Fewer Choices Leads to More Freedom

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I have a weird confession to make — I eat the exact same thing for breakfast. Every. Single. Day. I typically wake up at 6am. I cook a soft boiled egg, eat it over half an avocado and top it with salted pumpkin seeds. And I wash that down with two cups of coffee. It’s not exciting, but it’s just breakfast. I know that it does the job, fills me up for a good 4 to 5 hours, and I don’t have to think about it. The “not thinking about it” is what matters the most to me because it frees me up to think about more important things.

There are plenty of examples of people making the decision to keep things simple and remove decisions from their daily life: Steve Jobs and his black shirts and jeans; Barack Obama and his blue or gray suits (let’s not discuss the tan suit, please); and Mr. Rogers with his daily swim and yogurt and cheese lunch routine. I can’t speak to their motivation to limit choices, but I think we can agree that these people have more important things to do than think about their clothes, food or exercise habits. When we have fewer choices, we open ourselves up to other – and often more important – things.

American adults make a lot of decisions every day (some estimate that we make as many as 35,000 conscious decisions each day) — what to eat, what to wear, which project to tackle first at work, what to have for lunch, whether or not we should respond to that email right now, when and how we should exercise … the list goes on. All of this decision-making is exhausting! There are some decisions that we can’t remove from our lives, but there are plenty of things we can simplify so we don’t have to spend so much time debating our choices. Here are a few places to start:

  • Wakeup — Set a wakeup time and stick to it. Try to do this even on the weekends so you keep the habit going. Avoid hitting snooze!
  • Breakfast — just pick one thing (it’s helpful if you have both a fat and a protein). You’ll get past the boredom pretty quickly and just be happy to have something on hand each morning.
  • Clothing — consider a capsule wardrobe or creating a signature “look” with well-made clothes that flatter you and are easy to purchase in multiples. It doesn’t have to be jeans and a black t-shirt each day, but perhaps finding a brand of pants and a blouse cut that you love will simplify things. Make your mark with accessories if you must!
  • Automate finances — everything from charitable giving to bill paying to tax preparation can be scheduled automatically or done at a set time each month or year.
  • Schedule routine activities (exercise, laundry, grocery shopping) and do them at the same time each day or week. It’s less to think about and the stuff that has to be done gets done on the regular!

Decision fatigue is real, and it creates stress and often leads to poor decision-making. Look for simple ways you can remove a decision (or 500!) from your daily life so you can spend time doing and thinking about the things that matter most.

Keep neat!


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Perri Kersh

Perri Kersh is the neatest, and sometimes freakiest, at Neat Freak Professional Organizing, LLC in Chapel Hill. She works with individuals, families, small business owners and students to help them get and stay organized. When she’s not organizing for others, she frequently shovels up after her husband and children. You can read more about Neat Freak on the website above or reach Perri at 919-824-8196.
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