Life is full of decisions to make. What do we want our career to be? Where do we want to go on vacation? What do we want to eat for dinner? Should I paint the room yellow or blue? As time goes on, there are more and more options. If you’ve ever gotten a paint sample, you know what I’m talking about. How many hues of white are there?
Decisions can be overwhelming. From the time you wake up in the morning your brain is making decisions. Should I hit the snooze button or get up? Do I want that third cup of coffee? What should I have for breakfast? What am I going to wear today? Don’t get me started on what’s for dinner!
Dinner. Ugh! Some people love cooking dinner, but after 25+ years of planning, shopping, prepping, cooking and dishes, the love of cooking for me has fizzled out. So much so that I came up with a weekly meal rotation of the foods that we eat on a regular basis and devised a grocery list for each week so that I didn’t have to make this decision anymore.
Seems pretty boring to eat the same thing over and over again every 5 weeks (this was how many meals I came up with), but I based this on the premise of Mark Zuckerberg wearing jeans and a gray t-shirt every day. His logic is that he doesn’t want to waste time on decisions that aren’t important to him. I felt the same way. It seems silly that trying to figure out what to make for dinner could stress someone out that much but that’s how I felt. I would spend hours scrolling through Pinterest to find new meals and looking up ways to meal prep. When I was trying to lose weight, I would document all of the food that I ate into an app to calculate the calories. And if it was something homemade, I needed to break down all the ingredients instead of just scanning a barcode on the package. There was just so much time and effort involved in just eating. I planned meals based on what was going on that night. Would I be home late? Let me find a crockpot recipe for that night. I even tracked how much time it took to prepare and eat dinner. Sometimes it was 2 hours. And the longer I did this the less I enjoyed cooking so I came up with the meal rotation. Now, I realize that the meal rotation needs to be flexible and so other meals can be added to make for a longer rotation. Saturdays and Sundays are open. Saturdays can be for special meals or favorites that we want twice or even takeout. Sundays can be some form of pasta/sauce. I didn’t completely take all of the decisions out of meal planning, but I eliminated the stress that comes with HAVING to make a decision. There is a lot of room for flexibility in this weekly meal calendar.
So, why am I devoting so much effort into telling you about meal planning? It has nothing to do with meal planning, but it has everything to do with decision-making.
Being a logical person by nature, I tend to make lots of lists with pros and cons and analytics. If we’re having a conversation and it’s about something that I’m unfamiliar with, I want to know more about it. Not just the Cliff’s notes version either. I want to understand how it works and how your opinion got to be where it is now. As a manager, this was how I taught my employees. I didn’t just tell them how to do something and they didn’t learn by just doing. I wanted them to understand the why and the how behind what they were doing so that they got the big picture, not just the mechanics. Sounds great, doesn’t it?
While this can work well, it tends to ignore the emotional aspect of things because you can get too busy creating flow charts and graphs that look like an accountants debit/credit list of pros and cons to every decision you make. How many times have you had to make a decision about a life event and were told to write down all the pros and cons of why you should or should not do something and do the one that had the most pros? But what if all of the pros were for the wrong reasons? You can’t take the emotion out of it because even though the decision might be logical, you will be miserable with the decision if it wasn’t something that made you happy. And that’s where indecision can come in. And indecision brings inaction. And when there is no action, nothing gets done.
Today I heard Gary Vee’s 1st Tea with Gary Vee episode of 2021. You can watch it on YouTube here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pbyplDcuZEs Now I had listened to his episodes during much of the pandemic. I hadn’t listened to him in a while, but I had some time to listen to a podcast and this was what I chose. Almost at the very end of the episode, Gary was speaking to a 21-year old (who in all honesty seemed like he had his life together WAY more than I do). The problem that he was asking Gary about was that he had too many balls in the air that he was focusing on and how did Gary manage to get everything done and manage his stress level. Gary (and I’m paraphrasing here) told him that he might give attention to one thing over the other that seemed more important at the time thereby not giving so much attention to the other things that were still on the table. And how do you determine what to give your attention to? This is where I started listening more closely as I have multiple decisions about what I want to do for a living and a decision needs to come quickly on my end for a number of reasons. So he discussed how to focus on the one thing that might be most important and then basically it was like, but if you can’t decide, then just throw a dart at a dart board and whatever it lands on, just do that.
At that moment in my head, I started to formulate an elaborate plan about how great it would be to just randomly choose what to focus on without having to make a decision. I’m trying to remember where the dart board is, where to hang it and how to place the decisions on it. And then the last interview of the show came on and again, he brought up the dart board, but this time he added to it. Write down on scraps of paper all of the things that you want to do and crumple up the paper and pick one to do and then just do it.
Me being the person that I am, had to let that sink in and about 2 minutes into the next episode that had started to play, I dumped all of the pens out of coffee cup on my desk, cut up strips of paper and wrote nine options that I had to choose from. I folded them all up equally and in my mind I was thinking, what if it is something that I don’t want to do? But then I thought, this didn’t mean to stop giving attention to the other things on my list. It meant paying the most attention and really focusing on the first piece of paper that I pulled from that cup. No elaborate plan was needed. I didn’t put it off until I found the dart board and hung it up. I just did it. And I pulled out a piece of paper from that cup and opened it. The decision has been made. There was no emotion or logic to it.
And the peace of not having to agonize over what my next move is going to be is priceless. I can’t wait to use my cup to make more decision. Thank you Gary Vee for introducing such a simple piece of life altering advice. I can’t wait to apply it to more decisions that I seem stuck on.
What is a decision that you are trying to make now that you’re having trouble with?