How Automating My Useless Decisions Helps Me Focus on What Matters
I want to spend my precious energy reaching my goals, not deciding which toothbrush to buy
I used to spend a major chunk of my morning trying to figure out what I was going to eat for lunch. At one point, I became obsessed with choosing a new dish from a different restaurant every day of the week, reading multiple menus and scrolling through pages of reviews. My life was filled with useless decisions like this — I’d sit there in limbo trying to decide what to wear to the day’s meeting, or how to greet a certain person in an email, or whether it’s worth spending an extra $4 on a towel rack that received 4.6 stars on Amazon rather than 4.3 stars. I thought this was just what it was like to be an adult.
What I didn’t understand was that we all have a daily energy reserve, and spending it on the superfluous leaves our minds with less space for the things that matter.
In his book Essentialism, leadership and business strategist Greg McKeown writes that if we can recognize what is essential and eliminate everything that’s not, we can operate at our “highest point of contribution.” Tim Ferriss is someone who lives by this principle. On his podcast and blog, he has explained how he’s automated as much as his decision-making as possible, from how he deals with his inbox to what he’ll be reading in 2020 (the answer: nothing new). Ferriss writes that he’s constantly asking himself what he can “categorically and completely remove” to better see the bigger picture.
As an author, I’ve spent years automating nonessential decisions so they don’t keep me from focusing on my goals. Here are the rules and processes I’ve set around everything from grocery shopping to investing.
Set a deadline for the weekly shopping list
There’s a viral tweet that reads, “Marriage is just texting each other ‘Do we need anything from the grocery store?’ a bunch of times until one of you dies.” It sometimes felt like this with my girlfriend. At various points throughout the week, she would ask if I needed anything from the store, and vice versa. This would make whoever was being asked the question stop what they were doing and start…