Getting off the indecision merry-go-round

One of my biggest barriers to productivity is indecision. I’m not talking about the big stuff like where to live or what job to do (although I have agonised over those) but low-stakes decisions like, “what should I do now?”, “which shop should I go to?” or “should I take this assignment?”.

The average person makes 35,000 choices a day. The majority are so insignificant they are imperceptible to most. But for brains like mine the volume of options can be crippling. Working alone and managing my own time amplifies the problem. An empty schedule is a breeding ground for indecision. Since routine is not my friend I can’t rely on systems and habits to lessen the load on my executive function. When choosing how to spend my time a throng of variables pull me in different directions like toddlers in a playground. Cost, time commitment, weather, environmental impact, health, mood, physical appearance, energy levels, exercise, social considerations, footwear, sensory issues….

The decision-making merry-go-round is hard to get off and leaves me dizzy and disorientated. My default response is to do nothing resulting in frustration and shame. It’s hard to explain to people, or even to myself, I’ve achieved nothing because I couldn’t decide what to do.

Now that I know that this is a feature of my brain rather than a personal failing, I have strategies to help.

First, I remove a variable. Sometimes it’s cost. It may be more expensive to have groceries delivered but the decision-making process is easier without the sensory overload and distractions of the supermarket. You might go one-step further and order a weekly recipe box like Gousto.

Some variables can be eliminated with advance preparation. I keep all-weather clothing and accessories by the door so weather is one less variable to consider. Unfortunately, removing variables can mean compromising on my values. I am deeply concerned about the effects of the attention economy on society and used to prioritise analogue alternatives, but digital minimalism puts too much strain on my executive function. I’ve deleted Facebook but Amazon is an adaptation that I’m not yet willing to live without.

If removing variables hasn’t helped, I let fate decide. After all, usually the stakes are low and doing anything is better than nothing. I enter a list of options into the “Tiny Decisions” app then click on the roulette wheel to pick one at random. Alexa has a similar function (Blueprint>What to do).

It can be tempting to opt out and delegate the decision. This strategy has not served me well. Whilst it may solve my immediate problem, it leaves me feeling disempowered and frustrated. It is also unfair to encumber others with responsibility for my choices and ultimately breeds resentment. My indecision is my problem and I do my best not to let it infect my relationships.

What decisions do you struggle with? What are your strategies?

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