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A 2-Step Mental Shortcut to Make Making Decisions Easier and Less Stressful

Spend your energy on planning, not deciding

Click here to read this story on Medium.com

A man without a plan  - Midjourney

This story begins a week ago when I woke up from a sound sleep. As I focused bleary eyes on my alarm clock, I realized that it was only 4 am and I could turn over and go back to sleep. But then I became aware that, in my hands, I was clutching the corner of my blanket.

Dammit, not this again! Why the corner of my blanket? I want to go back to sleep, but I need to adjust this thing left or right so the blanket properly covers me. I don’t want to open my eyes properly, I’ll just guess left. Or should I guess right? I’ll only know I’m wrong when my toes feel cold. Dammit!

In this half-awake state I had a moment of clarity. I thought, “This is stupid. Why am I having trouble making such a simple decision?”

And I suddenly realized that there was a straightforward approach I could use. One, think about what happened in the past and decide based on the past outcomes, and two, if it’s a low-risk decision, then just do whatever you feel like doing since it doesn’t matter much anyway.

I focused my mind just enough to remember that rotating my blanket left was the right choice most of the time, so I tried that. Warm toes. Success!

This morning I was driving to meet a friend for a catchup after a long trip (his, not mine), and I texted him, “Hey, want anything from Starbucks?”

He texted back, “Sure, get me a small black coffee.”

To which I responded with a heart emoji ❤️ because a thumbs up 👍 is considered sarcastic by young people and I want to pretend I’m a young person. You’re welcome.

Then as I’m considering some sort of a breakfast sandwich vs a blueberry muffin, I’m thinking to myself, “Hmm. I had an ok sleep last night. I don’t really need a coffee, so should I order a coffee for myself as well?”

Should I order another coffee? I can’t decide!  - Midjourney

I have a coffee two to three times a week, not every day. I love coffee, but it feels like something I could become dependent on and I want to avoid too much of it. Which sounds like a bizarre thought coming from someone who happily guzzles margaritas and pops pills to have a good time. To me all these drugs are the same — take them with consideration and dose appropriately.

So I’m going back and forth on this decision — do I order a coffee? Do I not? Is it anti-social? Do I have a caffeine addiction? Maybe a Diet Coke instead? And it occurs to me to open up my AI journal and just type in the dilemma I’m facing. Let’s see what the journal says!

Here’s what I typed and the Rosebud AI Journal response:

Rosebud: What’s on your mind?

Me: I’m meeting up with my friend Neeraj and taking him a coffee. I’m not sure if I should drink one myself. Decision tree — what has happened in the past with similar situations, and how important is this decision. Dammit, just be social and take the drink. It’s not a big deal.

Rosebud: Sounds like you’ve got a solid handle on weighing the pros and cons. Good on you for recognizing … blah blah blah.

Did you notice how I actually solved the problem in my own entry? Without any comments from Rosebud?

This is the power of journaling. I realized as I typed, that in the past, caffeine decisions haven’t affected me badly, and it was a minor decision, so just order the damn coffee. I ordered two coffees, headed over to my friend’s house, and we had a great time, including drinking a coffee together.

Here’s the thing, most decisions are easy. You’re 60% sure, you’re 70% sure, you’re 90% sure, you just decide and get on with your day. I decided on the breakfast sandwich and abandoned the blueberry muffin quickly and easily.

But sometimes you can’t decide and you get caught in a loop going back and forth.

Stop.

Think about a time in the past when you’ve faced a similar decision. What happened? And if that doesn’t solve the problem, think about how important and sensitive this decision is. If it’s trivial, then just do what you feel like doing and stop thinking about it.

Our minds are great at making decisions, and you can nearly always let your feelings guide your way. If it’s a life-changing decision, then of course take some time, discuss it with friends, make a pro/con list, and eventually you’ll feel the right answer. Use a journal or a journaling app to help you as needed.

But most of the time, just make the decision and use your considerable brain power to plan out steps of execution.

Just make the decision and get on with your day.

Before your coffee gets cold.

  1. My AI journaling app, Rosebud.

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