Welcome to Part 2 of our “Beyond the Magic 8 Ball” Series, where we are exploring different tools to make life-changing choices.
Today we are going to rein it in and focus on the small choices that we face on a daily basis.
To tell you the truth, for me, making daily choices are actually MUCH harder than the huge, life-changing ones. I know that sounds kinda crazy, but it’s true. If you’re emotional or prone to anxiety, daily decisions can feel debilitating. Sometimes the options feel so overwhelming, that it can be difficult to take a deep breath and step back from the situation.
That’s why a lot of people find having a routine or schedule to be helpful – it eliminates the need for us to make the same choices over and over again. In fact, I just listened to a great episode on Pat Flynn’s Smart Passive Income podcast where he talks about his miracle morning routine and how he fights decision fatigue.
But today, I want to share some of my own tips and tricks on how I make stress-free decisions in my daily life.
#1: Try to eliminate choices when you can
If you are prone to decision-overwhelm, simplicity will be your best friend . Eliminate the options that you can part with easily, and focus on the choices that require most of your decision-making ability.
For example, my boyfriend and I love to play a little game when we are figuring out which restaurant we want to eat at for dinner on the weekend. One of us will come up with 3 different restaurant choices, and then the other person will eliminate one of the options, leaving only 2 left. Then together we’ll decide on which choice we are craving most between the final two. It’s fun, because it kinda makes the decision-making process into a game where we are both involved.
But you don’t have to have someone else with you to use this trick. When you have a decision to make, immediately part with the choices that don’t resonate with you. Just as if you were cleaning out your closet, deciding to donate the clothes that you don’t like right from the beginning will give you more time, brain power (and not to mention closet space!) to decide which items you might donate that have sentimental value.
So first and foremost, ELIMINATE!
#2: Divide & Conquer
This one is the best if you find yourself feeling overwhelmed.
For example, I live in NYC and love to shop at Macy’s in Herald Square. Their shoe floor is heaven on earth! But, this place also happens to be the largest department store in the world, with crowds that rival Times Square. It can be VERY easy to feel overwhelmed when you see rows upon rows of shoes. It would take you DAYS to look at each pair. I remember I went shopping here for shoes right before Christmas, and I felt like I was suffocating. The amount of people and options swirling around me was enough to drive anyone mad! From that moment on, I knew I had to come up with a plan, so I would never feel that helpless in a public place again.
That’s where dividing and conquering comes into play.
Mentally divide your choices into categories. For my shoe example, there are flats, sneakers, high heels and boots. When you are feeling overwhelmed, you must narrow your focus. Spring is just around the corner, so I’m going to focus on flats. Then take it step by step, focusing only on what matters most, reminding yourself to stay calm, and to go at your own pace. I’ll section off a small part of the department and JUST focus on the flats in that one area. No playing peek-a-boo or wandering around – that’s just inviting that yucky overwhelming feeling back into your life. If you feel the urge to wander, maybe ask an employee to help you pick out some shoes that you might like – they are much more familiar with the choices and their help could save you a lot of time and decision fatigue.
And you can continue to divide and conquer until you’ve made the choice that feels best.
Sometimes it can feel very uneasy making a choice unless you know ALL the options. But in a situation where the options are endless, you have to be specific with yourself and narrow your focus from the beginning; otherwise it will feel like a bottomless task. And in all honesty, decisions like these shouldn’t take you days, weeks, or months to make – especially when the importance factor is low.
And as long as you made a decision that makes you happy and feel good, it doesn’t matter if there was another choice out there that you might have also liked, but didn’t have a chance to see. Are you never going to have a relationship with your soulmate , JUST because you haven’t had the chance to meet and date everyone else in the world? No! The same applies to all the decisions you make.
So divide and conquer, get specific about what matters most, and go with your gut. Don’t be afraid to go slow and steady. The more you are able to remain calm, collected, and objective – the better you will feel. The world will not end if you don’t look at every shoe. Trust me, it took me awhile to learn this lesson, so be kind with yourself.
The third trick is one of my favorite exercises…
#3: Make a Points Grid
This exercise is perfect for those daily decisions that take a little extra amount of thought. Not critical to your well being, but something you want to make sure you make an informed decision on.
Now I don’t know the real name for this, but I learned this tool a LONG time ago, in some random class in middle school. Seriously, that’s where I learned it – and I STILL use it today.
Wish I could say the same thing about everything else I learned in middle school!
So let’s take an example. Pick a decision that you need to make that involves several different choices. Maybe you are trying to decide where you should go on vacation this summer. Maybe you thought about some different options, but your torn on which destination would be best.
So to start, you are going to list all the options you are considering.
Maybe you are thinking of visiting the Grand Canyon, your parents’ house, Las Vegas, & The Shore. You can do this on a piece of paper, or in MS Excel, like the example I’ll show below.
Then, it’s time to think of some of the main factors that could influence your decision.
Maybe the budget is a factor. Or the distance from your house. Maybe how much fun you think you’ll have, or maybe the “newness” of the place, (like if it’s somewhere you’ve already been before vs. a new destination). These could all be some factors that would influence your decision.
This part is completely up to you – it’s your turn to get specific on what it means for you to make an enjoyable decision. What matters most to you? List these on each row, like I did here…
Now, you are going to look at each decision factor and assign a number for every intersection on this grid. 10 being the best, 1 being the worst.
Then fill it out!
For example, I rated the budget for visiting my parents as a 10, because they love to spoil me rotten and I hardly have to pay for anything! And I love it – so that’s a 10! I listed my budget for Las Vegas as a 0, because Lord knows I would return from that trip with empty pockets! No bueno!
After you’ve filled out the entire grid, it’s time to tally up the total numbers for each vacation choice.
In theory, if you’ve given this exercise your time and care, the vacation choice that has the LARGEST total should be the one you should take. That means that you ranked it highest over the most categories.
It looks like I’m hanging with Mom & Pops!
If you want to get really fancy, you can even weigh certain categories more than others, by assigning them percentages and doing the math that way. This is best if certain factors mean more to you than others (like if your budget is only a small factor, but it’s very important to you that you go somewhere new). It’s completely up to you. Hopefully by the end of the exercise, it will be clearer to you which option would be the best.
And if you tally them up and you aren’t happy with the winning result – ask yourself, What does that really mean? Life isn’t always so formulaic. If your gut is REALLY telling you that another choice would be the best decision, at least this exercise brought that to your attention. Plus, maybe you can look for ways to dispel some of the concerns you might have with this decision. For instance, The Shore was a close 2nd for me, but it’s a bit pricier than visiting my parents. Doing this exercise showed me that if I wanted to go to The Shore instead, it might be worth saving up a little more cash before making the trip.
The goal is to reach a decision that feels best to you, no matter how you do it.
And the best part of this exercise is that it helps you put some numbers and logic behind emotional choices , so that you can see them from another perspective.
And my final tip for daily choices is…
#4: Stay on path!
Who said that you HAVE to make choices all the time? In fact, for little things that don’t matter very much, you don’t have to make a choice unless you want to make one. If that makes you feel happy and healthy – then go for it.
President Obama was quoted in Vanity Fair saying , “You’ll see I wear only gray or blue suits…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.”
What President Obama is referring to is something known as decision fatigue, and many people adapt it into their normal routines. Steve Jobs always wore the same black turtleneck, jeans and New Balance sneakers. I know this might go against everything we hold near and dear to our hearts, but if you like an outfit, and you don’t want to make the decision to come up with a new one everyday – don’t!
I do the same thing with my normal routine. I often rotate the clothes in my closest, or rotate through the items to eat in my pantry. If it’s not a huge decision for you, don’t feel like you HAVE to make it. I used to be scared that people would think I was weird for exposing my quirks, but it’s just how I operate. I personally don’t like to be bothered with decisions that don’t impact my happiness to a large degree. I just don’t think those choices are worth my time. Plus, no one says that you have to stick with it. If I have a hot date with my boyfriend and I don’t want to wear the next item in my closet rotation, then I don’t . Usually in that situation, I know exactly what I feel like wearing, which in essence means that I don’t have to MAKE the decision – I’ve already decided.
If you want something else – do that. Use this tool only for when you don’t feel like making the decision. It’s really that simple.
I hope these 4 daily decision tricks brought some light and clarity to your own routines and small life choices. Don’t let these choices get in between you and living a life that is filled with your greatest happiness. It’s just not worth it. If you start to feel yourself losing perspective, employ one of these tricks and let it guide you back on path. And of course, always reach out to me if you need help. I’ve been there, and I can help you come up with a personalized plan to minimize overwhelm and conquer the things that truly matter most – like how you plan on making your biggest dreams come true.
Need help making a BIG life decision? I got you covered. Check out Part 1 of the “Beyond the Magic 8 Ball Series” here .
Got one of those newfangled Twitter profiles? Follow @Soultiply !