Stop Wasting Time On Minor Life Decisions

6.24.15 Ramit

Story provided by “I Will Teach You To Be Rich” – 

I recently shared some advice with one of my students in my Brain Trust group, and I thought you’d find it interesting.

She asked me which book she should read first — X or Y.

claudiafbcommentClick “Display Images” to see my advice to one of my Brain Trust students

Look at my response.

What I’m saying is to stop wasting time deliberating over minor decisions. Stop agonizing over optimizing small decisions that will have no meaningful impact on your life. Pick something and move on.

In other words, BE DECISIVE!

This is extremely hard for control freaks to stomach. They want to spend the same amount of time debating over the type of salt they buy as the type of car they buy.

It’s easy to be a control freak. (I say that as someone who used to be one…and still is in certain areas of life.) It’s easy because it just means you create massive to-do lists, become the bottleneck to your co-workers and family, and set yourself up to be the martyr because “nobody else can do it like I do.”

It’s actually harder to take a hard look at yourself and admit: “I’m a cognitive miser — I have limited attention and willpower. So I’m going to spend my limited time focusing on things that really matter. And I’m going to ignore or pick ANYTHING on the things that don’t matter.”

Do you see where this gets tricky?

When you decide to be decisive, you might actually pick the wrong kind of salt. Or you might end up picking a dinner restaurant that sucks.

That’s FINE! It’s expected. Making occasional “bad” decisions on meaningless areas of life is the price you pay for being able to focus on the big things.

This took me years and years to really “get” — and beneath it all is the very real problem of perfectionism.

I realized I could spend all the time in the world to make “perfect” decisions…or I could actually have an impact on the world by focusing on things that matter.

That’s why I don’t care what brand of spatula I buy or what almond butter I buy.

This is actually liberating. It means most of the decisions I used to worry about actually don’t matter. So I pick something and move on — and focus on the ones that really matter.

This is why President Obama wears the same suit every day. This is why top performers and CEOs seem casually unstressed by the sheer amount of decisions they face, which would crush ordinary mortals. And, for example, this is why I made a list of restaurants and coffee shops I like, and if I’m having a business meeting, I always meet at 1 of the same 3. No minor decisions!

It means I can save my mental energy for things that really matter.

Now, it’s easy to read this, nod, and say, “LOL, Ramit is so cute, I agree,” but let’s take a close look at ourselves.

I’m willing to bet you deliberate over decisions that actually make no difference at all. Do you spend time researching airline fares to save $50? Do you open 15 tabs on the different types of underwear to buy?

What’s an area of life where you’ve deliberated way, way too much? Where you could just PICK SOMETHING — ANYTHING! — and move on with life?

And if you’re interested in reading about the psychology of too many decisions, see my bookmarks on the Paradox of Choice.

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