One of the hardest activities you’ll undertake today is making decisions. As our society becomes ever more crowded with options, and information about those options, the number of decisions we make, and complexity of the analysis required in making those decisions seems to grow daily. Making decisions is hard work. No wonder you’re tired at the end of the day.
Tim Ferriss, author of “The Four Hour Workweek,” theorizes that we all start the day with the ability to make a certain number of decisions, and that once you’ve reached your limit, whatever it is for you, the remaining decisions you make will be less than optimal. You’ll be tired, less creative, cognitively impaired. To use a modern metaphor, you have limited bandwidth, and each decision takes up some of that bandwidth. Once it’s used up, you won’t have enough remaining bandwidth to pursue big dreams.
Some people have a greater-than-average capacity for decision making, just as some people have a natural advantage in certain sports. Of course, others have a lower decision-making capacity. Perhaps ADHD lowers your decision-limit. You can still make decisions, but the more decisions you make, the more likely the quality of your decisions will suffer.
Save Your Decisions for Things That Are Important
If you have a limited number of decisions you can make easily and correctly each day, it makes sense to save your decisions for things that are important to you. While eliminating frivolous decisions can benefit anyone, if you have ADHD, reducing the number of decisions you make unnecessarily gives a bigger pay-off. This is why rituals, routines and systems are so powerful for adults with ADHD.
Develop Routines In Lieu of Decisions
Developing routines eliminates daily decisions by making them once rather than repeatedly. Save your energy and your creative genius for decisions that count. If each day you debate over going to the gym, you waste energy and some of those limited decisions you can make each day. If instead, you decide (just once) you’ll go to the gym every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, you’ve eliminated three decisions per week.
Michael Phelps, the Olympic champion swimmer who happens to have ADHD, was born with bigger lungs than 99.9% of the population. Some people are born better swimmers; perhaps some are born with more decision-making capacity. But just as we are not all capable of Michael Phelps exploits in the water, we can’t all be gifted in decision making.
Systems Eliminate Unnecessary Decisions
Automating or systemizing activities to eliminate unnecessary decisions pays off big-time. The rewards for adults with ADHD are extraordinary. After all, if your goal was to cross the river but you could not swim, you would benefit far more from a canoe than Michael Phelps, who could dive in and be on the other side before you had your life jacket on!
If it can’t be automated, can you create a ritual or routine around it? Do you decide each morning to brush your teeth? Or do you do it automatically? These are simple examples of an extremely powerful strategy, just one of the powerful strategies you’ll implement in your own life in the Maximum Productivity Makeover.
Many adults with ADHD overwhelmed by the decisions they need to make every day often despair because their efforts to create routines and systems have failed. They tell me they’d love to become more productive by creating systems, routines and habits (and thus eliminating energy-draining decisions), but all their past efforts have come to naught. In fact, they’re convinced this strategy can’t work for them. Well, I have good news about that…
Stay tuned, because in my next article, “Routines and Habits: Yes You Can,” I’ll share some of the secrets adults with ADHD can use to establish routines and habits (even if you’re absolutely convinced it’s impossible for you!)