How Successful People Simplify Their Lives

2 February, 2016


I spend a lot of time each day wondering what to eat.

Come to think of it, a surprising amount of my time is filled with decisions – like what to do with this email, what to do with this plastic bag, whether to connect with this person on LinkedIn, if the children should watch television or not, what to cook for supper…. so many precious moments spent concerning myself with distracting details. I mean, really, what I have for lunch won’t change the world. It probably won’t even change my day.

But the experts tell us that stress comes from having to make too many decisions, and to reduce stress in our lives we need to reduce our number of decisions.

Barack Obama and Mark Zuckerberg are onto something. So were Steve Jobs and Albert Einstein. Here’s why:

In an article for Vanity Fair, Obama explained:

‘You’ll see I wear only gray or blue suits’ [Obama] said.

‘I’m trying to pare down decisions. I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing. Because I have too many other decisions to make.’ He mentioned research that shows the simple act of making decisions degrades one’s ability to make further decisions.’

I’ve been reading up on Decision Fatigue. It’s a real psychological condition and it happens when a person’s productivity suffers because they’re mentally exhausted from making so many irrelevant decisions.

In other words, by stressing over things like what you eat or wear every day, you become less efficient at work. Scary thought.

I want to be efficient at work. I want to be focused and productive and effective. I want mind-space for the things that matter. So as silly (or boring) as some of these may sound, here are three things I do to stay mentally alert enough to make the decisions that count.

Limit the number of decisions

I do like to wear different clothes every day (except on holiday when of course the same ol’ kikoy will do), but weekday breakfasts are dully predictable. [More about making meal planning easy in my next post]. As far as children go, no sweets or screens during the week. Period. I swim at the same time each day and try to have client-facing meetings on certain days of the week, at the same times.

Let go of perfection

So what if the decision I make isn’t the right one. As someone once said to me “making the wrong decision gives you a wonderful excuse to make another one.” Wanting to make the perfect choice keeps us undeniably stuck.

Trust your intuition

If you’ve looked for more information and the best choice still isn’t clear, toss a coin. The result of the coin-toss is irrelevant. What counts is how you feel about the result. Your intuition can be wrong of course, but you’re unlikely to die because of it – you’ll just learn.

If successful people limit the number of non-essential decisions every day so that they can be more effective with the ones that count, then why shouldn’t we?

How are you going to streamline your number of decisions? Tell us in the comments.

Robyn Young - Personal Leadership Branding for Executives

About the Author

Robyn Young

As a personal leadership branding strategist, Robyn Young helps individuals identify and articulate their unique strengths, values and goals, empowering them to build an authentic personal brand that resonates with their stakeholders.

Robyn has a keen eye for aligning personal attributes with professional aspirations, helping her clients project a powerful and compelling image in their chosen field.