• Emma Jones

Decisions? No Thank You.

I used to love options and being “the decision maker” - the more the better: 79 flavors of ice cream? Great! A coffee shop with beans from around the world? Yes please! An unlimited amount of content to stream online? Hallelujah!

I’m not sure if it was too many years of making decisions as a project manager, living alone for over 10 years and having no one to share the decision-making-burden with, or just an overload of decisions that one encounters in today’s world but about two years ago I hit a wall and came to the conclusion there in fact is such a thing as too many options and I was sick of making decisions.

The first time I noticed this anxiety was when I worked for International Services at The American Red Cross in the District of Colombia. One of my interns decided to treat me to a coffee at the Starbucks around the corner from our office. This just happens to be the most heavily trafficked Starbucks in the country (or at least it was at the time) and as we got to the front of the line I started panicking.... What was I going to order? (...And what the hell is a “violet drink” anyway?)

I hadn’t stepped foot in a Starbucks since my brother worked at one in high school and would make me brownie frappuccinos (which were incredible - there was ACTUALLY a brownie blended into the drink). If you have ever frequented a crowded Starbucks visited by workers on their break, you know how testy caffeine-deprived employees can be. To make a long story short, I had a slight panic attack and eventually told my intern to order me whatever she was having just so that I could put an end to the situation.

This was the beginning of the end for me.

By now, almost a decade later, I am decision fatigued and there are a constant stream of decisions to make on a day to day basis - especially now that I run my own business. I’m not talking about the BIG questions like “what is my purpose in life” or “should I see a doctor for this abnormality”, but I have made a conscious decision to NOT to stress about decisions that at the end of the day really don’t matter. Unless I feel an emotional attachment to a specific outcome, I will let the universe (or whoever I’m eating dinner with that night) decide for me.

Thai food or Mexican for dinner - I could care less

Iced or hot coffee - whatever you bring me

Where should I travel to next - spin a globe and drop a finger

Not stressing about decisions that don’t matter has become one of the most freeing decisions I have made and enables me to direct my energy towards tackling the important things in life.

When I feel stuck with a decision, I will reach for my handy dandy “The Decision Book” by Mikael Krogerus and Roman Tschäppeler and pick a model that fits the decision I need to make.

Some of my favorite stress-reducing decision-making techniques are:

  1. Coin toss - a tried and true method when you have two options to decide between. Assign a choice to each side of the coin, flip and there you have it!

  2. Pro con list - another classic, no matter how any choices you are deciding between, write out the positives and negatives of each. If you do not see a clear winner after writing out all the pros and cons, assign a "weight" to the points you have listed and add up the total to get your answer.

  3. Bingo - Write out all your options on a piece of paper and throw them into a hat, mix them up and select one

  4. Eisenhower matrix - the Eisenhower matrix is great for helping you prioritize what you should be spending your time on. Is an item important but not urgent? Urgent but not important? I code all my tasks this way; it is extremely helpful when you are responsible for a myriad of disparate to help determine where your focus should be

  5. Stretch Armstrong - ask yourself: what is holding me back ; what is pulling me forward. This method is similar to the pro con list but will get you to think deeper about what is keeping you from making a decision you feel comfortable with.

My favorite aspect of these approaches is that if I end up being disappointed in the outcome a model leads me to, my reaction reveals that I did in fact have a preference that was crowded out by overthinking. (Specifically with a pro con list, the coin toss, or bingo approach - follow your body’s instincts and you can’t go wrong!)

If you are overwhelmed with the minutia in your life and missing out on the big picture, click here to schedule a discovery session to explore how I can help you focus on the things that matter.

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