Author: Bret Gornik
I constantly hear that everyone is “busy.” To me, busy means we are not in control of our time. There is a difference between having a lot on your plate and being too “busy.” When someone says, “I’m too busy to…” or “I don’t have time to…” what they are really saying is all of the other things in their day, week, month, or life have a higher value than whatever they are “too busy” to do. If you are studying for a large exam, you may be too busy to sleep. If you have a large project due, you may not have time to work out. Truthfully, we all have 24 hours in the day. We most likely allocate our time according to whatever we feel is important, but what we should be doing is making time for what adds the largest benefit to our happiness at the end of each day. This is where the best day ever mindset stems from. If you can arrange your day to increase happiness more than yesterday, today is better than yesterday, and you are always having the best day ever.
Let’s review the point system. At the beginning of each day, we each start with a certain number of decision points. Every decision we make, whether it be what shoes to wear or whether we should we buy an apartment or rent next year, takes up a certain number of points. Smaller decisions, like coffee or tea, use fewer points, but still count towards the total. Big decisions, like should you sell your company, take up a lot of points.
At the end of a day filled with lots of big decisions, you may feel physically fatigued. You are tired, just want to watch TV, or fall asleep on the couch – there is no energy left in the tank to lay out your clothes for tomorrow, prepare for that big meeting, or even play with your kids. This is decision fatigue. You did not do anything physical in nature to feel tired, yet the mental fatigue can feel just as draining. You have become tired because the gas tank in your brain has emptied. You drained all of your “points” and need to sleep to reboot.
What if you could always have enough points at the end of the day to workout, make dinner, volunteer, or do something nice for a loved one? Our society has created a mental overload where we become so exhausted from thought. If you ask a farmer or construction worker their idea of exhaustion, it would be a feeling induced by physical labor - drastically different than the mental fatigue of a desk-bound worker. We now feel tired, sick, and beat at the end of a “long” day due to decision fatigue.
It’s now time to make the most out of your day. Let’s leave work or school and be excited for the second half of the day.
The million dollar question: How do I “optimize” my points and make efficient decisions?
Optimizing your points
The first step is to start with a pre-bedtime and morning routine. If we have a similar routine to start the day, our decisions are already made in advance – no additional brain power necessary. We won’t use unnecessary points in the morning, which we can then recycle into the back half of the day.
Lay out your clothes the night before, leave your keys by the door next to your wallet, set your alarm to the optimal time, and please, don’t hit the snooze button no matter how tempting. This way you have cut out all risk of forgetting something, which would usually cause you to feel rushed, and allows you to focus on your bigger decisions ahead. No points will be used looking for something or snoozing too long. This step frees up points for later in the day.
Like your morning omelet? Chop the vegetables the night before. Oatmeal your go to? Have the cup and spoon ready. Smoothie person? Have the greens, fruit, and powders prepped in the fridge the night before. You don’t have to use any points in the morning to prepare your meal or think about what you are craving at that time. Everything is set out. You start the day off in a healthy way. You fuel yourself physically with the proper start and you do so without wasting any points.
Pack your lunch
Does something like this sound familiar? Hunger strikes mid-morning, between your healthy breakfast and lunch. You forgot to pack a snack, and also didn’t pack a lunch. One person starts talking about where to get lunch or what to get from the cafeteria and your mind begins to wander. From 10-11:30am you spend half your time working and the other half looking at menus or chatting about the new spot to eat. Will it be Chipotle for the fourth time this week? You walk or drive, wait in line, and finally eat too quickly because of your next meeting, and you’re immediately back to the grind. Most likely this meal was not the best choice because you were rushed or did not make time to pick the healthiest option.
You used a lot of points that whole morning and now you’re tired for two reasons - what you ate and all the thought that went into choosing what to eat. Let’s rewind.
You make your lunch the night before. It’s a colorful salad with kale, quinoa, blueberries, goji berries, sautéed chicken, cucumber, and mixed peppers, dressed with homemade olive oil and lemon zest. This thing is awesome! Now, while all your friends or co-workers are using important points thinking about lunch and taking time to get it, yours is in the fridge ready to rock. You are able to enjoy the meal, take your time, eat healthy, and have energy when you’re done. You use 0 points. After lunch, you have energy and are thinking with a clear mind.
Incorporating these three tips to your pre-bed and morning routine will add back points to your day. Now that important meeting you have at 3pm will be approached with more mental and physical capacity to perform better. The first half of the day is done and you can enjoy the rest with a spin class, book club meeting, hitting the driving range or basketball court, and making a great meal for dinner.
Removing this mental fatigue gives you the ability to do more with your day. It frees up your schedule and provides more open time to relax and align your true prioritizes. Instead of being tired and feeling stressed, you have a new sense of awareness for what is important. You lose that “too busy” feeling and are able to find more freedom within your life. Now that you have more time and do not feel rushed, the personal growth opportunities are endless.
We all have 24 hours in a day. Use them wisely. Live Better.