Mindset

1 Simple Strategy to Beat Decision Fatigue

BY Mollie Donghia TIMEMay 4, 2022 PRINT

Over a decade ago, while we were in college, Mike and I studied abroad in a quaint town in England. While our time here has brought some of the most enjoyable experiences, lifelong friends, and awakened a sense of adventure within us, there’s one moment that still resonates freshly in my mind.

Let me tell you a story about a friend who had the inability to make a firm decision. We’ll call her Sarah.

In England, we didn’t live on a campus where we could visit the cafeteria and have our meals prepared for us. Instead, we had a tiny kitchen that was shared between our British “flatmates” and a weekly stipend to spend on groceries.

A regular outing we made was walking to the large grocery store to purchase what we needed to make our meals. Mike, Sarah, and myself had taken this trip weekly, but for some reason today’s visit resulted in a decision-making dilemma that I still remember.

We had done all of our shopping and went to check on Sarah to see if she was ready to head back to the dorm. So we circled around the store until we found her. To our surprise, she was in the exact spot she stood nearly 30 minutes ago–the beef aisle.

We watched her meticulously check out every single type, brand, grade, and cut of beef. Her indecisiveness to select a simple ground beef option had brought her so much stress that she couldn’t move past this aisle.

She was overwhelmed by the vast choice of ground beef options. Should she buy organic or non-organic? What percentage of fat would yield the healthiest option? Is frozen ground beef really that much lower quality than fresh? Should she feel guilty over spending this much money on a higher priced meat when she was on a limited grocery budget?

This illustration of decision fatigue with a simple, everyday kind of choice reminds me of one of the most helpful strategies I’ve learned since then– deciding once.

Decide Once

If you’ve been reading our blog for a while, you might know that one of my favorite bloggers/authors is Kendra Adachi, or “The Lazy Genius”. In her book (which I highly recommend!), her very first principle is called Decide Once.

Marketers and retailers have so cleverly created an endless amount of options for us in stores and online (I’m specifically thinking about the pasta sauce aisle at the grocery store which always seems to create a decision-making dilemma every time!).

We have a multitude of decisions that we make during the course of the week. But if we think about those decisions, many of them can actually be decided once, rather than every day.

In order to relieve this decision fatigue, deciding once allows us to feel less burdened by the amount of choices, more content with our decisions, and allows us to spend more time on the things that matter most as we spend less time waffling back and forth.

Be a Satisficer, not a Maximizer

A term that I’ve heard more recently is the word “satisficer”. This directly ties to our attitude and ability to make and be content with decisions and sheds some light on why deciding once is such a healthy strategy to implement.

maximizer is someone who exhaustively seeks the best option, regularly compares the decisions they make with what others are doing, uses more time and energy when making decisions, and are generally more unhappy with the outcomes of their choices. They second guess their decisions and wonder if they’ve made the right one.

satisficer doesn’t obsess over all the possible options but accepts a good enough decision, has the ability to move on after a decision is made, and is typically happier with the outcomes of a choice. They have more peace with their choices and don’t carry regrets about other options.

An okay decision with firm resolve is much more powerful than a great decision that you’re wishy-washy about. Just decide once and don’t look back unless the facts on the ground change significantly.

Ways I’ve Found to Decide Once

Since reading The Lazy Genius Way and learning how to apply many of Kendra’s strategies to my own life, I’ve found more peace with my decision making process and no longer spend nearly as much time waffling back and forth with everyday choices.

Here’s a few ways I’ve found the Deciding Once principle to be most helpful…

  • Face care, make-up, and cleaning products–I find what works well and stick with those products.
  • Recipe binder for meal planning–I don’t have a color-coded chart or fancy calendar, but I do rely on my binder of go-to recipes that I know works for our family and are easy to make. I stick to making these meals most nights rather than create a whole new menu each week.
  • Wardrobe–My wardrobe is relatively small, and contains only items I’d be content wearing on a regular basis. Each year, I reevaluate what’s in my closet and decide then what I’ll keep.
  • Laundry–I’ve decided to take on one load every day rather than multiple loads at once. On Monday, I begin with the oldest (Mike and I) and work my way down the birth order of kids, finishing with sheets and towels at the end of the week.
  • Kids’ lunches–Almost every day, my kids’ lunches are pretty much the same, and they’re okay with that! I know what they’ll eat, what is easy to prepare, and what is most cost effective. It’s become a no-brainer decision–pbj sandwich, sliced cheese, cut up veggies, fruit, and something crunchy. I’ll mix it up by cutting the sandwich with a fun cookie cutter, adding some sprinkles to their applesauce, or varying the snack option.
  • The wall color in our home–We decided once what we liked, and have stuck with it for 4 years now. Magnolia Home’s shiplap white…done.

If you struggle with making decisions and feeling peace after you’ve settled on a choice, see how you can use this strategy to help bring about less stress in your week. What choices do you make every day that you can decide once on? Start there and see how deciding once can help to alleviate the unneeded burden of being indecisive.

This story was originally published on the, This EvergreenHome Blog

Mollie (and her husband, Mike) blog at This Evergreen Home where they share their experience with living simply, intentionally, and relationally in this modern world. You can follow along by subscribing to their twice-weekly newsletter.
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