Many of us think that the big ‘limit’ on our ability to get things done is time. We all make the excuse that we don’t exercise because we don’t have time and that we don’t do more with the family because we don’t have time.
That’s actually not true. If you think back to all of those times in your life when you’ve been doing ‘nothing’, then you’ll probably realize that you actually had plenty of time. Just this week, you’ve probably spent at least a good couple of hours on Facebook/YouTube/the website of your choice, and there’s a good chance you’ve watched a fair amount of useless TV as well.
That’s all time that you could have been using to exercise, to phone friends, to tidy the house.
The point? You don’t have any problem with time. Your problem is with energy. The reason you’re not using that available time more efficiently, or even to have fun is that you’re low on energy.
And did you know that your will-power decreases too as you run out of energy? Not only do you have less physical energy to get up and tidy when you’re tired, you also have less mental willpower in order to encourage yourself to do it.
Energy management then is actually much more important than time management very often. And a BIG component of energy management is to understand the impact that decision making has on our energy levels.
Every time you have to make a decision, this takes a toll on your energy levels and leaves you with a little less energy to ‘spend’ on other tasks.
For instance, when you wake up in the morning and decide what you’re going to wear, that will not only take up time but it will also take up energy. Likewise, when you decide what to have for lunch, you’ll also be using up your mental energy to make that decision.
And this then means that you have less energy when it comes to making other, more important decisions. When someone asks you what to do at work, or when you’re wondering how best to save your money, you now have less mental energy available to dedicate to that decision. By the end of the day, you burn out!
How to Reduce Decisions
So what’s the solution? There are a number of things you can do but one of the most important steps is simply to reduce the number of decisions that you’re forced to make in a day.
This is actually something that Steve Jobs is famous for doing. Jobs apparently decided he wanted to reduce the number of trivial decisions he had to make in his life and so he removed all variation from his clothing. He replaced all of his items of clothing with just black t-shirts and jeans. That meant that every single morning, he would put on his one outfit and never need to worry about what he was going to wear!
Steve Jobs as you know, would go on to help invent the iPod, iPhone and iPad. So presumably it was working for him!
That’s quite extreme of course and not everyone is going to want to surrender all variation in their clothing. Thus, let’s take a look at some more gentle and moderate solutions you can apply to your own life…
#1 Shed Excess Clothing
While you might not want to go as far as Jobs with it, there are nevertheless effective ways you can reduce the decision making surrounding your choice of outfits. One of the easiest ways to do this is just to plan your out fits in advance so that you have all of those items ready to go. You can even write this out on Sunday evening so you can refer to that plan.
This is one of those ideas that sounds perfect in theory but sometimes falls down in practice — what happens if you put on that outfit and you don’t like it or you’re not in the mood for it for instance?
Another solution then is simply to have, say, 20 outfits for work that you know you like and that you know are suitable. Now, you can simply refer to any of those 20 in the morning without too much thought. 20 is enough that your colleagues will only see you in the same outfit once every two months — but you will still never be stressed about whether your outfit works, or because you have nothing to wear.
Another tip is to ensure that you choose your clothes in such a way that they can be combined into multiple different outfits. In other words, make sure that most of your trousers go with most of your tops. Now you’ll be able to throw multiple combinations together with less thought.
#2 Keep Food Simple
While you might not want to keep your outfits the exact same every day, you might well be more inclined to keep your food consistent for breakfast and lunch.
These meals aren’t exactly ‘exciting’ in the first place. So why not have the same cereal and toast for breakfast each day and the same salad bar/lunch box for lunch. This reduces waste too, makes shopping much easier and also makes it considerably easier to monitor your calorie intake if you’re dieting.
As for dinner, this is something else you can plan at the start of the week. And it works even better if you can also prepare some meals — cook something big on Sunday and you can put some Tupperware boxes in the fridge for lazy evenings. Now you can simply heat those meals up in the evening instead of throwing a pizza in the oven.
And while you’re at it, come up with some ‘backup’ meals that will keep. A good example is to keep a tin of beans in the cupboard. Beans on toast are actually quite healthy and tasty and they only take 10 minutes to make.
#3 Don’t Shop til you drop
If you automate a lot of what you eat, this then creates the opportunity to make your shopping considerably easier. How? By setting up a delivery with your local supermarket. Most stores now offer this service and it means that you can avoid that stressful ‘weekly shop’ and instead just pick up a few supplementary ingredients to make each of your meals.
#4 Make each night special
You can also schedule some of your daily activities in order to further reduce decision fatigue. Do this by making each night of the week ‘something night’.
So now, Monday can become ‘rest night’ where you’re allowed to watch trashy TV without the guilt. Tuesday can become ‘date night’ where you commit yourself to spend some quality time with your other half. Wednesday can become ‘chores night’ where you tidy the house.
By setting tasks like this for each evening, you remove the stressful need to make that ‘right decision’ and instead just carry out and execute your plan to stay on top of things.
All this will help you to simplify your life. There are more methods you can use to do this as well, so start putting them into action and just reduce the number of decisions you have to make.