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How to Stop Juggling and Start Choosing
2 tiny little decisions on the wall…
2 tiny little decisions…
Take one down, make it your own,
305 decisions on the wall.
This past week I’ve had several conversations about an inescapable feature of living these days: making decisions. Decisions that have no immediate payoff or outcome and seem like traps that we nonetheless willingly step into. Decisions that trigger about a dozen cascading decisions and have even more dependencies.
Decisions, decisions, decisions. No wonder we’re exhausted.
I came up with a term for this: “decisioning”. It's that exhausting game of mental ping-pong you play when one simple decision turns into a never-ending cascade of choices, each with its own set of mini-decisions. It's like juggling, but instead of balls, you're juggling flaming torches, chainsaws, and your sanity.
Why It's Exhausting
Cognitive Load: Each decision, no matter how small, uses up mental energy.
Dependency Hell: One decision often can't be made without considering several others.
Negativity Bias: Humans are wired to focus on negative outcomes, so any "wrong" decision can disproportionately affect your mental state.
Is This My Ball to Juggle?
Before you even start juggling those decisions, ask yourself: "Is this my ball to juggle?" This is your first line of defense against unnecessary decision-making. Especially for women, who often find themselves picking up balls others have carelessly dropped or simply haven’t noticed rolling around, this question can be a lifesaver. If it's not your prop (that’s a term for “an object that people juggle”), don’t pick it up.
My Decisioning Survival Guide
Visualize the Chaos: Grab some virtual sticky notes on Miro or go old-school with a whiteboard. Map out all the decisions you're facing and the connections between them.
Prioritize Like a Maven: Now that you've got it all laid out, categorize your tasks into "Gotta Have It," "Oooh," and "No Way." Focus on the "Gotta Have Its" first, sprinkle in some "Ooohs" for flair, and kick those "No Ways" to the curb.
Break It Down, Jira Style: Once you've got everything filtered, it's time to organize it. If you're a Jira user like me, think in terms of Epics, Stories, and Tasks. Break down that monster project into progressively smaller pieces so you can tackle it one step at a time.
Decisioning is a part of life, especially in the fast-paced world we live in. But with the right questions and tools, it doesn't have to be a draining experience. Remember to ask, "Is this my ball to juggle?" and use the Decisioning Survival Guide to navigate through the chaos.
A Sprinkle of Tips
Randomization: For equally good choices, flip a coin or roll that d20. It’s fun and saves mental energy for more important decisions.
Decision Journal: Keep a journal where you record the decisions you make, the thought process behind them, and the outcomes. This can help you identify patterns in your decision-making and improve over time.
Decision-Free Zones: Make like Scarlett O’Hara and put it off until tomorrow. Designate times or spaces where no decisions will be made, allowing your brain to recharge.
How do you tackle your decisioning deluge? Hit reply and share your tips or stories.
P.S. I came up with this flowchart to help you decision like a semi-pro. You can probably tell that I don’t get paid to make beautiful diagrams, but that’s not what you’re here for.
Getting crushed by impostor syndrome? Just remember that this person is still a licensed medical doctor.
The perennial question: how do you make friends as an adult.
What I’m reading this week: Stolen Focus by Johann Hari. I don’t agree with all of his conclusions, but this one’s a must-read and has useful and actionable advice for everyone. Except maybe Cal Newport 🤔.