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Want to get more done? Stop making so many decisions!

Fewer options = less time making decisions

Want to get more done in 2015? Here’s a simple tip: Stop making so many decisions.

For real.

I was reading an advanced copy of Jon Acuff’s new book, Do Over, and he talks about this. Here’s what he says:

This is a technique leaders throughout history have taken up. Like a guy named Albert Einstein. According to Forbes, “It has been reported that the famous physicist bought several versions of the same gray suit because he didn’t want to waste brainpower on choosing an outfit each morning.”

President Barack Obama explained the idea even further, in an article in Vanity Fair written by Michael Lewis, “You also need to remove from your life the day-to-day problems that absorb most people for meaningful parts of their day. ‘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.’ ”

If you think that won’t work, I’d like to introduce you to the “speaking jeans” I own. For the last eighteen months, I’ve worn one pair of pants at every event I’ve spoken at. (The ones where jeans were acceptable onstage.) That’s one less thing for me to think about when I pack.

-Jon Acuff, Do Over (go pre-order a copy — it’s fantastic!)

Want to get more done? Eliminate decision-making

I know this might sound overly simplistic, but it really does work. This is one of the reasons I only have a few outfits and re-wear them over and over and over again — down to the same shoes and jewelry.

This is one of the reasons it’s rare for me to eat something different than oatmeal or eggs and bacon for breakfast and why it was Instagram-worthy that I had a Purple Power Smoothie for breakfast yesterday! 🙂

This is why I like to stay at the same hotel chain, eat at the same restaurant chains (and usually always order the same things when I eat there), wear the same makeup palette every day, re-buy the exact same brand/make of something I like when the first one wears out, fix my hair in the same styles, and make the same meals on a regular basis.

Those of you who thrive on variety would probably find this incredibly boring. But for me, there is not only comfort in the sameness of things, it also simplifies life a lot.

If you only have one choice or a few choices, versus dozens of choices, it’s usually much quicker and easier to make a decision. You don’t have to weigh your options, consider the pros and cons, try on different outfits, worry about which choice is best… you just make your simple decision and go with it.

What About You?

Have you simplified and eliminated decision-making in certain areas of your life? If so, I’d love to hear! Also, does a life of few choices sound wonderful or extremely boring? Why or why not?

photo credit; photo credit

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128 Comments

  • Crystal, I can so identify with this! I eat the same thing for breakfast every day and I love it! Can’t wait to read Jon’s new book also. Wish I was on the special list to get an advanced reader’s copy too. 🙂

  • Julia says:

    I can’t begin to tell you how much I love this post. How often I feel like Mama Bear from the Berenstain Bears “Messy Room”, wanting to drag a large trash can through the house and just clean out all our STUFF that’s getting in the way of life. I can’t wait to go room by room this year and clean out everything we don’t use!

  • Kim F. says:

    I’ve also read that kids that have a lot of toys or clothing can get stressed out over decisions of what toy to play with or what to wear. When I was a kid, we didn’t have a lot. I remember getting a new dress for church for Easter Sunday to wear until I got my next new dress at Christmas to wear until the next Easter. Can’t get much simpler than that! And it seemed to me that most everyone I knew did the same thing. I think I need to simplify and make my life easier!

  • Lisa says:

    This is exactly why I love shopping at Aldi. One brand of each item, so no wasting time deciding which brand to buy. I’m in and out in 30 minutes.

  • Dorcas Martin says:

    I love that someone already mentioned Aldi. I beat myself up for years hearing girlfriends talk about their amazing couponing and going from store to store to grab amazing deals. Then about a year ago, I read somewhere that if you shop at Aldi, on an average you save 40% right off the bat. Between the 40% off, the extra money I save not driving all over Egypt, and saving the time it takes to clip coupons, I have happily decided to stick with Aldi! On top of that, I’ve read more about consumer fatigue and realize how simple it is to shop at Aldi and not be bombarded with choices! Another bonus about Aldi is that they have less workers, which means it is easier to make acquaintances there that can easily help you or just give you a familiar smile. I found out my local Aldi pays $23/hr. I was very impressed that they pay them that much and that is probably why the I see the very same workers week after week:) So much of your article I could relate to! Simplicity and routines make me a calmer Mama. I’m also a THM Mama as well which has made me a healthier Mama:)

  • Lori says:

    This is eye opening. I thought I’d cleared out my closets last week, but now realized that I haven’t done enough. I have many clothes that I’ve kept because “they might fit me someday.” I don’t think I even like them anymore!

    I also have tons of shoes that I bought because they were pretty, but I never wear them so it’s time for them to go. I also keep things out of guilt because a loved one has purchased them for me, but they are stifling me so I have to let them go.

    I have trouble eating the same thing, but started streamlining my meals last week. I found a youtube site on food prep and cooked a large batch of healthy food items then labeled and froze them in individual containers. I can just pull them out of the freezer the day before and lunch is ready.

    I though they would taste bad (frozen), but they don’t, and it’s been wonderful to not have to worry about what to bring to work. I make sure to add different sauces or condiments to make them taste differently.

    Thank you for this wonderful article, and the comments have been great, too. I cannot wait to read the book.

  • I know what you mean, my sisters always try and give me their older clothes since they feel my “style” is a bit off. I do like what they give me, and sometimes will keep some I really like. If I do this, I in turn will take an item out of my closet and donate it, rather than simply being greedy and just adding to my wardrobe. When donating, especially clothing, I try and make sure it goes to a cause that will actually give the clothing to someone in need rather than to a thrift store who will simply re-sell it. Don’t get me wrong, I love shopping at thrift stores, I feel my money goes to a better cause that way, however I feel that clothing should go to the needy.

  • Beth says:

    Ah, yes, same clothes, same breakfast, great post. Would love to be close to Aldi. God bless you.

  • Jenny says:

    I totally agree with this, but the getting there is a little bit difficult. Hopefully this will be our year to reduce, and get down to fewer decisions. My husband and I both agree we have way too much stuff. It’s just hard to decide what to get rid of. I know a while back you did a video of your summer wardrobe. Would you be willing to do a winter one? Also, I would love to know what toys, etc. your kids currently have . We have way too many, but it’s hard for me to decide what to get rid of. I have three boys (9, 4, 1). My oldest will be ten at the beginning of February. (I think my son and your oldest daughter are very close in age.). I know they could be content with a whole lot less. I’m just afraid of getting rid of the wrong thing. We have been given so many cool toys from older cousins. Thank you. You are always such an inspiration!

    • I saw a really great post on toys from LWSL about reducing her kids toys, and it was really great. If you haven’t read this already I would highly suggest it. LWSL is how I came to find out about Crystal and Money Saving Mom. They are two of my favorite blogs.

      • Jenny says:

        Nikki,
        Thanks for responding! I’m guessing the article you are referring to is the one where she takes all of her kids toys away? Good stuff! I have that one pinned. I should probably read through it again, and then get busy purging.
        Jenny

        • That’s the one, I meant to attach the link but got distracted by the kiddos when I was commenting. Nap time is a fickle thing. I just recently reduced my kids toys, not by that much but enough, so that I could organize them a lot better. I also started labeling where to put their toys and it helped a heck of a lot. Apparently my girl needed to have a place for everything.

  • Steve Kobrin says:

    I think two schools of thought apply here. In many situations I like multiple choices because competition can breed a higher quality. This is especially true with important or expensive items like houses and cars.

    At the same time, there can be overkill. I personally don’t need dozens of pairs of shoes because after a while the differences seem irrelevant. Once you get to a point where you have many options just to have them, you know you are really just self-indulgent.

  • Very true! After a lot of reflecting, I made my own planner for the year. On one page of paper, I listed all 7 days – with the items I want to accomplish each day. I kept it simple. “Devotions, Vitamins, Exercise, Read, Dishes, Blog.” Then, I added two extra lines after that to add in an extra task or two. I also have a short list of weekly chores. At the bottom of the page, I added a dozen or so lines for extra chores for the week. By keeping it simple, I’m able to accomplish more!

  • Amanda says:

    After having lived with way too many choices for most of my life and marrying a man who literally only had the same colors and shirts, same food at each restaurant, etc. I see the benefit.

    It used to take me an hour to get ready because I didn’t know which outfit I wanted to wear. Then it was time to figure out the shoes. Before I married, I owned 90 pairs of shoes…. No I am not exaggerating.

    I have since paired down many things and living a more simplified lifestyle had helped me be productive.

    I now allow myself room to have choices, but that us only as time allows. If I am busy, my creative choosy side has to take a back seat so I can be productive. It can be difficult to reign that side it at times. Reality makes it a necessity though! I would never get anything done if I still lived that way.

    • Cris says:

      Thanks for making me feel better about MY shoe collection! 😉
      I must say that lots were gifts or hand me downs from a good friend but still I go sometimes a few years without wearing a certain pair but can’t bring myself to get rid of it because I think “next summer I’ll wear it!”

      Now seriously even though I do like clothes, shoes and accessories a whole lot having a work uniform is one of the best things ever for someone that likes to sleep until as late as I can (read 6 am on work days). I’d hate to have to figure out what to wear every single day. I enjoy that I only get to do it when I’m off and need to leave the house (stayed in pajamas all day yesterday…).

  • Kariane says:

    I love, love, love this idea. Time to donate some clothes to charity.

  • Malia says:

    Now I think I understand why I have such anxiety when I read your blog…don’t get me wrong, I totally admire all of the things you are able to do, but I kick myself for not being able to be even half as productive or organized as you are. But, when I read this post and think of how boring life would feel (to me) with limited choices and set routines I realize that it’s just a personality difference! God makes all kinds of moms, and I think as long as I can embrace the kind he’s made me to be, I’m going to be ok! Now to figure out how to get more done without feeling boxed in…that one may take a while 🙂

    • jen says:

      I agree. I couldn’t live with a life with not much flexible because of a tight routine or schedule. Yes, maybe not all my housework gets done but its okay. God created us all different. I like flexibility because we can do spurt of the moment fun things as a family. I am not usually stressed when I don’t finish a project. I know I will get it done another day. And that’s okay. 🙂

  • Laura says:

    got my hair cut very short so I could stop choosing a new look every few months after 20 years of regularly changing my entire cut and color. So simple now! Every six weeks I get a trim, that’s it. I feel more “me” than I ever have because my hair is no longer something I worry and wonder about.

  • Rachel B says:

    I’ve always been somewhat of a minimalist, but a couple years ago I went on a month-long bike trip and had very limited space, so the only clothing options I had for off the bike were 1 pair of stretchy capri pants and 3 shirts. Although I look back and now wish I had brought a pair of jeans and a sweatshirt for the cold days 🙂 I absolutely loved not having to think about what I was going to wear.

    Back at home, though, I find I do need a bit more variety. I’m still a minimalist, don’t get me wrong, but it only creates more stress to have a semi-formal event come up and have nothing to wear, and no money to go out and buy something. So balance is still needed.

  • This is so reassuring to me!!! I have the same winter vests and wear them in the house all winter long. Only about 2-3 pairs of earrings and 2-3 pairs of shoes. I feel like I’m not interesting enough when I see “fashionistas” but I don’t have the time to do much else.

    Glad I’m in good company :)!

  • Julie says:

    That’s so funny but I have never even thought about this but I actually live quite simply so not to have to worry too much. Great read.

  • Marilee says:

    Wow I love this, I didn’t realize I already do this. I pick the same thing at the same restaurants, the same jeans for running quick errands, and the same shirt for bed time. Good to know that as helping me not being boring. Lol

  • Karen says:

    This is very much how I operate. Sometimes my kids tease me about being boring, but it makes life simpler.

  • Great motivation! Along these lines, I’d recommend checking out Marie Kondo’s new book, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering.

    It meshes perfectly with your ideas about paring down decisions. After years of struggling to become a “minimalist” this book gave me permission to stop my excessive consumption of, well, life!

    As you said, “Those of you who thrive on variety would probably find this incredibly boring.” I’ve found when I’m craving variety, it’s usually because I’m unhappy with something in my life. When we’re confident and in a good place, there’s little desire to give ourselves excessive choices and variety – because we’re happy where we are.

    Great post!

  • Ashley S. says:

    I’ve heard of this and there is certainly something to be said for the negative affects of having to make too many decisions in a day. It has been studied and we get lazier and make poorer choices as the day of decision making goes on. At the same time, I think we all find joy in different things! I get such a thrill out of pairing a different shirt with a skirt than I had tried before and realizing how cute they look! Or switching up the accessories with an outfit, to match a different pair of leggings than I wore the last time and it feels like a whole new outfit! This means way less shopping, because I can create new looks every day with what is in my closet. And getting compliments my outfit that day (even if it’s just from the hubby) makes me feel more confident and more in control of the day. I see how it takes up more time, but I always use time when I’m in the shower to think about my different options for the day, so it usually isn’t so bad really.

    Same goes for meals. I can see how that would really simplify things to always eat the same thing, but I just get so bored! I want to look forward to what I’ll have for dinner or breakfast! I think we always have our stand byes and they tend to just be in rotation, but I like getting to decide what I feel like having in the morning, not feeling like I have to eat the same thing, because it will save my brain power…funny how everyone can take comfort in different things! I will definitely keep this in mind though if I feel like it is becoming more of a burden than a benefit. Thanks for the thought provoking conversation!

  • Heather says:

    Love this post! I like predictability and practically so I like the same coffee daily, eat the same thing for lunch, wear only my wedding ring, my diamond earrings and a bracelet daily. If I wear a necklace I only own 3. My purses are easy-I only own 2. One for fall/winter, one for spring summer. They are both 10+ years old and both D&B and look brand new. My hair style is easy, either down straight or in a pony and is the same way I’ve styled it since college. I like not having to decide on these minor things to enjoy other aspects of my life. My husband is the same way. We like to save our money and not try new things to waste. Although we enjoy being adventuresome in our lives we enjoy these core things that evoke calmness in us and our lives.

  • Cayt says:

    I currently have a huge trash bag of tank tops sitting in my living room giving me anxiety every time my eye catches it. Why? Because I needed tank tops and my friend was getting rid of tank tops and she apparently bought every color tank top they had at Old Navy for the past 3 years. I neither need nor want so many and I need to sort through it, but there are just so many different colors. Don’t get me wrong, I am super grateful. It’s just funny that I am struggling with the stress of making mundane decisions and I stumble across this post. Funny isn’t really the word, but I can’t think of one to properly describe the distinct feeling that God is reaching down and shaking me by the shoulders screaming “SIMPLIFY”.

  • Kristin says:

    Love this! Thank you Crystal. Your Making Over Your Mornings course has been awesome. I almost didn’t do it because I thought to myself “I can figure out how to make over my mornings, really. I know what I should do, I just need to implement it,” but something in me said to do it anyway, and I’m SO glad I did! I did already “know” a lot of it, but sometimes you need someone to coach you into something and reaffirm things to get you to make the decisions needed to make actual change, and that’s what you did for me. 🙂 Thank you thank you! And this decision thing… oh man. I am all for routine, but for some reason always feel pressure to change things up more. After reading this, I realize how silly that is. No more crazy decision making pressure, I will gladly redistribute that energy somewhere else. Thanks for the eye opener!

  • Michelle Owings-Christian says:

    This is a great deal to think about. I have a larger wardrobe than yours. However, I *love* clothes, and have recently lost 60 pounds, so have had to buy all new summer clothes because the ones from last year literally fell off me when I tried them on. When I had gastric bypass surgery 13 years ago, I decided that I would never buy any garment that did not go with *at least* three other garments I already owned. The one exception was a dress that I would wear to a wedding, or the black dress I had to buy for concert attire when I participated in a Regional Choir. (By the way, that dress has become my “little black dress”, which is totally fine.) Another point is that I don’t buy something unless it looks so good on me that it *MUST* come home with me RIGHT NOW. It can’t look “meh”, it must look “WOW”. And if it’s on the clearance rack, even better. I also recently gave myself permission to wear the skirts that I had deemed “fancy wear” sometimes when I am just running errands, or going to a doctor’s appointment. The only other place I wear them is church, and I want to wear them.

    As for food — I cook the same kinds of meat on a rotation, and depending on what’s on sale, certainly — however, I am always looking for new ways to prepare it. I love my crock pot and I am always on the lookout for crockpot and “dump” recipes. My honey is a real “meat and potatoes” kind of guy most of the time, so I can’t go too crazy. We go to the same few restaurants because he likes to go there — and that’s fine. If I had to eat the same exact thing every time I WOULD LOSE MY MIND!!! As it is, I am careful about what I eat and usually eat appetizers because I am a gastric bypass patient and have a very tiny stomach. I bring them home anyway, and eat lunch for a few days. 😉

    I am taking your Make Over Your Mornings course, and I am thinking about how to reduce decision fatigue in ways that make sense for me. My house is in an uproar — my sister moved out but she left some of here belongings here. Once they are gone, we are switching rooms around and re-purposing them. I am excited because I will have a bedroom with all my clothes in the same place, with a real closet. I will also have an office with a DOOR!! A real door! I don’t have children. One might never know that by how many times my honey just bursts into my office and starts babbling about something. Most of the time I let him. Some of the time, I say “I’m doing x, come back in an hour.” So I am planning to put a note on my door that says “I am in class” or “I am working”. Unless it is an emergency or a ministerial call, please do not knock. If you must get something out now, before you burst, write it on the note pad with the pen provided, and put it in the folder. I will look at it when I take a break.” But Crystal — a real door!!!!

  • Sarah says:

    Hi there! I am taking the MOYM course and popped over to this article. I love this concept. I have decision anxiety when trying to purchase clothes for my capsule wardrobe. When shopping I try to consider my budget, good fit, good style that isn’t too trendy so I can wear it for years to come. Plus my weight yo-yo’s so investing in quality pieces seems silly if I am going to lose weight again. Any suggestions? I would love your take on this!

  • Jill Johnson says:

    I’m on day 12 in makeover your mornings… I love this. I just need to get the plan in place and not still love the idea three weeks from now. I like the suggestion to put an appointment on my calendar to get this nailed down.

    My dad eats the same breakfast and lunch and that has always appealed to me – he eats healthy and it’s a given. Just a routine. He likes it.

    I also know that the wardrobe is also a great idea – I have to wear black pants or skirt with my blue work shirts. I have quite a few, but I only wear a few, depending on season. I will rework my closet this week also. I will donate stuff and put the stuff that is too small or just for special occasions in another area so that they don’t get into the mix… I like it organized and if I pare it down, it’ll be easy to keep it that way. It’s also a great opportunity to step up my daily look a little. I’m losing weight and it’s much better for me to get some real clothes on each day and not laze around in jammy pants and a t-shirt.

    The other area that challenges me is where to begin in the office – I work full time and I’m going to employ a “morning routine for at the office” as well that will include a to do list with a master to do list to pull from as possible. There is always a lot to do and this will help if I can solidify a routine.

    By the way, I can solidify a routine in the morning at work because I no longer rush in just in time for a meeting feeling guilty because I get up at 5:30 and have quiet time before getting ready at 7 and leaving at 7:30… lovely! I get to work consistently earlier than before and I feel so good about that too!! (…i was frequently still asleep at 7 and later rushing to get going about the time i know get to work…. i have an hour drive… crazy!!)

  • Jill Johnson says:

    wow… missing some commas and “know” instead of “now”… I wish I’d read before hitting post…

  • Amy says:

    I think there’s quite a bit of wisdom to this. I’m in the fitness biz, and I’m almost certain I read somewhere that people who stuck to routine foods in their eating plan ended up losing more weight. Eating at home definitely helps, and having a few key foods to rely on for breakfast and lunch makes it less stressful to figure out what to eat. It’s an interesting idea, though personally I need some variety in my foods for happiness.

    I like the idea of simplifying my wardrobe – I want to go purge it right now! Thanks for sharing this!

  • Anna Sadler says:

    I find I’m not stressed hardly at all about a variety of make-up palette options. I’m one of those people who never wears the same hair-do two days in a row. I do sometimes have some stress over picking clothes, but only because I do not have the budget to update me wardrobe regularly (and I am no fashionista). But I do see where this could play into other areas of my life like meal planning, breakfasts especially, and travel plans like you ere mentioning. I’m guessing this is one of those things that just vary for different people. It’s still good to think about so you can identify which areas you personally stress over and should simplify.

    I’m working through your Makeover Your Mornings course right now and am loving it! Thanks so much for putting it out there and make it affordable!

  • Lynn says:

    This is fantastic advice!
    Thanks for writing and sharing this simplicity secret.

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