“Be regular and orderly in your life…so that you may be violent and original in your work” ~by Gustave Flaubert (1876)
Decision fatigue is a real phenomenon. Decision fatigue describes what occurs when someone has to make many silly irrelevant decisions during the day that takes away mental energy and the ability to focus on what is essential.
It is recognized by people as diverse as Barak Obama, Albert Einstein, Steve Jobs, and Mark Zuckerburg who all chose simplified wardrobes that allowed them to wear the same or similar things every single day. No longer having to make decisions about what clothing to wear freed them up to concentrate on things they considered to be essential and reduced the likelihood of them experiencing mental exhaustion.
‘You’ll see I wear only gray or blue suits’ [Obama] said. ‘I’m trying to pare down decisions. I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing. Because I have too many other decisions to make.’
He mentioned research that shows the simple act of making decisions degrades one’s ability to make further decisions” ~ Barak Obama in Vanity Fair
There are so many things related to material possessions that can take up large pockets of our time every day. Choosing what clothes to wear is only one of them.
- Food preparation and choices for what to eat for each meal is another area that we can waste time making decisions about each day.
How we live in our homes, and how many possessions we surround ourselves with also impacts on our productivity.
- Some people spend vast amounts of time in trying to find things they need each day. Due to excessive commercialization, and the emphasis on material goods, many people in the Western world, now live amongst severe clutter mountains in their own homes.
- Piles of clothing washed, and unwashed, collections of items (many still in their original packaging) and an accumulation of all previously owned items due to holding onto them for sentimental reasons mean that people can stagnate, become depressed and find it hard to move forward and make new goals.
- Relationships suffer due to hoarding. People can begin to suffer from a deterioration in their mental health. Depression and anxiety can occur as well as a fear of having people over due to the shame of how one is living thereby impacting regular and normal socialization.
There has been an upsurge in television shows devoted to helping people recognize the value of minimizing and decluttering. Some businesses specialize in assisting people to declutter and organize their homes.
“Our life is frittered away by detail. …Simply, simplify”~ Henry David Thoreau
My Own Life
I had not heard about decision fatigue before. But I did know that I tended to pick the same couple of breakfast options for myself every single morning. I was quite happy to eat the same thing for breakfast. I enjoyed the routine and not having to think about it.
I always enjoyed attending schools that had a uniform (as most schools do in New Zealand and Australia) and also workplaces that gave uniform choices as an option. I liked not having to compete with others and feel either inferior or better than due to what I was wearing. It all seemed to create such unnecessary stress and burden.
I own one pair of shoes for professional wear and sneakers for walking in.
I have a pair of flip-flops for summer time which is pretty essential here in Australia.
So without realizing it, I have been practicing pairing down, minimalization and simplification in my life over the years as a natural part of my personality.
Recent Re-Organization & Minimalizing
My husband and I just recently decided to take minimalizing a step further.
We had obtained the book The Barefoot Investor by Australian author Scott Pape which has helped millions of people understand and simplify their finances and take control of their money in ways they may not have ever done previously.
So we did a financial stocktake, and we put systems in place for savings and bills that were more efficient than what we previously had done. It was a breath of fresh air taking control in this way and eliminating unnecessary fees, time spent transferring money between accounts and always trying to keep ahead. We no longer had to think about what was happening with our money as we had automated systems in place.
We then moved our attention to our home. We had already downsized last year to a two bedroom, one bathroom home near the sea here in Australia. This time we went through each room, one by one and held and looked at every item. We asked ourselves:
- Have we used this in the last year? If not, do we need it less frequently and if so is there somewhere else we can store this item that won’t clutter up our storage?
- Do we use and need this item?
- If we had pairs or more of any single item we donated, sold or gave them away.
- We cleaned out a whole lot more items and what was left was easier to see, find and keep organized.
We sat down together each weekend, and we decided on all the meals at dinner time we were going to eat in the coming week. We wrote a shopping list and pre-prepared some food.
In this way, we didn’t have to waste time each night of the week thinking last minute what we were going to eat, forgetting to get food out of the freezer to defrost in time, or being too tired and lazy to prepare and opting for fast food.
It felt good to get ourselves organized. We have a weekly, monthly and 3-monthly list of cleaning jobs so in this way we keep on top of daily cleaning and also those jobs that we only do three or four times a year but if they are forgotten or left can cause more significant issues.
More Time Each Day
Having become more organized in our home has freed up so much more time for us to focus on our creative pursuits and endeavors. My husband is a keen photographer, and he goes out a few hours each week pursuing his passion.
I write and publish articles daily on Medium (sometimes more frequently), but I always have a few stories on the go at one time, that I am researching, writing or editing. I have over a 100 stories in a draft format at any one time. If I think of a great heading or find an awesome photo that catches my eye or stimulates ideas for an article I save it.
I have more time to spend reading other peoples articles on Medium. I love doing this, and I can quickly lose an hour or so each day. However, I find it stimulating, thought-provoking and it is a new way of feeling connected with other people around the world.
I am not painting at the moment (it is too hot in my studio during summertime) but when I get back into it in the colder months I know that being more organized, tidy and pre-prepared will give me more time to devote to painting and creating artworks.
It is a known fact that the more choices you have to make during the day the more tired you get towards the end of the day. The amount of energy we have each day is closely linked with our willpower.
If we are goal orientated and have things we wish to accomplish; the more we can streamline our life the greater will be our willpower to enforce new routines, make new habits or break bad habits.
Resistance To Giving Up Options
Part of the weariness in decision making comes from the opposition that humans biologically have to give up options. Most of us like to weigh each option carefully.
In matters of survival, this is important, but it is rare that the decisions involved in our daily lives are related to whether we are going to survive or not. However, our brain still takes the time to contemplate.
The more options there are before us, the more time our brain will take as it weighs and discards all the options available. Having too many opportunities to wade through is why people get so exhausted when planning for weddings which require multiple decisions involving things that may seem important at the time but which are exhausting due to the sheer volume of them (color of napkins, the design of thank you cards, etc.).
Our brains do not stop working when our glucose levels drop. Glucose levels drop as our minds are actively working and making decisions. A shot of glucose has been shown to restore willpower to higher levels. Someone is more susceptible to making impulse choices, instead of considering and delaying gratification for long-term reward when their glucose levels deplete after having had to make more decisions.
People spend on average three to four hours a day resisting desires. The main things people have been found to actively resist during each day are the desire to eat and sleep, the desire for sex, to become distracted by social media, spend money or watch television.
All of this exercising of willpower and a constant making of decisions to not give in to something depletes the brain of energy and saps peoples strength by the end of each day.
A typical computer user looks at dozens of different websites each day. Modern man has faced more decision making each day that zaps our energy than were our ancestors. Constant decision making increases frustration levels; impulses appear more powerful, fights, shortcuts, and choices involving immediate gratification can become more frequent.
No wonder people long for and seek peace in wild places, places where there is often zero technology, and they can ‘switch off’ and ‘recharge their batteries’.
Is it no wonder that people seek to replenish their energy by submerging themselves in water, going to quiet open spaces, places that have fewer people? People love to go up to the mountains with loved ones where they do not have to think but can sleep and enjoy their time without having to make decisions about anything except what to do recreationally if anything.
So, what are you going to do to simplify your life and free up time and energy for what you REALLY want to do?
I would urge you to consider thinking about ways that you can simplify, declutter and streamline your life so you do not have to make as many small inconsequential decisions each day, which lead to decision fatigue.
In this way, you will free up energy and time to be able to devote to creative pursuits with all the power of passion and originality you can muster.
“Silence isn’t empty. It’s full of answers” ~ Unknown.