Decision fatigue is a real-life phenomenon, not just a theoretical concept in psychology. It has been shown scientifically that humans have a limited amount of willpower and can eventually run out of that decision-making juice. The decision fatigue inevitably leads to poor decisions or even complete decision avoidance (aka decision paralysis). As a part of my life optimization initiative, I am constantly looking for ways to automate the most routine decisions in my everyday life. The ultimate goal is to develop my own decision automation app or system. In the meantime, I rely on some third-party apps like Choose for Me.
Decision Automation: Start with Choices
Decision automation is most suitable when you have a set of predefined choices and no creative input is required. The most common example is flipping the coin, with outcomes (which side is shown when the coin lands) interpreted as “yes” or “no”, or “you” and “me”, or some other dual decision choices. The good thing is that humans are predictable and habitual creatures, and most of the everyday situations that require decisions can be reduced to a handful of options. In my case, I was able to automate decision making in such areas as clothing (work uniform), food (breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks), blogging (topic category) and gym (workout routine). Each category has a predefined set of options, which I enter into the app called Choose for Me (iOS, free). The app then uses a random number generator to select the option when you need to make a decision.
Mornings have become much easier for me after I started treating my work clothes as a uniform. The fact that I work at the company with somewhat relaxed dress code helps a lot. Last winter, I went ahead and purchased:
- six shirts
- 2 pairs of jeans (blue and black)
- and 3 vests (blue, grey and maroon).
I bundled the vests and jeans into 5 different combination options, while the choice of the shirt is driven by mood and availability:
- Blue Jeans, Gray Vest
- Blue Jeans, Blue Vest
- Blue Jeans, Maroon Vest
- Black Jeans, Gray Vest
- Black Jeans, Maroon Vest
This system works perfectly for me. Naturally, the wardrobe item options need to be reprogrammed with every season.
Meals (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Snacks)
I will share my thoughts and ideas on a minimalist diet in another post. Currently, I am experimenting with keto-ish/lowcarb+high fat+medium protein diet, so I have to cook all my meals. And nothing induces decision fatigue faster than trying to decide what meals to cook for next week! For each meal type, the choices are limited to:
- 6 options for breakfast
- 12 options for lunch
- 12 options for dinner
- 6 options for snacks
Currently, I select options for each meal type separately, but in the nearest future I plan to bundle breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and snacks together as “daily meal packs”. That would help me to plan my grocery trips more efficiently, and avoid stress, anxiety and unnecessary expenses.
I use the same app to choose the gym routines and blog topics.
Decision Automation App: Recommendations for Improvement
The Choose for Me app is certainly not perfect, but it is so far the best app that suits my needs. I do have some recommendations on how this app could be improved and important features that I would love to see in the decision automation apps in general:
- Discarding “used” option. Currently, the same choice option can appear again and again. As much as I like having keto bagels with cream cheese for breakfast, I would not want to eat it again two or even three weeks in a row. Thus, the ability to discard the choice option after it was selected once is extremely important!
- Assigning weights to selection probabilities. Currently, every option has an equal chance of being selected. It would be helpful if I could set the odds of certain options higher than the others. For example, salmon is delicious, but it is also expensive so I would want to eat it less often than chicken, for example.
- Ability to add images. This is self-explanatory, I believe.
- Data export. I want to be able to email myself a list of ingredients associated with the meal that was selected. Or a list of exercises for the particular gym routine. Finally, the option to export the history (list of selected choices) would be extremely helpful as well.
Other Tools to Fight Decision Fatigue
I already wrote how I use direct deposits to automate contributions to investment accounts. Finally, the Sleep Cycle app could be also considered a decision automation tool because it chooses your wake-up time based on your sleep patterns.
Photo Credit: Wikipedia Commons