Decision fatigue

This entry will pick up on a theme I covered in a recent post about “driven to distraction” which got an unusually high number of views and likes, so I suspect there are many out there who can relate. These themes are related and intertwine because we live in a world that is ever more connected, and our expectations have gone up in terms of having access to what we want, instantly and without delay.

I am in the market for a new laptop, and I find myself with an abundance of options. This may seem like a really good thing. But I find the process of choosing to be rather paralyzing. I have always loved my Macs and was leaning toward the MacBook Air with its 13 inch screen and less than 3 pound weight. Then I realized there are many options for several hundreds of dollars less, some that can do even more things! The Lenovo Flex 5 is what I am leaning toward today, given an employee discount I can get from work, and the fact that has 2-in-1 capabilities to act as a tablet as well. My iPad died a few years ago, and while I liked the convenience and compact design, I prefer a real keyboard when I am doing a lot of writing.

I told my husband that I am NOT the kind of person who want to do days of research on this process. I just want to have a machine that is adequate for my needs, compact and light for travel, durable because I am rough on my technology, and not too expensive. It comes down to the fact that I am willing to settle for a “good enough” option rather than researching every possible choice. In fact, constraining down to 2 brands is my way of taking away at least SOME decision fatigue, but the options within those brands are so numerous as well. I guess this reflects the economic principle of “satisficing” versus maximizing, a concept I learned about a few years ago from an book written by Barry Schwartz, a professor from Swarthmore College where I am an alumna.

In The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less, Schwartz explains how too much of a good thing has proved detrimental to our psychological and social well-being. People who feel they must maximize and make the “best” choice, and who do exhaustive research before making a decision sometimes feel analysis paralysis when it comes to making a decision. For sure, as a “questioner” I can relate. Maximizers tend to have greater regret when it comes to past decisions, and they can ruminate on whether a better choice could have been made. In general, I am a satisficer because I like to limit the decision fatigue of not making a choice and spinning in analysis paralysis.

Brooke Castillo speaks about constraint as a way of giving us better focus and better results. She has a great podcast episode about how constraint helps us to reduce “overwhelm” in our lives and lets us be more productive. We eliminate decision fatigue when we do not allow ourselves every possible choice. This is why the minimalist lifestyle appeals so much to me, as a person who suffers from the distraction that comes from too many things to which my brain wants to attend.

Most people know about President Obama’s deliberate constraint to wear only blue or gray suits. He has enough really important decisions to make every day that having to choose clothing should not tax his mental energy, of which we all have a limited amount each day. It is one reason why it may be easier to make difficult decisions in the morning, when our brain energy is fresh and has not been depleted. I know one reason I like to work from home is that I have fewer agonies over having to pick out “grown up” clothes to wear to the office.

I recently discovered a blog I like called A Small Wardrobe and she has some great insight on this minimalist approach. The Functioning Minimalist podcast (and website) is another source of insight on this principle. Notice though! I just gave you two more choices to make if you want to explore this principle… Ha! You thought I was going to simplify your life in this post. Gotcha! đŸ™‚

In all seriousness though, the principle here is that we all have so many choices. And yet, we must find ways in which to constrain those choices to live a happier, less burdened life. I have learned to be more satisfied by choices I have made in the past by telling myself that nothing can be re-done now. Those choices were the perfect ones for me, in the moment, and with the knowledge I had at the time. So what if I use that for this decision I am making now? I will give myself a certain amount time to make the decision, and then will move forward, knowing that this choice is a lot less momentous than, say, picking my next career move… (you know that will be a future post, right?).

For now, let me leave you with an image I made with pastels some time back, a representation of what my brain feels like sometimes when there is a lot of “static” of indecision. Happy Friday! May you, my dear readers, free yourselves from too many decisions, and enjoy to the fullest all of the ones you make.

Decision fatigue
This is how my brain feels when I am trying to make too many decisions.

 

 

 

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