Ditch the Decisions
I’m a photographer, so it’s normal for me to spend my hard-earned cash on fashion magazines for inspiration (it’s what I tell my hubby and now I believe it myself…). Today, during one of my ‘research’ sessions I read an interesting article in Vogue that resonated with me, and no doubt it will with you too. In fact, I think we all suffer in one way or another. I’m slightly obsessed with poring over images in magazines and online – which isn’t necessarily a bad thing seeing as I am a photographer. Plus, Vogue transports me to a world of fashion and glamour, which quite frankly does not exist in my cottage in the tiny village where I live. Wellies and jeans are the norm and to be fair much more practical.
I was busy admiring a leopard print coat – a snip at £7,000 – immediately before stumbling upon said article which was titled “Free your mind”. Only a short article but I related to it straight away.
It was about ‘choice reduction’. Apparently, a neurological tactic that preserves brain power. The likes of Mark Zuckerberg and the late Steve Jobs employed the same strategy. It’s all about limiting the number of choices you have to make, thus allowing your brain a) a flaming rest from the myriad of choices b) to make space for more important issues – real life choices.
Waking up and being faced with instant decisions and questions, such as what the kids will have for breakfast today, where you’ve left the school uniforms, what you’re going to take to work for your lunch or what’s for dinner that evening, all deplete the brains resources. Leaving little left in the reserves that require serious brain power.
A day of choices, choices, choices!
A typical day for me starts by asking the boys what they want for breakfast. As I write this, we have no less than 10 choices of cereal! I kid you not. My youngest boy is happy to make a choice from this generous selection, but my eldest child is definitely overwhelmed, and often says he just can’t decide. Am I now teaching my kids to expect lots of choice, as we have all come to expect?
Once the boys are at school, I come home, already beating myself up for not doing my exercises when I had the opportunity before the they woke. I sit down at my desk and try to choose from what feels like the thousands of tasks I need to achieve. I haven’t actually got thousands of things to do, but it feels like it and it’s no wonder. Lists of tasks on bits of paper, several notebooks, on my phone, and the rest reside in my head. In fact, deciding what I should choose to start first is like standing in the make-up and beauty hall in Selfridges and trying to choose a new foundation or mascara.
The choice is overwhelming and it’s far easier to head to the coffee shop and sit down to waste an hour on my phone. Which is often what I do at home, except I go downstairs to the kitchen, make myself a coffee and raid the cupboards of all the sweet treats I can find. It makes me feel better, temporarily.
I am very guilty of starting one task and then, when bored, or stuck on something, I move onto the next. Needless to say, by the time the school run is upon me I have achieved a number of half finished jobs, which then remain on my many to-do-lists. I am still annoyed with myself that I haven’t exercised and have eaten a tonne of rubbish.
Once I have collected the boys from school, we start on the homework. I have found it’s best to get it out of the way, followed quickly by the daily ‘discussion’ about what is for tea, how one child likes it but the other one doesn’t and I make three or four different meals instead of one.
Once the children are in bed, it’s back upstairs to edit some client images and stress some more about the jobs I didn’t get finished during the day.
When did it all start?
I have sustained this level of busy for years now. In fact, I have lost count of the number of times my friends have said to me “I don’t know how you do it” referring to how I spread myself so thinly.
I remember one particular day, I was heading into work and completely to my surprise I burst into tears. I didn’t see or feel it coming and I got the shock I probably needed to slow down. At the time, I was a mum of very young children, 3 and 5, and had a full time HR career as well as being a part-time photographer too. My photography business was gaining momentum and I was being pulled in lots of directions. Busy was an understatement.
I knew at this point that I couldn’t carry on spinning so many plates and, cutting a very long story short, I was fortunate enough to be able to reduce my HR hours to part-time and continue with my photography business.
How does it stop?
I have always said that I don’t like routine. Resisted it, in fact. I am very easily bored; thriving on change, new experiences and meeting new people. BUT…maybe I have to admit defeat and let some routine in. Maybe my children need it too.
It also got me thinking about the choices I give to the boys. They are endless; which clubs would you like to go to? What would you like to eat lunch/dinner? Would you like X or Y? What shall we do this weekend? Shall we do your homework now or later? I consult them on almost everything they do.
What I do know is that I can’t keep up this level of disorganisation. It’s creates far too many choices and my brain is crying out for a rest. So I am introducing a few simple changes to being with.
Starting with the basics
First, menu planning. I am going use a simple one-week plan. Shop just for what is on the menu that week and not make multiple trips to the supermarket. I might even save some money as one of my ‘extra’ trips to the supermarket rarely costs less than £20.
Second, a weekly work planner. I will allocate certain tasks to certain days. For example, Monday can be admin and website tasks, Tuesday blogging and so on. I do this in my HR job so I need to apply it to my own business.
Thirdly, a weekly home planner. This will include a homework schedule, general chores and jobs that the boys will undertake for pocket money.
These all sound simple, and there is no reinventing the wheel going on here. I simply don’t do the basics so it’s seems like the best place to start.
Thanks for reading and feel free to share your choice-saving tips ☺