Back in 2014, Barack Obama declared that he only focused on making the most-important 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 explained.
This is understandable. Sometimes we find ourselves beset by the decisions, big and small, that we think have to make on a daily basis. But there is only so much time for making choices – and many of them are too small and unimportant to spend significant time on in the first place.
Unlike the rest of us, of course, Obama has a staff who know him so well that they can guess his food and clothing preferences. But with two steps, we can all let go of many mundane decisions and simplify our lives for the better.
Just admit it: For most of us, lunch is just lunch. Sure, you may take an occasional meeting over soup and salad or meet up with your spouse at noon for some time away from the children. But most of the time, you are eating some kind of sandwich with water at your desk while answering another drive-by.
Yet you spend precious minutes deciding what sandwich to eat or even where to go to pick it up, even when you know full well that you will either end up at the same place or pack the same meal into your bag. Why waste time on it?
Lunch isn’t the only area of your life in which the best decision is no new decision at all. From the kind of outfits you wear during the work week, to the style the report must be written in, to the temperature of the bedroom while you are sleeping at night, there are plenty of mundane tasks that don’t require much in the way of rethinking. You should automate those tasks and get them off your mind.
One way to automate your life is to turn things into habits or routines. If you typically eat, say, a chicken salad, stick with it. At the same time, you should take advantage of the many technologies that make it easier for you to just forget it. Programming your thermometer, for example, will save you precious time as well as keep you from waking up at night all sweaty to turn up the air conditioning.
Even a little bit of outsourcing can make your life easier. Paying someone to occasionally deep clean your house, for example, can keep you sane, especially when you consider all of the major (and often, hard-to-tackle) challenges that face you in the long run.
Let others decide for you
Not every mundane task can be automated or made a routine. You still have to decide what to eat for dinner, how to organize your monthly progress report, even figure out where to hold the annual Christmas party. Or do you?
Consider dinnertime in my house. Save for the weekend (when we either go out or cook a simple meal), my wife never has to think about what to cook for dinner because I’ve already made that decision for her. The converse happens for me when it comes to what my son wears to school each and every day.
What about the progress report? Sure, you have to jot down your list of accomplishments. But chances are that you are submitting it to your boss’s secretary, who then changes the format to her specifications. You’re better off sending a quick list with key points and moving on.
As for Christmas party? There is someone on your staff who cares enough about where to eat – and what food to be served – who can make that decision for you. In fact, you can rotate the decision-making every year, allowing the intern or the new hire to prove themselves ready to take on more-important tasks.
Of course, you’re not used to letting other people make decisions for you. Our culture, after all, tells you every day to make your own decisions, and you definitely shouldn’t let anyone else make the important ones. But as Inc. columnist Suzanne Lucas points out, letting others make decisions for you can, in fact, “make your life much better”.
Besides the fact that others can make decisions without getting too emotionally involved in them, letting others sweat the small stuff in your life allows you to reduce the fatigue that comes from making decisions about every single thing. When you also consider that the person doing the deciding for you is often better or more-expert at it than you are, letting go of the reins just makes sense.