The drawback of everyday decision making

Are you damaging your decision making on a daily basis?

We generally believe that most skills in life can be improved with practise. It seems obvious that doing more of something, frequently and regularly will build our ability to perform any skill. Sports, languages, and music are good examples of this general principle.

We might assume that improving your decision making would be like most other skills. As with muscle building – exercise and sustained use boost performance. But the results of some recent research call that assumption into question.

Surprising results of decision making research

Market research company One Poll conducted research on decision making for savings and investment mutual Scottish & Friendly. Questioning two thousand UK adults revealed that six out of ten admitted they find decision making hard. The research produced the shocking statistic that the average person spends over seven hours each week struggling to make decisions.

Does this suggest the British are exceptionally avid decision makers, taking their life choices extremely seriously? Do they spend so much time weighing up the pros and cons of important decisions? Apparently not! Taking all that time is down to dithering. The cause of so much angst is comparatively trivial everyday choices.

Apparently people who were surveyed make an average of 14 decisions they consider small every day. Could you be squandering your time in similar ways?

Decisions for dithering

Among the top twenty day to day decisions the British struggle with are issues around food and eating: what to have for tea or dinner, whether to cook at home or order a takeaway, which snack to pick at lunchtime, what to order at a restaurant.

Other frequently daunting decisions are about appearance: from choosing what to wear on a typical day or whether an item of clothing is clean enough to wear again to deciding on how to dress when going out socially, choosing a new hairstyle or what to pack to take on holiday.

Leisure time it seems can be perplexing too: which book to read next, what to watch on TV, or whether to go out socially.

Some common lifestyle decisions people agonise over can be significant but aren’t usually life directional: where to go on holiday, or which car to buy. Over a third of people find choosing birthday or Christmas presents a struggle.

Yes, many of us can relate to that one! Making choices about what to give other people can sometimes be a nightmare. And perhaps this points at one of the root causes of all this time consuming indecision.

Underlying reasons for indecision

According to this piece of research two of the main difficulties people say they have with everyday decisions are too much choice, and wanting to feel certain of making the right choice.

It seems nearly half of the people who were questioned for the research frequently just try to put off making a decision in the hope it will be made for them! Lack of confidence in making decisions probably explains this since 60% of the people questioned said they tend to make “the wrong decision”.

No wonder having to commit to making a decision is seen as such a big obstacle!

The amount of time the research reveals to be used up in the process of making everyday decisions might be surprising. But these root reasons for struggling with decisions are all too familiar.

Big decisions get scant attention

Perhaps Scottish and Friendly, who commissioned the research, were disappointed to discover that many of those questioned made major financial decisions without such time consuming struggle.

The staggering statistics revealed by this piece of research probably explains why some successful people adopt a policy of minimising the need to make so many everyday decisions.

Whatever one might think about Mark Zuckerberg, he has been successful in building a virtual empire. When asked why he always seemed to wear identical grey T shirts, Zuckerberg replied: “I really want to clear my life to make it so that I have to make as few decisions as possible about anything except how to best serve the community”. He wants to focus on his priorities rather than suffer from decision fatigue – wasting his energy on trivial decisions.

Quality trumps quantity it appears with decision making. Of course you can boost your decision making abilities, but you’re unlikely to improve them by overloading every day with everyday decisions! That can lead to exhaustion and decision ‘burn out’. When the effort of deciding becomes overwhelming you’ll probably end up either dangerously procrastinating or making stress fuelled ill considered snap decisions. So what’s the solution?

One way to improve your decision making

Try simplifying your life to reduce swamping each day with a plethora of small decisions. Give yourself space – by planning ahead (e.g. meals / shopping / wardrobe) or creating some fall back mechanism to avoid dithering (e.g. tossing a coin, always choosing the third option). Then you’ll have more energy for making more important decisions when you want or need to.

Just remember there are other routes to success. You don’t have to render your life monochrome or monotonous with a grey T shirt! It is possible to live a flamboyant colourful life without deciding yourself to distraction!

For more significant decisions, making time for a decision focused  Decision Treehouse conversation can actually save your time and energy by helping you get clarity and creative, constructive solutions.