Living alone and decision fatigue

This? Or that?

Making decisions is hard work. We make hundreds of decisions every day, and most of them are trivial, so clearly we’re good at it, but sometimes it all gets to be Too Much.

Have you ever traveled to a different country and gone supermarket shopping? It takes forever, because you have to really look at and read every label, since you don’t recognise brands and have no idea if what’s in the jar is chocolate spread or Vegemite (they they are not the same thing. At all). This process makes grocery shopping enormously tiring.

I get tired of deciding what I’ll have for dinner each night, and it would be great if someone else would just say “it’s chicken risotto tonight” so I didn’t have to think about it.

The way I combat this is to make as many decisions a matter of routine as possible. In other words, I don’t decide in the moment, I make up a sequence of rules, then just follow it.

I have a uniform of sorts that I wear to work, and it makes getting dressed a very minor choice that only requires a cursory glance at the weather for minor adjustments. I don’t decide what to do when I get up in the morning, I just do what I do every morning: have a shower, get dressed and do my makeup and hair, have breakfast (I eat the same thing every morning) and brush my teeth, then go to work. None of which is a decision, it’s just a sequence of events that Have To Happen or the world will fall apart. The other morning, when the men in the street decided to turn off my water so they could dig a whacking great hole in front of my house, the world was briefly imperiled. I could not have a shower. It was traumatic, but I got through the rest of my morning routine, and the world remains on its axis.

This works fine for anything that happens regularly. The really hard part of decision making is when you do big and rare things. Take renovating your house: you are faced with a never-ending stream of decisions, all of which feel like they have the weight of your entire mortgage and life earnings riding on them.

This kind of decision making is truly scary. It’s scary for people in relationships, but it’s even more so when you’re on your own, because you have no-one to bounce ideas off, no-one who will say ‘are you mad?’ or ‘YESSS!! Do it!” when you propose high gloss black ceilings. The full burden of decisions falls to you. As do the consequences. You have no-one to blame but yourself.

On the plus side of course, you can do exactly what you want and you don’t have to compromise. No accommodating someone else’s hideous taste in furniture or penchant for pink and silver metallic diagonally-striped wallpaper. The trick is just to be really clear on what it is that you want before you start. Then the only person you’re trying to keep happy is yourself.

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