Have you ever felt paralyzed by the number of choices, decisions, and tasks that lay before you? Depending on their lifestyles, many people feel this way.
Too many choices, decisions, and tasks are indicative of a complex lifestyle. Complexity requires energy to think through the various options and how they affect each other. Like a well-played chess game, there is satisfaction in devising a strategy and anticipating your future moves. Still, a constant stream of complexity can leave you feeling drained and exhausted.
Eliminate unimportant decisions
Two people may have two very different approaches to ordering food at a restaurant. For example, Marie enjoys eating out and looks forward to the total experience, including all the delicious options on the menu. She will carefully read each item and consider what will be just right for that evening’s meal.
On the other hand, Steve enjoys spending time with family and friends but doesn’t care what’s for dinner. He will start reading the menu until he finds the first thing that sounds good, and he stops at that point and looks no further. He has made his decision, and he can now focus on other things.
Neither of these restaurant menu strategies is better than the other but applying Steve’s process to the mundane decisions we all must make every day can significantly reduce the complexity of choosing between unimportant things.
Automate everything you can
Much of the complexity-induced stress and anxiety people feel comes from having too much to do and the fear of forgetting something important. Technology can help with both of these.
If there’s anything that technology can do well, it automates routine tasks and reminds us of things that we need to do. Before too long, we’ll all be able to buy an autonomous vehicle, so we won’t even need to engage in driving our cars, but until then, let technology do what it does best—things that don’t require the ability to reason.
A mini robot can vacuum your floor; that’s one less thing you need to think about. Your dog’s food and snacks can just show up on your doorstep before you run out. There’s another thing off your list.
If you spend a lot of time mentally running through lists of things you need to do, automate the things you can, and then use technology to create reminders for other routine tasks. Automation and digital reminders will reduce the complexity in your life and allow you to focus on more critical and productive aspects of your life.
You’d be surprised by how much stuff most of us have that we don’t need and how freeing it is to get rid of all but the essentials.
I asked a man one day about the big thick wallet he always carried. He was a friend, so I asked him to show me what he carried around with him. As we examined the contents of his wallet, we found several credit cards, months-old receipts, a little cash, some business cards—some his and some he had collected from others, and various other cards like auto and medical insurance.
We talked about how much more comfortable he would be if he didn’t need to sit on a stack of cards and paper all day. He agreed that would be wonderful, but what about the stuff he needed—you know, just in case. I asked him to think about what would happen if he lost his wallet. That idea was quite unsettling to him, so I asked him if the important things in his wallet were safer there or at home. He immediately saw where the conversation was going and agreed to see if he could de-junk his wallet.
The next time we met, he was ecstatic. He now carried a skinny wallet with a bit of cash and one credit card. He had been doing so for several weeks and said he never missed anything that he now left safe at home.
This idea applies to our homes, offices, vehicles, and even relationships. Be sure to use reason, but our lives can be simplified if we follow the advice of Japanese organizing consultant, author, and TV show host Marie Kondo—if it doesn’t spark joy, throw it out. Or maybe better stated, if it adds complexity to your life, reevaluate if you need it.