Making decisions can take up a huge amount of mental energy and time, especially if we struggle to make them quickly and efficiently.
We can end up spending hours, days or even weeks contemplating our options, going back and forth and researching every possible option to death.
And often the decisions that are tripping us up are not the major, life-changing ones, but those every day ones where you have to choose between two equally good options…
Should I cut my hair shoulder length or just below the shoulder?
Should we have the birthday party at the beach or at the zoo?
We often believe that if we could just think about it a little longer, or do another Google search, the answer will jump out at us, so we delay making our decision.
But having these ‘half-processed decisions’ hang around in our awareness only creates mental clutter which, in turn, makes us feel mentally exhausted and saturated, and can also create unnecessary anxiety and stress.
SO HOW CAN WE APPROACH DECISION MAKING SO THAT IT DOES NOT ADD EXCESSIVELY TO OUR MENTAL LOAD?
1. Set aside a dedicated time to think about your decision.
When you need to make a decision, it can be tempting for your mind to constantly wander back to that decision, making it difficult to stay focused on other things needing your attention.
However, when you have scheduled a time (e.g. Thursday 12pm – 1pm) to think about the decision you need to make, your mind knows that it can set those thoughts aside for now as there will be time to attend to them.
This will free up some mental space for you to focus on other things or just enjoy the present moment without constantly ruminating about your decision.
2. Set a time limit.
Decide how much time you want to spend on this decision and stick to it!
Set a timer for 30 minutes (or however long you are willing to spend on this) and once the time has run out, you have to make a decision. No more researching, no more sleeping on it. Done!
3. Get in touch with your intuition.
This is going to sound a bit flippant at first, but just hear me out…
When you need to make a decision, narrow your options down to two and simply toss a coin. Alternatively, ask your partner or a friend to tell you which option you should choose.
This is the important bit! Take notice of your immediate reaction once the coin has been tossed or you have been told what to do.
What is it you feel, before your rational mind jumps in there and start thinking of the outcome?
Do you feel disappointed or happy?
You don’t have to do what the coin or the person suggested (unless you want to of course!), but this is a helpful way of accessing your intuition and getting in touch with what you really want.
Lastly, REMEMBER – when you are really struggling to decide between two options, it is often a sign that both those options are more or less equally good. So it doesn’t really matter whether you go with A or B. Spending an excessive amount of time and clogging up mental space to find the option that will be 0.02% better, is just not worth it..