What if I told you there was one thing that would help your productivity? One thing that you can start doing right now? One thing that will make your days easier, your workouts happen, and your food healthier?
It has to do with how we make decisions.
In their book Switch, Chip and Dan Heath talk about this phenomenon called decision paralysis. Essentially, the science behind it says that the more options you have, the harder it is to make any decision at all.
Recently, I stopped by Trader Joe’s to pick up some flowers for my desk. I didn’t know exactly what I wanted, but one of my small goals for the year is to get fresh flowers on a regular basis. I grabbed a basket and walked into the store…and then spent the next 7 minutes walking around the flower area, trying to decide. Do I get gerbera daisies? The pink ones? Or maybe the yellow ones? What about tulips? Sunflowers? Roses? Eucalyptus? Because I was presented with so many choices, it took me forever to make any decision at all. If I walked in and only had two choices, though (daisies or tulips?), I would have been able to make the decision much faster.
So how do we use this knowledge to increase our productivity? By limiting our choices. Chip and Dan remind us of this: “more options, even good ones, can freeze us and make us retreat to the default plan…” (p. 50).
There are three practical ways to do this:
1. Make a Plan.
If we know where we’re going and exactly what we’re doing, we are less likely to veer off that path. For example, if we decide the night before that we’ll have eggs & avocado toast for breakfast, that’s one less thing we have to think of in the morning, and one less option we have to sort through. We end up eating a healthier breakfast than we might otherwise (because sugary cereal might be our default), and we have more brain capacity to make better decisions later (because we didn’t spend it on deciding what to eat for breakfast).
2. Create Habits.
This applies to everyone, but it’s especially helpful for small business owners. Batch your work. Do all your social media planning on Monday, all your blog-post writing on Tuesday, and all your client meetings on Wednesday. When you sit down at your desk on Monday morning, you won’t have to sort through your list of 10 different possible tasks you could do that day because you already know: every Monday you plan your social media. Some things might not fit perfectly into one day (like client meetings, for example), but batch as much as you can and you’ll see a hike in your productivity!
3. Eliminate Decisions.
Use one pen throughout the day. Have one notebook where you write all the ideas and dreams you think of throughout the day. Don’t have your phone within eyesight (or arm’s reach) while you work. (Also turn notifications and sound off–and put your laptop on do not disturb mode if possible!) Find a way to reduce the amount of decisions you make each day, and you’ll see your productivity go up!
The entire book is worth reading (you can find it here!), even if you aren’t a business owner, manager, or leading a team. At it’s very basic level, it helps us understand how to motivate ourselves–and that’s worth it, right?