How I Calibrate Myself to Avoid Decision Fatigue
Hurriedly James leaves the dark confines of his flourescently lit office and spills onto the sun soaked pavement of the outside world. The exposed skin of his hands and forehead, now free from the shade of his black suit, laps up the vitamin D-rich rays of the high noon sun.
He has sixty minutes to choose from a million restaurants, pick a menu item, feast and return to the virtual mine. The clock ticks with indifference toward the one-o-clock hour. As his pupils adjust to the light, his stomach alerts his mind that it is time to eat.
Thai? Mexican? A burger? Chinese? Never one to be selective about what he eats, his dietary compass points in every direction, spinning in an infinte vortex of boundless hunger. There’s only one thing he can do:
He commands his phone, “Navigate me to the highest-rated restaurant near me.”
“Hungry, James? Okay. Getting directions to New Timey Cafe…”
A half mile of turn-by-turn navigation later, he is greeted by the mustachioed, man-bun wielding host of the New Timey Café. “Welcome to New Timey Café! Grab a menu and sit anywhere you’d like.”
Pressed for time, his internal compass spiraling out of control, James freezes at the sight of familiar items paired with unfamiliar acronyms and descriptions: v, vg, gf, df, nut free, free range, grass fed, non-gmo.
He falls into the time-warp of indecision. The lunch hour passes him by. The clock, with its gentle apathy, reminds James that it’s time to leave.
Back at the office, the familiar dissatisfaction, hunger and confusion helps him into his ergonomic chair. He guides his slightly-tanned right hand to the mouse and continues where he left off: searching for the best flight prices online. And so the wheel turns.
The New Timey Café — Now Serving: Infinite Choices
I was once like James, beginning a day at the office by searching for flights to thirteen different countries only to inexplicably find myself reading the Wikipedia entry about pistol shrimp an hour later. Yeah, I was making decisions. And getting paid. But, I was going nowhere.
Note: If you’re just returning from the pistol shrimp entry, you may now know that the pistol shrimp competes with the sperm whale for loudest creature under the sea.
And like me and my boy James, you may sometimes need a pistol shrimp to snap its claws at you to break out of the loop of infinite indecision, posing as infinite decisions.
The indecision found me everywhere. It froze me in motion while I was looping my mind around the world searching for flights. It cackled at me while I was choosing a t-shirt to wear in the morning. It taunted me with a brain aneurysm while I stood at the co-op engaging in a long, careful decision over which eggs to choose. Note: Pasture-raised, organic eggs are the way to go.
I was Tindering my life. (For those of you who are so blessed as to have never entered the Tinder games, Tinder is “dry, flammable material, such as wood or paper, used for lighting a fire.”)
Google ‘decision fatigue’ and see if that speaks to you. I’d spend less than a second on each profile and regardless of how many times I swiped, I always felt drained afterwards.
Maybe it was my soul flushing down the toilet in the background of so many bathroom selfies, or maybe it was the never ending stream of sophisticated women who distilled the most important measure of their dream man into the phrase ‘Must Love Dogs’? Or, maybe it was that James never approved of my matches.
This writing is starting to look like a loop. Here are the steps I follow to immediately break free from the infinite loops of indecision:
Time Box It
One of the few things my $50,000 education taught me, was the value of time-boxing a project: Choose a task, apply a fixed time to it and commit to completing the task within the selected timeframe. In other words, box your task in time and carry it to completion.
For example, I set a 20 minute timer to reply to Facebook messages. Once time is up, I’m done, so I better hustle. To my friends, thank you for understanding my usage of Hunger Games stickers.
When I was Tindering, I noticed I’d slog through duck faces and basic wannabe baes for 10’s of minutes. Solution: Open Spotify, type in “Thong Song” and hit play. After 4 minutes and 14 seconds, I was not only finished swiping, I was also uplifted and infected by inspiration. Sisqo really outdid himself. If you’re not inspired, you’re not paying attention.
In my world (Timonia) I also refer to this as Minimize to Maximize. Time boxing is a way of minimizng time spent on a project, to maximize output.
The idea here is to be as selective as a vegan. Contrary to what I hear from people who’ve never practiced a vegan diet, it makes life easy. How? It eliminates so many options so as to give you a finite list of items you can eat.
When I was practicing veganism last year, choosing what to eat at a burger joint was never easier. I picked up a menu, searched for the elusive v, and the choice was made. No cows harmed, and no decision fatigue endured.
Aside from attempting a vegan, gluten free, dairy free, or sugar free diet, an easy way to eliminate choice is by following this law:
“If it’s not a Fuck Yes, It’s a No.” -Mark Manson
Learn to scrutinize what’s happening in your life: What excites you, and what drains you? Eliminate what bores you, and focus your energy only on the things that energize you.
Even though Sisqo’s epic musical meditation on thongs excited me, and kept what was draining me within a time box, true growth only happened when I eliminated Tinder from my life.
When I’m at my best, I am not spending a droplet of energy toward things that do not serve me: Apps, relationships, distatesful music, excessive drinking, shallow conversations, working at the office with James, etc.
Living on the edge in this way, often means cutting away old growth. It’s like trimming your hair as you’re working towards your man bun, or like a snake shedding it’s skin to reveal those shiny new scales.
As a wise man recently told me:
“If you’re not living on the edge, you’re taking up too much room.”
What are some of the cycles that you’re struggling to break free from?
Leave your thoughts in the comments and let’s break the loop.