This advice has been given on a few podcasts I’ve listened to, but I wanted to simplify it further and give a few examples from my life as a self-described “productivity nerd.” Think about this question: Is there one decision you could make that would remove thousands?
Now maybe removing thousands of decisions sounds ridiculous. Could you remove hundreds of decisions or even twenty by making one decision?
I reckon you can and you’d be a lot better for it.
But why would you want to remove so many decisions from your life? In my case, it’s because having to make too many decisions drains my energy, takes away my time and makes life unnecessarily complicated.
With fewer decisions to make, you can focus on the important tasks that give you meaning and do away with those meaningless tasks that hold you back.
Here are a few key decisions I’ve made that drastically reduced the number of decisions I need to make:
- I wear mostly the same few outfits to work
- The takeaway food I consume has been limited to three choices
- I don’t do anything that fits into the ‘exposure’ category of blogging
- There’s one podcast I listen to
- I invest my money in a maximum of three places
The biggest single decision I made was to say no to all requests for my time in return for exposure or access to someone’s audience.
As a blogger, you’re told to constantly promote yourself and chase media opportunities, do podcasts, be filmed for YouTube, write a book, and respond to PR pitches.
With all of the tasks required to produce this exposure, there are many decisions that need to be made. Most of the tasks involve building other peoples dreams for little to no value when it comes to your own. With each decision that needs to be made in this area of my life, I’m taken away from the one thing that has produced 90% of my results: the writing itself.
Each of us has at least one area of our life that produces tens, hundreds, or even thousands of these micro decisions. With each decision comes distraction and an invisible amount of time that you’re probably not prepared to admit that you’re wasting.
If something brings you no joy or no meaning, you have the option to make one decision that removes all future decisions from this area of your life.
The outcomes you are seeking and the goals you have can be fast-tracked when you remove the endless number of decisions sitting in your email inbox, waiting for you to decide.
If you’re waiting to decide, that’s a sign
Right now, I have five unread emails at the top of my email inbox. Each email carries a decision I’m putting off. The five emails are:
- A career opportunity
- A question about startups
- An invitation to an event
- A job ad someone sent me
- A request to share someone’s video
The real reason I’m putting off each of these emails is that none of the topics are things I currently care about. I’ve quickly read each email and then said to myself, “I’ll decide tomorrow.”
This is a classic sign of a decision that could be eliminated by making one decision. For example, if you don’t want to share someone’s video, make a decision that you don’t share other people’s videos.
If you’re not interested in changing careers, make a decision to ignore all job ads. If you are getting lots of requests to attend events and you’re busy studying a new skill for the rest of the year, make a decision to decline all event invitations.
Making the same decision in one area of your life over and over is wasting your precious energy that could be channeled towards your goals.
You can make an annual decision as a compromise
Some decisions can’t be permanent. For example, if you say no to attending events for the rest of your life, you might become an introverted, shy, rude, anti-social asshole when that wasn’t your intent.
What works for me is to have certain decisions that are annual ones. Right now, I have decided not to accept requests to share peoples videos. These are not permanent decisions and will be reviewed at the end of the year.
By batching decisions into common areas and making an annual decision on each one, you can save yourself a lot of time.
Common areas to think about
The areas that we waste a lot of time making decisions in are:
- What to eat
- When to sleep or wake up
- What to wear
- What to do on the weekend
- What books to read
- What to watch on TV
- What podcast to listen to
Now I’m not suggesting you optimize every area because if you’re a foodie and write a food blog for a living, then only eating at three restaurants could be rather limiting and unhelpful. My point is that there are always areas that don’t matter all that much to you which you can put on auto-pilot.
Not every request needs a decline
The decisions that need to be made because of a request of your time don’t necessarily require a decline. Many requests are sent out without much thought, or worse, they are templates disguised as personal messages.
A lot of requests that have decisions attached to them can be handled by doing nothing at all. Don’t open the email. Ignore the email. Don’t respond.
You can tell how badly someone wants your time based on whether they follow up or not. If I put my finger in the air and think about all the 2019 requests I’ve had, and how many followed up with me, I’d say it’s somewhere around less than 5%.
This means you can automate a lot of these decisions by not responding, thus removing the stress of sometimes having to say no.
Sacrifice decision making for focus
The whole reason I’ve become obsessed with removing decisions is because I can easily be distracted, become lazy or miss hitting my goals. By sacrificing the compulsion to make so many decisions, it’s paid off by giving me more focus.
On Thursdays and Saturdays when I write, I can have a clear head to be creative, explore ideas and write my dreams into reality instead of being held back by thoughts associated with decisions I need to make.
It’s very hard to be creative or work hard on something when you have thousands of decisions buzzing around in your head, crying for attention like an infant, and preventing you from doing the best work of your life.
Make strategic single decisions, batch common decisions, gain focus, feel good and win the war against distraction.