a loved one. If it’s on your mind write it down. A good way to do this is to draw a line down the middle of the page and title one section “things to do” and the other “what’s on my mind”.

The act of writing all this down and getting it out of your head will begin the process of removing your feeling of overwhelm. Writing things down can really change your life.

2. Decide How Long It Will Take to Complete Your To-Dos

Once you have ‘emptied your head,’ go through your list and estimate how long it will take to complete each to-do.

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As you go through your list, you will find quite a few to-dos will only take you five or ten minutes. Others will take longer, often up to several hours.

Do not worry about that at this stage. Just focus on estimating how long you will need to complete each task to the best of your ability. Here’s How to Cultivate a More Meaningful To Do List.

3. Take Advantage of Parkinson’s Law

Now here’s a little trick I learned a long time ago. Parkinson’s Law states that work will fill the time you have available to complete it, and us humans are terrible at estimating how long something will take:((Odhable: Genesis of Parkinson’s Law))

    This is why many people are always late. They think it will only take them thirty minutes to drive across town when previous experience has taught them it usually takes forty-five minutes to do so because traffic is often bad but they stick to the belief it will only take thirty minutes. It’s more wishful thinking than good judgment.

    We can use Parkinson’s Law to our advantage. If you have estimated that to write five emails that desperately need a reply to be ninety minutes, then reduce it down to one hour. Likewise, if you have estimated it will take you three hours to prepare your upcoming presentation, reduce it down to two hours.

    Reducing the time you estimate something will take gives you two advantages. The first is you get your work done quicker, obviously. The second is you put yourself under a little time pressure and in doing so you reduce the likelihood you will be distracted or allow yourself to procrastinate.

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    When we overestimate how long something will take, subconsciously our brains know we have plenty of time and so it plays tricks on us and we end up checking reviews of the Apple Watch 4 or allow our colleagues to interrupt us with the latest office gossip.

    Applying a little time pressure prevents this from happening and we get more focused and more work done.

    4. Use the Power of Your Calendar

    Once you have your time estimates done, open up your calendar and schedule your to-dos. Go through your to-dos and schedule time on your calendar for doing those tasks. Group tasks up into similar tasks.

    For emails that need attention on your to-do list, schedule time on your calendar to deal with all your emails at once. Likewise, if you have a report to write or a presentation to prepare, add these to your calendar using your estimated time as a guide for how long each will take.

    Seeing these items on your calendar eases your mind because you know you have allocated time to get them done and you no longer feel you have no time. Grouping similar tasks together keeps you in a focused state longer and it’s amazing how much work you get done when you do this.

    5. Make Decisions

    For those things you wrote down that are on your mind but are not tasks, make a decision about what you will do with each one. These things are on your mind because you have not made a decision about them.

    If you have an issue with a colleague, a friend or a loved one, take a little time to think about what would be the best way to resolve the problem. More often than not just talking with the person involved will clear the air and resolve the problem.

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    If it is a more serious issue, then decide how best to deal with it. Talk to your boss, a colleague and get advice.

    Whatever you do, do not allow it to fester. Ignoring the problem will not make it go away. You need to make a decision to deal with it and the sooner you do so the sooner the problem will be resolved. (You can take a look at this guide on How To Make Good Decisions All The Time.)

    I remember long ago, when I was in my early twenties and had gone mad with my newly acquired credit cards. I discovered I didn’t have the money to pay my monthly bills. I worried about it for days, got stressed and really didn’t know what to do. Eventually, I told a good friend of mine of the problem. He suggested I called the credit card company to explain my problem. The next day, I plucked up the courage to call the company, explained my problem and the wonderful person the other end listened and then suggested I paid a smaller amount for a couple of months.

    This one phone call took no more than ten minutes to make, yet it solved my problem and took away a lot of the stress I was feeling at the time. I learned two very valuable lessons from that experience:

    The first, don’t go mad with newly acquired credit cards! And the second, there’s always a solution to every problem if you just talk to the right person.

    6. Take Some Form of Action

    Because overwhelm is something that creeps up on us, once we feel overwhelmed (and stressed as the two often go together), the key is to take some form of action.

    The act of writing everything down that is bothering you and causing you to feel overwhelmed is a great place to start. Being able to see what it is that is bothering you in a list form, no matter how long that list is, eases the mind. You have externalized it.

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    It also means rather than these worries floating around in a jumbled mess inside your head, they are now visible and you can make decisions easier about what to do about them. Often it could be asking a colleague for a little help, or it could be you see you need to allocate some focused time to get the work done. The important thing is you make a decision on what to do next.

    Overwhelm is not always caused by a feeling of having a lack of time or too much work, it can also be caused by avoiding a decision about what to do next.

    The Bottom Line

    Make a decision, even if it is to just talk to someone about what to do next. Making a decision about how you will resolve something on its own will reduce your feelings of overwhelm and start you down the path to a resolution one way or another.

    When you follow these strategies to can say goodbye to your overwhelm and gain much more control over your day.

    More Tips for Reducing Work Stress

    Featured photo credit: Andrei Lazarev via unsplash.com

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