Illustration: Ashley Siebels
Want to be happier and more productive?
Fewer decisions lead to better decisions.
Do everything possible to put yourself in a box and reduce the number of decisions you need to make in a day.
Think of every decision you need to make (whether big or small) as a one-pound weight placed on your head. Having a few to make is no big deal — that extra weight might even be a pleasant felling — but they can add up quickly and eventually hamper your ability to move.
Why? Your brain is not always good at understanding the differences between big decisions and small decisions.
Decisions take a lot of effort
Even small ones tax the brain. You should try to only make the big decisions and outsource as many of the small decisions to others (or to a routine).
For instance, if you are having a special meal that really matters, spend a lot of time on the meal. If not, order quickly. Use some heuristic. Or order the same thing. Whatever. Just don’t spend 10 minutes deciding on what you want to eat or where you want to eat unless it is really important.
Create a default and follow it. When I go out to eat with friends, I often ask them to order for me.
Lots of decisions in a compressed timeframe leads to worse decisions. The more decisions you need to make in a day, the worse you will be at making the “right” decision.
Default decisions are your friend
One of the reasons it is so tempting to buy everything on Amazon (even though there might be a cheaper or better option somewhere else) is that it makes decision-making easy. If you trust a site like Amazon, then just trust it and use it for your needs. Don’t worry about optimizing on every purchase (on price or quality) unless that purchase really matters to you.
It’s OK to go to the same restaurant or order the same thing. When I was first starting out as an entrepreneur I ate pasta and tuna fish for dinner every night … and I still love that meal.
If you are not known as an amazingly stylish person, then try to spend as little time as possible dressing yourself. Feel free to wear essentially the same thing every day. And no, it doesn’t need to be a black turtleneck — it could be jeans and a blue-button-down shirt (which is what I wear to work every day).
It’s OK to just follow a GPS system you trust (like Waze) every time you drive. It might not be right, but the consequences of being wrong are usually just a few minutes difference in the length of trip.
It’s OK to listen to the same playlist over and over
One of the huge benefits of the rise in good television is that it reduces the number of decisions about what you want to watch. Since watching all of The Sopranos takes about 100 hours (and an average movie is just two hours), by watching a TV show, you might need to make about 50 fewer decisions as to what to watch.
I actually know some people who spend more time selecting a movie to watch than actually watching the movie.
This is even true of bigger things like vacations. Yes, spending a bunch of time planning it will increase the value of the vacation. But spending the time planning the vacation might significantly reduce your ability to make other decisions.
Try to buy as few things as possible. That’s a good way of reducing the number of decisions you need to make. Then, when you find something you really like, it’s OK to overpay for something to ensure you get it. If you never go to concerts, then you can pay a lot for the one you really want to go to (from the savings of not going to other concerts).
Focus on one decision at a time
If you do need to make a really big decision, try to take all other decisions off your plate.
When you need to make a super important decision that is hard to unwind, don’t make it under duress. Try to disengage with whatever is causing you to make lots of decisions.
One of the reasons people get really stressed before their wedding is that there are so many little decisions that need to be made for the event. The color of the napkins doesn’t matter, so outsource all those decisions to someone else and then be OK if they pick something that isn’t optimal.
Make decisions quickly
Usually, a decision is better than punting on decisions.
The other way to spend less time making decisions is to try to make these decisions very quickly.
For small decisions, it’s OK if you make bad decisions. If you order something at a restaurant you end up not liking, no big deal. If you pick a bad movie, no big deal. So better that you make them fast and move on.
For bigger decisions, you want to think more but still make them quickly. It’s OK to sleep a night on a decision, but taking a month will not likely lead to a better decision (and every unmade decision is that one-pound weight on your head).
This article originally appeared on Quora.