Have you ever felt out of control? How many small things did you forget yesterday? Do you find yourself slumping into your chair at the start of the workday, already beat from a morning of mayhem? I’ve been there, and it is exhausting!
Frantic. I have a train to catch in 20 minutes and its an 18-minute drive to the station. “What should I eat!?” I dig through the pantry and find an old snack-sized bag of chips. “Sure could use some coffee.” I skip it, not enough time. I rush upstairs, and stare at my closet. “Where is my brown belt?” I try to piece together an outfit. “Where are my navy pants?” Wrinkled. On the floor. I rush for the door, grabbing my briefcase while leaving the bag of chips forgotten on the table. “Where are my keys!?”
This story is a little too familiar for most of us. But it doesn’t have to be. You can free yourself from making the same hectic decisions day in and day out. By establishing a few key routines, you can free your psyche to focus on important value-added thinking.
Every day, we are inundated with requests to make decisions. There are a number of less obvious places where we have installed too many options in our lives. The result is that we exhaust ourselves with decision fatigue without even realizing what we are doing.
Open your pantry and look around. You are bombarded with marketing from the moment you wake up and try to decide which cereal to eat. Marketing that is asking you to make a decision. These requests for decisions continue throughout the day, only ending when we close our eyes at night.
Decisions take effort.
The problem is that each of these decisions costs a bit of mental energy. We spend enormous amounts of energy making the same decisions over and over again. Every day we decide what to wear, what to eat, when to leave the house, and so on. Unfortunately, we (1) give ourselves too many options and (2) force ourselves to make these decisions at the wrong times of the day.
Why spend your time making the same old decisions when you could be developing and shipping ideas that will change your future for the better? Save your mental energy for the good stuff.
- Too Many Options! A result of marketing and our consumer culture is that we often fill our lives with more choices than we really need. How many lunch options do you need each week? How many boxes of cereal do you need to choose from each morning?
Timing the Decision We wake up with a finite amount of will power. Every time you exert that will you burn some fuel that won’t return until tomorrow.
Have you ever found yourself in a group trying to decide where to go out for lunch? Nobody has an opinion. It takes a bit of cajoling, laughing at ourselves, and spontaneous leadership before the group agrees on where to go.
Low-value decisions, such as what to wear and what to eat should be made when the tank is already empty. You can always last 5 more minutes to pick out your clothes. You can’t always force yourself to have a great idea when you need to.
In [Essentialism](http://gregmckeown.com/essentialism-the-disciplined-pursuit-of-less/ “The Disciplined Pursuit of Less”), Greg McKeown suggests that we clear the way for productivity by making single decisions that actually make thousands of future decisions. Establishing routines in our lives is one of the simplest ways of doing just that.
Routines give freedom.
A few simple routines can clarify your world, helping you to begin each day with a clear sense of purpose and flow. The opening story gives perfect example of the power that routines can give: when something goes wrong with a haphazard morning, you spend the rest of the day feeling the need to catch up!
Why is the image above so peaceful to look at? There is a single path. There is clarity of focus, we know where we are going.
When we distract ourselves with small decisions all day, we loose that clarity. We never get a chance to look at (or decide on) the big direction in which we are headed.
Make the decision. Create a morning, evening, and weekly routine. Be intentional not only about how you use your time, but also when you use your time.
What you could accomplish if you replaced the trivial barriers throughout your day with extended times of mental clarity?