We live in a day when we are confronted with an overabundance of choices in every area of life. Our culture has become so inundated by choices that psychologists and economists reveal we cope with decision fatigue. One of the most recognizable coping mechanisms is to adopt a “uniform.” Steve Jobs’ black turtleneck and jeans may be the most recognizable example. Highly productive individuals have long understood the need to scale back the number of choices made on a daily basis, because the more choices an individual must wade through, the harder it is to make high-quality decisions. To reduce the stress and fatigue associated with daily choices, it helps to streamline those things required to make a quality decision.
But how do you minimize the number of daily decisions? The starting point is our priorities or, better yet, a single priority. We should use our finite decision-making resources to move closer to the fulfillment of our priorities. Our ability to make important decisions is often worn down by the routine decisions required just to live: What will I wear today? What will I eat for this meal? What do I want to watch on Netflix? What book to read next? But which of these decisions actually produces valuable results?
If we use our goals and priorities as signposts, they will help us focus on decisions that really matter and hopefully will provide guidance on clear direction for specific decisions. We begin to see the potential benefits of a work “uniform” or always having the same breakfast or lunch. Anything that eliminates repetitive decisions helps conserve the capacity for quality decision making. One area we can all use more capacity for quality decision making is with our money.
Personal finance has its own plethora of decision points: How should I budget my money? What should I invest in? What percent should I save and invest in these options? Should I buy or rent? The multitude of choices regarding money is relentless. Again, our decision must start with our priorities. A solid budget is a good place to put priorities in action. We all know the basic living expenses we have to cover, so those are given top billing on the budget. It’s only when we get down to the “leftovers” or budget surplus that we get to make choices about where to put our disposable income.
Hopefully, you include a line (or lines) for saving and investing. Having clearly defined financial goals in mind makes those investing decisions easier. Everyone should be saving for retirement so they can provide for themselves during their later days when they may or may not be able to work. Multiple options are available for retirement investing. This is where a trusted financial advisor can come in handy. They know the strategies to best grow your assets according to your age and career stage, so you can be well prepared when retirement comes. Let those you trust help make decisions. This also will help ease the decision fatigue that plagues us all.
Freedom of choice allows us to tailor our lives like never before, but it does not come without drawbacks and responsibility. Eliminate or minimize the number of recurring daily choices. Focus on decisions that offer a higher rate of return. Define important decisions by establishing clear priorities. Once you establish those priorities and begin making important, focused decisions, recruit help to guide and affirm the decision process. As Peter Parker’s uncle once told him: “With great power (the ability to choose) comes great responsibility.” Use it wisely.
**Adapted from ONE Magazine