We’ve been conditioned to believe that having more choices is a good thing – it offers us more value and we can hone in on what we really need in order to find the best option. But that is not necessarily true. How do you feel at a bakery when you’re confronted with all those delectable treats behind the glass case? Almond Chocolate Croissant or Almond Nutella Croissant? Are these two choices even necessary?
Psychologist Barry Schwartz detailed in The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less, too many choices often leads to second-guessing and dissatisfaction.
“The alternative to maximizing is to be a satisficer. To satisfice is to settle for something that is good enough and not worry about the possibility that there might be something better,” writes Schwartz in his book.
Below is a Ted Talk by Schwartz in which he elaborates on some of his key tenets The Paradox of Choice. Schwartz’s believes that choice has made us not freer but more paralyzed, not happier but more dissatisfied.
Perhaps that’s why big box store Costco and grocery chain Trader Joe’s are successful. They only offer one option per item. A regular grocery store may carry around 50,000 different products, whereas Trader Joe’s has only 4,000.
Think of your brain as a muscle, just as your body aches after an intense workout, so does your brain after a day of making 35,000 decisions. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that by the end of the day, deciding where to go for dinner can seem more like a burden than a fun get together with loved ones.
Ready to 'Trader Joe's' your life a bit? Here are some useful tips.
1. Consciously make decisions that minimize further decision-making
Make your decisions work for you, not the other way around. There are simple ways you can implement this, one of them is by forming a productive morning routine to get your day started on the right note. By repeating the same things over and over again, you save yourself time and the energy spent on making more decisions.
Meal Prep – Take a day off on the weekend to plan out your meals for the week, cook and store them in individual containers for quick meals at work or at home. It might feel time-consuming when you first do it, but the time that you save will absolutely make up for it.
Wardrobe – Consider getting rid of clothes you haven’t worn in six months. It’s so much easier picking out an outfit when you’re selecting from clothes that actually fit and that you like.
2. Stick to your decisions
If you’ve intentionally decided to do something, for example: finish a report by noon, then whatever distractions come your way, greet them with a firm NO as you stick to your previous decision.
Making and sticking to a decision not only helps you form healthy habits, but it also helps you become focused, reliable and consistent. All wonderful traits that will help you professionally, as well as in your personal life.
3. Constraints are a good thing
Now that you’ve implemented routines to cut out everyday mundane decisions, and you’re sticking to your choices – what’s the next step? Changing your mindset when it comes to constraints – time/money/knowledge. If you believe that you will only have a successful business or blog once you have more money to invest in it, or time – then you’re limiting your growth.
Constraints force you to get work done. For example, set only a certain amount of time to write that report that you've been putting off. Once the clock starts ticking, hone in and do what needs to get done. Often, people actually find that once they commit to one task, and one task only not only do they get it done, but they finish in less time than they had anticipated.
Constraints inspire creativity too. For example, Dr. Seuss’s Green Eggs and Ham (which has sold more than 200 million copies to date) uses only 50 different words, which was part of a bet he made with Random House founder Bennett Cerf. It’s the fourth-bestselling English-language children’s hardcover book of all time. This formula of constraining his word options was so helpful, that he continued using it in his follow-up books.
All in all, you will still have to make countless decisions. However, by following these quick tips you’ll be able to cut back on some decision fatigue and take control of your day.