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How To Make Fewer Decisions Every Day

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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.

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Last Updated on October 21, 2021

How to Create Your Own Ritual to Conquer Time Wasters and Laziness

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How to Create Your Own Ritual to Conquer Time Wasters and Laziness

Life is wasted in the in-between times. The time between when your alarm first rings and when you finally decide to get out of bed. The time between when you sit at your desk and when productive work begins. The time between making a decision and doing something about it.

Slowly, your day is whittled away from all the unused in-between moments. Eventually, time wasters, laziness, and procrastination get the better of you.

The solution to reclaim these lost middle moments is by creating rituals. Every culture on earth uses rituals to transfer information and encode behaviors that are deemed important. Personal rituals can help you build a better pattern for handling everything from how you wake up to how you work.

Unfortunately, when most people see rituals, they see pointless superstitions. Indeed, many rituals are based on a primitive understanding of the world. But by building personal rituals, you get to encode the behaviors you feel are important and cut out the wasted middle moments.

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Program Your Own Algorithms

Another way of viewing rituals is by seeing them as computer algorithms. An algorithm is a set of instructions that is repeated to get a result.

Some algorithms are highly efficient, sorting or searching millions of pieces of data in a few seconds. Other algorithms are bulky and awkward, taking hours to do the same task.

By forming rituals, you are building algorithms for your behavior. Take the delayed and painful pattern of waking up, debating whether to sleep in for another two minutes, hitting the snooze button, repeat until almost late for work. This could be reprogrammed to get out of bed immediately, without debating your decision.

How to Form a Ritual

I’ve set up personal rituals for myself for handling e-mail, waking up each morning, writing articles, and reading books. Far from making me inflexible, these rituals give me a useful default pattern that works best 99% of the time. Whenever my current ritual won’t work, I’m always free to stop using it.

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Forming a ritual isn’t too difficult, and the same principles for changing habits apply:

  1. Write out your sequence of behavior. I suggest starting with a simple ritual of only 3-4 steps maximum. Wait until you’ve established a ritual before you try to add new steps.
  2. Commit to following your ritual for thirty days. This step will take the idea and condition it into your nervous system as a habit.
  3. Define a clear trigger. When does your ritual start? A ritual to wake up is easy—the sound of your alarm clock will work. As for what triggers you to go to the gym, read a book or answer e-mail—you’ll have to decide.
  4. Tweak the Pattern. Your algorithm probably won’t be perfectly efficient the first time. Making a few tweaks after the first 30-day trial can make your ritual more useful.

Ways to Use a Ritual

Based on the above ideas, here are some ways you could implement your own rituals:

1. Waking Up

Set up a morning ritual for when you wake up and the next few things you do immediately afterward. To combat the grogginess after immediately waking up, my solution is to do a few pushups right after getting out of bed. After that, I sneak in ninety minutes of reading before getting ready for morning classes.

2. Web Usage

How often do you answer e-mail, look at Google Reader, or check Facebook each day? I found by taking all my daily internet needs and compressing them into one, highly-efficient ritual, I was able to cut off 75% of my web time without losing any communication.

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3. Reading

How much time do you get to read books? If your library isn’t as large as you’d like, you might want to consider the rituals you use for reading. Programming a few steps to trigger yourself to read instead of watching television or during a break in your day can chew through dozens of books each year.

4. Friendliness

Rituals can also help with communication. Set up a ritual of starting a conversation when you have opportunities to meet people.

5. Working

One of the hardest barriers when overcoming procrastination is building up a concentrated flow. Building those steps into a ritual can allow you to quickly start working or continue working after an interruption.

6. Going to the gym

If exercising is a struggle, encoding a ritual can remove a lot of the difficulty. Set up a quick ritual for going to exercise right after work or when you wake up.

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7. Exercise

Even within your workouts, you can have rituals. Spacing the time between runs or reps with a certain number of breaths can remove the guesswork. Forming a ritual of doing certain exercises in a particular order can save time.

8. Sleeping

Form a calming ritual in the last 30-60 minutes of your day before you go to bed. This will help slow yourself down and make falling asleep much easier. Especially if you plan to get up full of energy in the morning, it will help if you remove insomnia.

8. Weekly Reviews

The weekly review is a big part of the GTD system. By making a simple ritual checklist for my weekly review, I can get the most out of this exercise in less time. Originally, I did holistic reviews where I wrote my thoughts on the week and progress as a whole. Now, I narrow my focus toward specific plans, ideas, and measurements.

Final Thoughts

We all want to be productive. But time wasters, procrastination, and laziness sometimes get the better of us. If you’re facing such difficulties, don’t be afraid to make use of these rituals to help you conquer them.

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More Tips to Conquer Time Wasters and Procrastination

 

Featured photo credit: RODOLFO BARRETO via unsplash.com

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