This is an excerpt from The Simple Leader: Personal and Professional Leadership at the Nexus of Lean and Zen
Owning fewer keys opens more doors.
– Alex Morritt
An abundance of choices and the decisions that accompany them are both a benefit and curse of the modern world. Each decision we make, no matter how small, uses up a little bit of the mental energy we have available every day. By focusing on reducing our options and minimizing the number of choices we must make, life becomes simpler and calmer.
David Cain recently wrote a great piece on his Raptitude blog on decision-making and minimalism called Why the Minimalists Do what They Do. As an aspiring minimalist, the topic appealed to me, and Cain’s commentary on choice and decisions was especially apropos.
I’ve been lucky in that I’ve always had an ability to make good decisions quickly, regardless of whether I base them on real analysis or just wing it from the gut. (Yes, intuitive decisions can still be good.) This skill has been invaluable in my career and my personal life. However, most people I know are less fortunate, and I’ve noticed how indecision impacts many aspects of their lives. From professional decisions such as what path to take with a new product development project, to personal decisions such as where to go for dinner, not being able to make a decision creates stress for both the person making the decision and those being impacted by the decision.
The problem is compounded with age. For example, in a relative’s last years, I watched her become literally debilitated and frozen by even the most basic decisions. Because she couldn’t make decisions, the number of undecided issues made her life appear to be unnecessarily and impossibly complex.
To combat our indecision, we need to simplify our lives. Cain describes how he eats the same thing for breakfast every morning. By doing so, he removes a couple of decisions from his day, allowing him to focus better on other things. I can relate. My breakfast is the same cup of Greek yogurt and Grape Nuts each morning. I eat it while reading The Wall Street Journal on my iPad, just after my morning meditation and stretching, and just before reviewing my journal and starting my Hour of Power. I do this every day. The routine is satisfying, and calming.
The implications of reducing our number of choices go far beyond our daily meals. Simple is clearer, and fewer options tax the brain less. For example, the best websites intuitively guide you among very few choices. Well-planned standard work reduces the variation of subjectivity while providing a foundation for kaizen. In other words, when workers don’t have to make unnecessary decisions, they have the mental energy to explore better ways to perform their tasks.
Where can you reduce options in your life and in your organization, thereby reducing the waste and unnecessary complexity of indecision, and the variability of multiple decisions?