Decision fatigue and how to decide25 May 2020
We live in a world full of options. Our choices have hugely increased since the beginning of the 21st century. With the Internet, smartphones, eCommerce, and virtual assistants becoming ubiquitous in the Western world, we can get and do whatever we want to, whenever we want to.
Because of this, I sometimes get overwhelmed by decision fatigue:
the deteriorating quality of decisions made by an individual after a long session of decision making
Every time you have the intention to do or buy something, you’re met with dozens of options to achieve your goal. A great example is this blog. I could have used so, many, blogging, platforms! In the last two hours, I was even debating if I should move to another platform before this blog gets too serious. And I forgot about the important part: writing.
I love you, capitalism, but this is not fun.
This happens all the time. To me, and to most people too. And I haven’t fully figured out how to tackle this, but here is some advice that helps me fight it.
Artificially restrict your options
Set ground rules you never break, so you stop considering certain options as feasible. Here are some pretty arbitrary but helpful rules that help me reduce my options:
- Only buy black, white or grey clothing
- Always buy clothes from the same companies
- Never buy the latest iPhone
You might not want to completely cut off certain categories, products or services from your options. In that case, it’s a good idea to establish some guiding principles that you try to look for whenever you’re making a new purchase or decision
Here are some of the principles I guide my decisions with:
- Veganism: everything I buy must be free of animal products. This is an ethical choice but also a principle which helps me guide my purchases.
- Sustainability: I like supporting sustainable products (food, clothing, etc) but also sustainable software where possible.
- Minimalism: I try to buy things that are simple but work well, and I try to buy one object or service that works really well rather than many that work okay.
- Open source: when looking for new software to use, I try to look for open source alternatives (e.g. LibreOffice, Open Xchange, Standard Notes, Bitwarden, Joplin).
- Privacy: I don’t support companies that have shady privacy policies, that retain your data indefinitely or use it for purposes other than providing their core service. I prefer services which allow you to delete your accounts, don’t share your data with third parties and (ideally) encrypt your information.
Some examples of how I apply these in real life:
Standard Notes over Evernote
Standard Notes is open source and end-to-end encrypted. You can delete all your data and your account whenever you want. Evernote, on the other hand, only “closes” your account, and if you don’t delete all your notes before closing your account, they are kept and analysed forever.
Bitwarden over all other password managers
There are literally so many password managers out there that it can be impossible to choose. Bitwarden is the only open source one with all the features I need. So that was easy.
Come to terms with not having the best
You don’t actually need much. You can live a fulfilled life with very little. Not every tool you use or activity you perform needs to be the best. It’s okay to have an okay phone. It’s okay to have an okay laptop. At some point you just need to choose something rather than nothing and be okay with missing out on the rest.