My wife can’t handle the grocery store. She’s an incredibly intelligent and accomplished person – got her Ph.D in organic chemistry, so you know that I married up – but she goes to pieces whenever I make the mistake of letting her come grocery shopping with me. She looks at everything, goes down every aisle even if we don’t need to, stops in random places whenever an unexpected item catches her fancy, chooses to add things that weren’t on our list and then second-guesses the wisdom of her decision. It takes three times as long for me to do our grocery shopping when my wife is with me than when I go by myself. It’s even quicker when I take my one-year-old son with me and leave her at home. Oh, and she’s always a little mentally fried when she exits the store. My wife can talk about aromatic rings and alpha amino radicalization with the best of them (those are both chemistry things, by the way, she’s tried to tell me about them), but the grocery store overmasters her.
The reason this happens is because there are just too many choices, and my wife doesn’t do a good job of filtering out the unnecessary ones. When I go grocery shopping, I make a list, buy the things on the list, and ignore everything that isn’t on the list. There are aisles in our grocery store that I haven’t gone down in months – unless my wife drags me there to see what fancy surprises are hiding on those mystical shelves. I am an unbelievably boring grocery shopper, but I’m efficient and I don’t need a nap as soon as I get home.
This is just one example. I could have shared a different example where my wife is the confident and decisive one and I’m the overwhelmed one, but this is my article and so I’d rather make fun of her instead of me. However, I have noticed that there is a pretty straightforward pattern in those situations where one or the other of us is capable of being quick and decisive.
So in case you’d like to have fewer unnecessary decisions in your life, here’s what seems to work:
Have Some Idea Of What You Want
If my wife and I sit down to watch television without knowing what we’re in the mood for, it takes forever to find something. If we agree to watch a drama or an action movie or a Pixar film, it takes about 5 minutes. The same is true if you get in your car without having any idea where you want to go, or start your workday without any idea what you’re hoping to get accomplished. Just having a rough plan of attack will drastically reduce the amount of time you spend thinking about what you’re about to do.
The more options you give yourself, the longer it will take to weigh all of those options. So get rid of as many as you can. If you’re trying to decide where to eat on Saturday night, choose from three options instead of seven. If you’re getting quotes from possible business service providers, stop at four instead of sixteen. You can always get four more if you don’t like what you see from the first batch, but you might also save yourself a world of time by not asking everyone on the planet to tell you what they have to offer.
Don’t Second Guess Your Decision
Unless it’s a critical thing that you just decided, and usually it’s not. Are you going to have a massively different evening if you choose restaurant A over restaurant B? Probably not. Does it do you any good to obsess over whether or not you’ve chosen the right contractor after you’ve already signed the contract? Not really. Yes you’ll occasionally make mistakes, but guess what – you’ll also make mistakes even if you thoroughly consider every possible choice you have. There’s never any guarantee that the decisions you make are going to be perfect, so don’t beat yourself too much when they aren’t.
I hope this helps. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go buy some milk. I could send my wife, but then I might not see her again until tomorrow.