Thursday, August 21, 2014

Decisions, decisions!

By Mary Jane Maffini aka Victoria Abbott

The more choices you make throughout the day, the harder each one becomes for your brain, and I've learned that eventually that brain starts looking for shortcuts. Just make any decision, it says. Who cares at this point?  Of course, it says that whether it’s an important decision or not. 

When you're really tired of deciding, your brain will suggest that you don’t make any decisions:  It’s too hard. Go watch television.

Apparently, the brain works just as hard on a little decision, say, for instance to check out Grumpy Cat or not as it does on a big one: say, what to do about saving for retirement.

As we have so many decisions to make every day,  it just gets worse!

Hmmm. Which dog to pet first? 

I hear that we also pay a price after making good decisions: the kind we call ‘willpower', say avoiding negative things and doing positive ones. 

This price is called decision fatigue. I am really glad to hear about it.

So this explains why at the end of a grocery shopping trip, deciding on many prices, carb counts, and so much more, I hit the cash register where the magazines have been strategically placed to whisper sweet nothings in my ear, and one of those magazine is going to hop into my basket, because I have decision fatigue. At last there’s a name for my disorder and I can try to fight it.
All kidding aside, if I understand this theory, there are so many decisions to be made every day, that any way you can minimize the number of decisions, the better your decisions will be and the longer you’ll keep making decisions, instead of putting them off.

Small suitcase? Or big suitcase? Both????  

This is good and bad at the same time.  It’s good because I’m packing for a road trip this week. Packing is my worst thing.  I’d rather have a medical procedure. I always start days ahead, worried about not having some essential item.  I travel a fair amount for book conferences, events and promotion. It seems important to always have clean clothes and the right ones, the right promotional materials, notes, and of course, half a drugstore.

Despite having planned for days, the night before take-off around eleven o’clock, I am stuffing extra things into the luggage “in case” it snows or there’s a heat wave or a monsoon.  Other items will be sitting on top because, well, I’m too tired to decide. 
Or hat and scarf?

All this time, I just thought I was nuts, but now I realize, it was just decision fatigue. Makes me feel kind of heroic.

But I have drawn a conclusion: when I have to pack from now on, I’ll do it in the morning, before I’ve made dozens of writing decisions or made is as far as the cash in the grocery store. I bet my suitcase won’t be so stuffed with stuff I couldn’t make a decision about. 

What about you? Are there decisions that tire you out or do you love making all of them? What about time of day – better in the morning? You can tell us. We’re all friends here. That’s one thing I’ve decided.


Themysteryreader said...

I used to love decisions. I would operate from a clear logical point.
Around 35, that changed! I will easily choose desert....yes please, and before dinner.
However, when its serious...ok, only one of three bills can be paid this mind goes crazy. What if...., is that the best I can do....I bet someone else could make this decision, and correct too! Lol

Grandma Cootie said...

You just described me! The magazine thing in the grocery store - yep. The packing - yep. I used to travel a lot for business. I finally just started to pile up what I think I might need and pack late the night before, because otherwise I will put it in, take it out, and eventually take it all out and start over because I'm sure I've forgotten something. And of course I have something for any contingency.

Work decisions were never a problem. But home life? Just keep reminding myself not to sweat the small stuff because tomorrow is another day with its own set of decisions.

Mark Baker said...

I'm the world's most indecisive person. I think. Seriously, every minor decision can become a major issue if I'm not careful. I try to set up some things well in advance, but then I become rigid and inflexible. Lack of sleep doesn't help at all, either.

Someday, I'd love to be more decisive than I am, but I don't see that happening.

Mary Jane Maffini said...

You are so right, Sherry! Your brain is making it harder. LOL indeed!



Mary Jane Maffini said...

We need a support group! Thanks for the chuckle. I do know all about the packing and unpacking and those most unlikely contingencies.



Mary Jane Maffini said...

I hear you, Mark! The minor to major is a way of life for me too. I am hoping that recognizing it will help me.

Of course, it's better to be a nice person than a decisive one, IMHO! So there.

Dr. Mary Kennedy said...

MJ, this is a really fascinating blog! Decision fatigue, that's such a descriptive term, I hadn't heard it. I read in the WSJ that supermarkets stock pricier items at eye level, and more "budget-conscious" items on higher shelves. I guess they want us to reach automatically for the quickest, easiest (and priciest!) choice. Try this this experiment the next time you go food shopping--I found it to be true. The pricey stuff was at eye level. I had to remind myself to THINK and not just blindly reach out for whatever was right in front of me. And what you said about packing...I can so relate! I just got back from a few days at the beach and I packed like I was going on the Titanic. (you can never have too many lifeboats.

Karen in Ohio said...

You wouldn't be a Libra, by any chance? Libras (me, included) have the hardest time making decisions. I hired an assistant once whose birthday was a few days after mine, and I asked her if she had trouble making up her mind. Her classic answer: "Yes. No. Well, maybe."

One thing that helped me a ton with travel decisions was to have small versions of all my daily necessaries, and just have them always packed in my toilet kit, ready to go. It eliminates one agonizing thing to worry about, at least.

That decision fatigue thing explains a lot, doesn't it?

Mary Jane Maffini said...

We are heading out on our trip and people have moved houses with less stuff. Sheesh.

Thanks Mary!



Mary Jane Maffini said...

I laughed out loud, Karen! I am a Pisces, but even so. I do keep my toiletry kit packed, but what to do about shoes?



Karen in Ohio said...

Oh, well, shoes. That's a whole 'nother story!

Anonymous said...

For packing, I ended up making a trip template in Word that has advice about what to do before leaving and what to take. The idea is to be prepared for all situations and when it's time to pack, I copy the template and delete the stuff that doesn't make sense for this particular trip.

Then I get stuff ready and during most of it try to use my common sense instead of checking the list (this is in case I forgot to put something on the list). Then I compare the list to what I've got, add to the list if necessary, and check off everything I've put in the suitcase. Then I get the stuff that's on the list that I forgot.

Also, and this is important, on the trip, if there's something I should have brought, I write it on the list so that I can add it to the template.

Sounds overorganized, I know, but it really helps me, because I get so nervous about forgetting things.