My girlfriend and I are shocking when it comes to deciding on the really important things like, you know, what movie to watch or where to go for dinner. Yeah, big decisions like that.
For example, once or twice a week we’ll decide to watch a movie while we eat.
Eight out of ten times, you know what we watch?
We’ll watch trailer after trailer after trailer, hemming and hawing over the merits of each film, suggesting options to each each other, taking each others moods into account, checking what rottentomatoes.com has to say…and with empty plates in front of us and a vague feeling that the fourth trailer before this one seemed OK but what was it again? …We’d decide we probably have better things to do with our time and go back to our respective activities.
This is indecision, and it’s a killer.
It takes your life minutes at a time, which add up at an alarming rate.
Ever ask yourself Where did the years go? Probably Here. Because a lot of decisions are bigger than what to watch on iTunes or Netflicks.
Regret gets a pretty bad rap as a waste of mental energy.
Jealousy and Holding a Grudge rank pretty highly too.
But Indecision takes the cake for me because really, how much of your day do you spend regretting the past or being jealous or brooding over that thing that person did that time? And how often do you have to to make decisions? Daily. Hourly. Even minute by minute.
Indecision can attack you all day, every day because choices pop up constantly. It’s a mental energy sink you can potential find yourself living with unless you become adept at quelling indecision even before it happens.
Decisions are not gonna stop coming at you for the rest of your life.
Making them is probably a good thing to become kick-arse at.
Right now I have a ticket to Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln in my wallet.
It’s screening at my local cinema in two days time. It’s been out for a couple of weeks. It’s a midweek session, early in the evening, in a small suburban screen. In other words – it probably won’t sell out. But that’s not why I have the ticket.
I have the ticket to remove the doubt…to make sure I actually go. I’m leveraging the power of the foregone conclusion.
It’s not that I don’t like going to the cinema. I really enjoy it and I often think I ought to go to the movies more regularly. Still, confronted with the option to go or not go, doubt kicks in. I never decide not to go. I just don’t get around to it.
Do I really want to go? Is there something else I should be doing? It’s nice to have a date night. I should go. Am I in the mood for this? Should I wait until it gets a home release? They say Daniel Day Lewis is supposed to be good in it. There’s probably going to be jerks in the audience talking – I hate that. Yeah I definitely should wait for the Blu-Ray. Then again, you really ought to see Spielberg on the big screen.
All good points. And that’s exactly the problem. There’s good points for and good points against. The longer you give yourself to decide, the more reasons you have to be unhappy with the decision you finally make because of all those excellent points you made against the decision you took.
This is decision fatigue. It’s the friction of indecision. And how useful is it? How much better is your decision really going to be after 20 minutes of vague deliberation, versus 20 seconds of focussed thought?
The best thing you can do when faced with a sudden decision is make it quickly. A quick decision amy not always be a perfect decision but it will often be a good decision. I look at it like this: A great decision made eventually is good, but a good decision made swiftly is great.
There will still be Big Decisions which require extended time and deliberation but these are rare compared to 99% of daily decisions. The bulk of your life is made up of little decisions to be made daily. With those small decisions, making them well is important but because of the sheer amount of them making them fast becomes crucial.
Best of all, making swift decisions becomes a habit. And when you find that the decisions you make swiftly turn out to be only marginally better (or worse) and the ones you agonised over for hours or days you’ll start trusting your initial judgements more and move onto larger decisions with more, well…decisiveness. Like everything, it’s inertial.
Making the occasional bad decision is a small price to pay when we’re talking about domestic garden variety decisions.
Yes indeed, the quick decision is King…with one exception.
I like regular cardio exercise – specifically the Elliptical machine at my local gym. I know that when I do it the exercise makes me think better and feel better. Still, the fact that I know that doesn’t make it easy to leap out of bed and go. I have to make the decision each day that I’m going to go. The reason for that is because I go six days a week.
Think about that: Six out of seven days means that I will have to make 365 decisions each year about whether or not to go to the gym on any given day. Is today the day to take off? How am I feeling? Would I rather take a day off later in the week?
Now let’s tweak that.
If I decide to go seven days a week, I have to make just one decision: The one I just made. And I will not make it again.
That is a Pre-decision and a Pre-decision is the best decision.
Not everything can be pre-decided – but make a real effort to find that which can. Look for things that can be transformed from a decision to a foregone conclusion.
Don’t wonder if you should schedule in some invoicing tomorrow, pre-decide instead to invoice on mondays between 2 and 3. That way the amorphous and mentally inefficient question “gee, should I schedule in some invoicing tomorrow?” becomes the snappy “is tomorrow monday?”. The outcome is pre-decided. The decision is circumvented, so you can now forget about invoicing (what a luxury!), and when invoicing you can forget about everything else (a second luxury). It’s a no-brainer. Its a foregone conclusion.
Pre-decide whenever practical. What makes a pre-decision so great is that it is perfectly efficient. You burn exactly zero mental energy in the should I or shouldn’t I phase. To pre-decide is to be rich enough to be able to afford the luxury to simply do.
Another great thing about Pre-decisions is that it potentially means you are making a better decision because you are divorcing the deciding from the doing. To illustrate, try this little thought experiment.
Go to bed tonight and make no plans for tomorrow morning. When you open your eyes, try and decide on the best thing you could do as the first act of the day. Perhaps it will be coffee. Perhaps a shower. Perhaps email. Whatever it is, how do you see the quality of the first 20 minutes of that day?
Now rewind – and instead, before you go to sleep tonight, Pre-decide on the best thing you could do as your first act of tomorrow. Chances are without the “Morning Brain” making decisions for you the first thing that pops into your head won’t be breakfast or coffee or shower. Sit on the edge of your bed and give it 20 seconds of thought. Pre-decide what would be a great start to the day, and lock it in. Write it down by your bed if you need to, or place a physical cue nearby (perhaps your running shoes). Promise yourself you will do this. The physical object is your reminder. Now – how do you see the quality of the first 20 minutes of that day?
Apart from being a better quality decision there will be an added benefit: The levity of not having to think and second guess the way you are starting the day. Divorcing the deciding from the doing can make a world of difference. After all, the only difference between those two decisions were when and where you made them.
The amount of energy you can expend simply weighing up the pros and cons even on a subconscious level takes a task that requires some effort and turns it into a genuine burden. Imagine carrying a dry feather duvet – bulky but light enough. Now imagine carrying that same duvet soaked in water. That water is indecision. And just like the weight of a human being is 80% water, the weight of a task is 80% indecision. Get that over with either with pre-decisions or swift decisions and you will see how much lighter and enjoyable the task underneath the decision really is.
A great decision made eventually is good, a good decision made quickly is great but a pre-decision is the best.