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Fifty specific ways to fight decision fatigue

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This article goes hand-in-hand with my framework for beating decision fatigue. That article is more exhaustive, while this one gives specific tactics you can use that will make a big difference on their own.

I’ve tried many of these myself, but not all of them. Nor do you have to do them all. I’ve tried to put them in order of what will make the biggest difference to your life, but some of that depends on your personal situation. They are not all about reducing the number of decisions per se, but reducing the fatigue you get from making decisions.

The list

  1. Have a morning routine that covers the same steps every day. By the time you’ve finished, you should be ready to start ‘work’, whatever that means for you ๐Ÿ’ช
  2. Get up / go to bed at the same time every day – including weekends. If you can only manage making one of these regular, make it the morning ๐Ÿ’ค
  3. Have some sort of ‘uniform’ for most days. You can make this more or less extreme, by having it only for certain days of the week, or having variations on the same theme ๐Ÿ‘•
  4. Schedule work/breaks for the same time each day. Plan your tasks the previous day and put them in your calendar – or at least in a prioritised to do list. Its much easier than deciding what to do as you go ๐Ÿ“†
  5. Schedule exercise for the same times each week, and ideally the same time each day. Either use an app to tell you which exercises to do, follow a programme, or go to classes. That way you’re not stood in the gym wondering which equipment to use next ๐Ÿ‹๏ธโ€โ™€๏ธ
  6. Plans meals in advance, and have them at the same time each day. You could try using a meal replacement or having a ‘go to’ meal that you have for every breakfast or every lunch, and then experiment more with dinner ๐Ÿ”
  7. Try meditating to reduce the pull of ‘cravings’, so you don’t spend as much energy resisting them in the moment. Whilst meditation is not directly aimed at reducing decisions, it can ease the stress that comes along with them ๐Ÿง˜โ€โ™€๏ธ
  8. Keep a shopping list, and only buy what’s on it. Even better, have a regular online grocery shop that comes with the same products every week – you can tweak it if necessary before the order goes in ๐Ÿ›’
  9. Have a particular brand/item for products that you buy regularly, such as toothpaste, and buy those every time you need them. It’s quicker than weighing the merits of various options each time ๐Ÿชฅ
  10. Have a list of physical items you own, and only replace stuff on that list when one item is past its useful life i.e. a ‘one in, one out’ policy. This saves you amassing stuff, and constantly thinking about whether you need new items. If people buy you gifts that you don’t exactly ‘need’, then you can use them to replace items, or give them away ๐Ÿ›
  11. Shorten your working week, either by doing compressed hours, or some sort of part-time arrangement. This will force you to make quicker decisions about things you have to do, reduce the chance of procrastination, and force you to be better at delegating ๐Ÿง‘๐Ÿปโ€๐Ÿ’ป
  12. Ask the waiter for recommendations when you go to a restaurant. Either go with their first suggestion, or pick one of the few things they recommend ๐Ÿ‘ฉโ€๐Ÿณ
  13. Use checklists for packing, so you take the same things every time. You could also experiment with using larger or smaller bags for travelling. A smaller bag can force you to make decisions, or make it easier to completely rule out some items. A larger bag might make it easier if you want to take everything with you and don’t mind the weight ๐ŸŽ’
  14. Work out the value of your time, and thus what you can afford to spend on stuff without worrying about it. This is easier if you have a job, as you can use your hourly rate as a rough proxy. But it can still be helpful if you’re a student, or not working, but have some sort of income or savings ๐Ÿ’ต
  15. Do emails in batches, rather than worrying about them all day, or deciding whether to do them as they come in. It’s even better if you can do them at the same time(s) every day ๐Ÿ“ง
  16. Turn off as many notifications as you can on your phone, computer and other devices. This way you don’t have to decide whether to respond to every new text, email and app notification, but can do them all on your own schedule. I have a specific article on how best to do this on WhatsApp ๐Ÿ“ด
  17. Work in pomodoros, and use deadlines. This not only forces you to make make quicker decisions during the allotted time, but means you’re not deciding when to take breaks by asking yourself if you’re simply ‘tired’ or ‘too tired to work effectively’ ๐Ÿ…
  18. Put time in your schedule for when you’ll do your socialising. Make ‘no’ the default for any invitations outside of these times ๐Ÿ—“
  19. Do your washing on the same day(s) every week. This is easier if you also have a simple wardrobe of similar colours that can be washed together ๐Ÿงฆ
  20. If you’re buying something below a certain amount (say ยฃ100), make the decision quicker by finding the first one on Amazon that has a 4* rating and more than 100 reviews (or some similar rule of thumb). If it’s a bigger decision, then specify in advance which features you’re looking for, and find the cheapest one that meets those criteria. This keeps you from trying to trade off all the minor differences between products ๐Ÿ›
  21. For readers in the EU, accept all the cookies when you visit a new website. Then delete the cookies on a regular basis ๐Ÿช
  22. If you take a bag to work, the gym etc., pack it the night before. Have a list of stuff you always put in there, so you don’t have to decide each time ๐Ÿ’ผ
  23. Hide clothes/items you don’t need until you know you need them. This way you’re not deciding whether or not to wear them every time you see them ๐Ÿงฅ
  24. Always take the stairs unless someone else presses the lift button ๐Ÿ›—
  25. Make rules about drinking alcohol e.g. only on weekends, or never in the house ๐Ÿบ
  26. Do certain types of work on certain days. I always write on Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays, for example ๐Ÿ“…
  27. Change your browser to have a blank page when you open a new tab, so ou don’t have to consider clicking one of your favourites. This article explains how to do it in any of the main browsers.
  28. Have a coffee/tea order before a certain time of day, and one for after that time โ˜•๏ธ
  29. Have a default drink you tend to order in restaurants/bars etc – your our own signature cocktail, if you like. It’s best to make it something widely available ๐Ÿน
  30. Pick your ‘go to’ shops or brands for certain things e.g. one for groceries, one for work clothing, one for sports clothing etc ๐Ÿช
  31. Download podcasts in advance and schedule them on a playlist, so you’re not deciding in the moment what to listen to ๐ŸŽง
  32. Have a ‘starting work’ ritual where you follow the same steps each time. It could be turning on your computer, opening your task manager, opening the programme you need to do your task, and then setting a pomodoro timer ๐ŸงŽโ€โ™‚๏ธ
  33. Have a favourite restaurant or bar in each location you frequent, and make that your default place to go. Deviate from the default if you have the time and energy to decide otherwise ๐Ÿ‘ฉโ€๐Ÿณ
  34. Try to reduce the amount of advertising in your life. A good first step is using an ad blocker in your browser. I use Adblock Plus on Firefox ๐Ÿ”•
  35. Listen to the same playlist every time you work / are at home / are at the gym etc., rather than choosing each time what you want to listen to. Use shuffle if you’d rather have more variety ๐ŸŽถ
  36. Make your phone boring, by moving the ‘tempting’ apps off your home screen. You then don’t have to decide whether or not to click on them every time you see them โ˜Ž๏ธ
  37. Have an archive folder everywhere you store data, such as in your email, note taking app, digital files, and music app. Then when you’re deciding whether or not to delete stuff, you can put it into the archive. Knowing you won’t lose it forever makes it easier to move stuff out of your main files ๐Ÿ—„
  38. Switch to a low information diet. Get rid of the news apps on your phone, and unsubscribe to emails that aren’t helping you become the person you want to be. Most important news will find its way to you, or you can set aside some time to catch up each day, rather than responding to whatever pops up ๐Ÿ“ฐ
  39. Get off social media. OK, there are people who need to be on social media for their work, but spending less time on it will help with decision fatigue. On social media, you have to decide whether to keep scrolling, whether to ‘like’ or share things with others, and whether to update your status. You can reduce this deciding if you’re on fewer, or no platforms ๐Ÿคณ
  40. Use a ‘read it later’ app like Pocket or Instapaper. Save everything in there, rather than reading it at the time, and then you can do the ‘deciding whether to read’ in batches, and when you have time to do it ๐Ÿ—ณ
  41. Have budgets for various areas of your life. There are various ways of devising these, but they generally mean you can spend up to those amounts, without having to constantly decide whether something is worth it or not. My personal budgets are: fixed costs (45%), savings (15%), investments (10%), and guilt-free spending (30%) ๐Ÿ’ธ
  42. Reduce the number of apps you use. It can be a fool’s errand to find the one app to rule them all, even within niche domains, like digital note taking. That said, if we can pare this down as much as possible, it saves time deciding where to put things. I recently consolidated my Day One journal into Notion, and have started drafting all my articles in there too ๐Ÿ“ฑ
  43. Keep your stuff in the same place, so you don’t have to think about where to put it when you’ve finished using it. There’s an obvious bonus in less time spent looking for things, too ๐Ÿ—‚
  44. When you find (durable) items you like, buy back ups. This means if the item goes out of stock, you don’t have to spend time deciding on an alternative ๐Ÿฌ
  45. If you manage others, have clear guidelines for what your subordinates should make decisions on, with written guidance on how to make them. Then leave it to them, rather than having them come to you each time. Similarly, ask your boss for guidance on the decisions that are within your purview. The Four Hour Work Week is the classic text on this practice ๐Ÿค—
  46. Take turns. If you make decisions as part of a couple or a group, share the decision-making responsibility on a rota. This could be your partner deciding which bar to go to, or a friend deciding which restaurant to eat in ๐Ÿ“Š
  47. Keep lists of gift ideas, and pick from there, rather than scrolling through lists of the 1000 best birthday gifts. Also buy a pack of greetings cards, and when you need to send one, pick the next one in the pack ๐Ÿƒ
  48. Make a list of date ideas, or steal one off the internet. Next time you’re planning to go on a date (or a fun experience with a friend), go down the list until you hit the first one you can do in the time you have set aside ๐ŸŽณ
  49. Get rid of possessions where you have better versions. I’m not talking about the whole ‘joy sparking‘ nonsense here, but if, say, you have two knives, and one of them is good and another crappy – get rid of the crappy one ๐Ÿšฎ
  50. A final, controversial one: if your doctor gives you a menu of treatment options, get them to tell you which one they would choose if they were you ๐Ÿ‘ฉโ€โš•๏ธ
  51. BONUS: if you’re doing a certain number of something, then pick an arbitrary point like 50 to stop at, like this post! ๐Ÿ’ฏ

This is not supposed to be a list of prescriptions, but a menu of options to choose from. Ironically, you need to decide which ones are for you(!), but those decisions will pay dividends in the future. And if you’re thinking doing all this would make you into a robot, consider the following quote:

โ€œBe regular and orderly in your life, so that you may be violent and original in your work.”

Gustave Flaubert