Every day takes too much thought. – Gwen Meharg
Gwen left this comment in our private community. I was struck by her insight because I had been reading about this at the time. Decision fatigue is a real phenomenon in contemporary society that wreaks havoc on our productivity.
According to researchers, we make over 200 decisions per day about food alone. Just food decisions! I don’t know about you, but all of these decisions wear Gwen and me out.
As an example, a number of years ago I spent 3 months researching espresso machines—dreaming of holding the perfect cup of coffee while pecking out some brilliance on these keys. But I could never bring myself to click the button to buy. I was too overwhelmed by all of the choices.
Researchers know that we grow increasingly indecisive as the day wears on. We begin to act impulsively and look for shortcuts. For me, this fatigue shows up in a single phrase that I repeat often when I'm tired of making decisions: I don't care.
I don't care whether the espresso machine is chrome or black or polka-dotted. I don't care if it grinds its own beans or I have to use a separate grinder. I don't care if … You get the picture.
While I truly don't care in the moment, the wrong choice could lead to a bad case of buyer's remorse. Not. Good.
My husband took me out of my misery. He selected an espresso machine, bought it, wrapped it, and put it under the tree. Best. Gift. Ever. No decision (on my part) was required.
Don’t get me started on making travel reservations. I can't stand to make plane reservations or to find a hotel. What if I book “the wrong” flight or land at the wrong airport? Don't laugh. I did this when I was confused about a small airport name, and it cost me a lot of extra driving time. WTH?
I contend that we’re happier when we have fewer decisions to make, and that we’re better with the important decisions if we don’t spend time on the little ones. That’s why I’m encouraging you to create routines, automate as much as you can, and turn repeated tasks into systems so you don’t wear out your decision motor.
What can you do without thinking? Consider the following.
Preparing for your day.
There’s a better way to start your day than jumping out of bed and checking email messages before doing anything else. It’s worse yet if you’re checking email while still in bed.
Develop a morning routine that sets the tone for the entire day.
Ending your day.
There’s no better way to get a good night’s sleep than to create space between your work, chores, and hectic evening. Here are some suggestions:
- Plan the next day, making sure you’ve captured all of your to-dos.
- Step away from all digital screens at least one hour before going to bed.
- Meditate or write in your journal.
Art and Service Sales
Sending thank-you emails.
When someone signs up for your list or one of your classes, they should receive an email with your gratitude. Set up autoresponders in your sales process to take care of this for you.
Suggestion: Subscribe yourself to make sure you know what they're getting. Even if it’s automated, you still want it to feel personal.
Responding to donation requests.
Every artist should have a policy for handling requests for donations of their art that triggers subsequent steps.
You receive a request, and, because you have a policy in place, you know whether it's worth entertaining or you can say No outright. You have a standard reply instead of spending time deciding what to say.
Completing a work of art.
There are certain things that must be done when you finish a work. You sign it, give it a title, add it to your inventory, and photograph it.
What else is part of your routine after a work is finished? Write your procedure down and refer to it after you complete a new work.
Packing and shipping your art.
When I used to receive online orders for hard copies of my book, they were automatically sent to my assistant on the other side of the country who prepared the shipping labels. We could go online, print the labels, and ship.
It was a small step in the process, but it saved loads of time.
What part of your packing and shipping can you automate or do without thinking?
Following up with someone who buys a piece of art from you.
When someone buys a piece of art, when and how do they next hear from you? And then what? And then what? Turn it into a system so that you don’t waste time and energy trying to choose how you should stay in touch.
Is your system different if they buy online than if they buy in person?
Promoting a class, workshop, or other program.
Next time you teach or lead a program, write down everything you do to promote it. Do the same for subsequent events. You will soon have a replicable framework for promoting in the future.
Sure, they’ll be tweaked each time, but there will be numerous steps that don’t require a lot of brainpower.
Scheduling social media.
If you are devoted to regular posting on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter, consider using a social media scheduler like Later, HootSuite, or Buffer. It's not fully automated (you still have to do some of the work), but seeing your images and ideas in one place makes the decision about what to post seem that much less onerous.
Lucky you! Your finances can be automated in many ways. For example:
- Contributions to your retirement or savings account
- Notifications for low balances
- Reminders for payment deadlines
- Quarterly tax payments
- Balances on a credit card
Is it time to set up additional automation for handling your money?
We still use that espresso machine every day, but it wasn't my husband's last research job. Whether he likes it or not, he continues to be tasked with making decisions about major appliances because I need to use my brain cells elsewhere. To date, he has selected, over time, an oven-stove (gas with 2 ovens, please), a dishwasher (I selected the brand and he did the rest), and the refrigerator (bottom freezer was my only demand).
If you have a significant other who can perform these tasks for you, congratulations! Throw a little more appreciation their way. If not, do whatever you can to lessen the negative impact of decision fatigue.
Reserve your energy for the important decisions required around making art and running a business.
What do you do without even thinking? What can you do without thinking?
In Context: The Capsule Wardrobe
Have you discovered during quarantine that you need a lot fewer clothes than you thought you did?
Consider embracing the idea of a capsule wardrobe.
Susie Faux birthed this idea in the 1970s. A capsule wardrobe is built from a small number of simple, versatile pieces that can be mixed and matched. By deliberately limiting your closet selection, you eliminate many woes around what to wear.
Those Things You Never Get Around To
Christine and other members of our community have been working on weekly challenges to improve photos and videos for marketing their art. I selected specific tasks that I knew were a stretch for many members, but all quite doable. At the end of the month, I'll select a single person who participated most fully throughout the month to receive a complimentary consulting session with me. Up for a challenge or two?
This was originally published on September 8, 2016. It has been updated with original comments intact.