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TPP #22 Why Less Choice Makes You More Productive

Welcome to Episode #22 of The Planner Podcast.

In this episode, I share 4 huge benefits of reducing your choices including some personal examples of how I implement this into my life, business and family.

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TRANSCRIPT:

Hi, this is Mim Jenkinson, and you’re listening to The Planner Podcast.

Hey, lovely and welcome back or welcome if you are new. If you don’t want to miss out on any future podcast episodes, then make sure that you subscribe. I’ve wanted to talk to you today about something that’s been on my mind a lot lately, and it’s about choice and how what we think we want is more choice, but often that’s the biggest thing that’s preventing us from moving forward with reaching our goals or making progress towards them, even if it isn’t reaching them yet.

It’s the thing that really can be a stumbling block, I think, is when we have so much choice, we actually don’t really know what to do and we can feel quite overwhelmed. When I think about the decisions that I have to make on a day-to-day basis or bigger decisions for the family or for my business, often it’s when I have a lot of choice, that I don’t know what to do next. Whereas if I have fewer things to choose from, go through that same probably, but it can often be much quicker for me to make that decision.

I’m going to give you a few personal examples as well, so you can just have a think about where potentially having too much choice, or a way you can reduce choice in your life, could have a better impact on you being productive as well. I’m going to start with – and I’ve got four different reasons why I think having less choice is better and why less choice could equal more time for you – the first thing that I wanted to talk about is this, when it comes to making decisions, one of the biggest things that we can struggle with is how long it takes. You will relate to this, I know.

When you have a big decision to make, even if it’s just between two things or whether it’s many choices, you can think about it all the time. It can be on your mind. You can be lying in bed, not really knowing what the right thing to do is, trying to tune into your gut, but maybe that isn’t working either, and it can lead you to feeling really overwhelmed and you don’t make a decision.

And obviously, all of the time that’s taken with not making a decision and all of the time and the stress potentially is taking you while you’re thinking about what to do next, that’s time that is wasted where you could just make a choice and then move on with that. But of course, we always want to make sure we’re doing the right thing. And some of us, I know, have some issues you’ve told me with perfectionism and really, really feeling that you want things to be right before you make a step forward. And that’s okay.

That might be something you’re working on, or maybe it’s something you’re happy with. But of course, the longer we take to make our decisions, the more time could be wasted. I don’t want that for you, if we can change that.

What I have found is by having less choices, I can make a quicker decision, and then just get into momentum with taking action sooner. Less choice for you could play out in lots of different ways. For me, I have a couple of examples where I have reduced my choices significantly. The first thing is with the drinks that I have.

Many of you will know that I chose in January 2019 to no longer drink alcohol. I made the decision to stop drinking alcohol. I will never drink alcohol again. And for me, that has been such, such a maximizer of my time and my mental headspace as well. So let’s just put any health benefits or health challenges or any of that aside for now. When I think back to when I stopped drinking, one of the biggest benefits of found was how much time I had afterward. Now, some of you will have read my book, Less Wine More Time, and the reason I called it that is for this exact example.

I used to spend a lot of time thinking about what I was going to drink, when I was going to drink, then I would spend time thinking about what I drank. Personally for me, I felt quite guilty about the amount I was drinking and the frequency. All this time was taken about my drinking decisions and even after I’d made the decision. For me now, making the decision not to drink alcohol anymore means that there’s a massive, massive amount of choice has been taken away from me voluntarily. I’ve chosen not to have the choice of alcohol, if that makes sense, anymore, which means I no longer have to think about any implications of drinking alcohol. It means obviously things like I can drive everywhere, I don’t have to worry about hangovers, all of those different things.

But for me, it now means that when I’m making a decision about what to drink, well, maybe if I’m in a bar or a restaurant, 50% or even 95% in some of them of the choices are literally off the menu for me. I only have the choice of water, juices, tea, coffee, like all of those things.

I can make a really quick decision. Now, this is just one example, but it just shows how you can make a really quick simple decision based on the fewer choices you have. Really similar to that, another personal example is that around the same time that I quit alcohol, I decided to no longer eat animal products either. And like I say, health choices aside, it doesn’t concern me what choices you make for you and your body, but I just chose not to eat animal products anymore which means, again, when I’m making decisions about what I’m going to eat and consume, I only have a few choices now. Well, actually, I have loads, but there are still way, way fewer than if I was eating animal products as well.

And again, if I’m going out, maybe I’m at a restaurant or a cafe, on the menu, depending on where I am, there might be no choices and I might have to ask for something. But most of the time there are only 1, 2, 3, 4 choices for me rather than the 50 choices on the menu so it means I can make a quicker decision then

It isn’t all about making a quicker decision. It’s also just about the thinking time that is involved in making those decisions as well and the back and forth time and any stress that goes along with that too, I’ve just eradicated so much of that in my life from reducing the choices I have. I’m sure you can have a think about how you can reduce choices in your life. It doesn’t have to be food and drink related. I just wanted to give a couple of personal examples there.

The second benefit of having, and I’ve hinted at this, but the second benefit of having less choices to choose from is that I reduce that decision fatigue. And I really just want you to talk a little bit more about that emotional position that we’re in when we have lots of choices to make, and it can be quite stressful to make those choices and to know what the best thing to do is. But at the same time, we have so, so, so many hundreds of micro decisions to make every single day. And by the end of the day, it’s exhausting.

It’s exhausting to have constantly had to make all of these different decisions. And by giving ourselves less choice, it means that that decision fatigue is definitely going to be reduced. I can definitely speak firsthand to that as well. And even in business day-to-day, I plan in a very routined way where it’s exactly the same every single week. I’m not literally sitting at my desk on a Monday morning thinking, “How am I going to plan this week? Am I going to use my stickers in my planner this week?” Everything is exactly the same every single week for me.

I will link to a podcast where I share my planning routine as well. But I plan on a Friday afternoon, every single week in exactly the same way. I’m always open to changing it if I think I can be more productive. But for a very long time, this particular planning routine has worked for me. And again, it just means that I don’t have the decision fatigue.

I’m not wasting a mental health space on how I’m going to plan my week or how I’m going to organize my days, because I already know that I’ve set rules around how I do that and it reduces that re decision fatigue and, again, saves me time as well.

Which brings me on to the third benefit of having less choice. I just think it gives us stronger boundaries too. It puts us in a position where we have made a decision in advance of what we want and what we don’t want from our life when we have chosen the choices we want to make available to ourselves.

Going back to the alcohol example, I now know that rather than me try to cut back on alcohol or only drink on a Friday evening or only drink two drinks and no more, personally for me, it was much easier just to cut alcohol out altogether. To take the choice of alcohol off the table together, it means that’s easy. It’s much easier. I’ve heard this from a mentor of mine, Jim Fortin. It’s much easier to be 100% committed to something than to be 90% committed. And I’m sure you can relate that to a different aspect of your life.

But for me, I found for a long time trying to cut down on alcohol, trying to limit the consumption, trying to reduce the number of days, I found that exhausting. I found it really hard, and I found that it really relied on willpower. It’s something that I could never stick to. It was absolutely impossible. I don’t know many people who can stick to it as well. But for me, taking alcohol off the table, it sounds like it was a really drastic decision to make, and it sounds like that would be way harder to stick to, but actually it was much easier.

Now, I can only speak from my own personal experience here, but have a think in your life about the things that you are finding it hard to limit yourself with and how you might create a stronger boundary simply by taking that choice off the table for you altogether as well.

And the final benefit that I think having less choice really, really gives us more time back and more of a benefit for is that this doesn’t just work for ourselves. It can actually work for the other people in our lives as well.

Now, I’m certainly not going to claim to be any kind of a parenting expert whatsoever. I have two small kids, and I’m learning every single day. I imagine I will learn every single day forever how to be a better parent. But one thing that I’ve definitely has found has worked with my kids and from a very, very young age as well is to give them choices so that they feel they’re making their own decision, but to give them limited number of choices.

And that’s because obviously as a parent, I know my kids are six and eight at the moment, and I’ve always known until this point what’s best for them. I’ve strongly believed that. So although I want them to have the ability to be able to choose for themselves, especially in those moments where they want what they want and nothing else is going to satisfy them, I want to give them a choice or they feel they’ve got that autonomy, but at the same time, I want to give them boundaries about those choices.

So for example, if they ask me for dessert, I might say to them, “Yes, you can have dessert. Would you like fruit or yogurt? They’re the two choices you have.” And that’s going to stop them say, this is an example from recently, “I want ice cream, or I want chocolate,” or whatever the thing is that they want. I’m not trying to trick them, but just by giving them a choice, which means they can choose. And it might not always be two things. It might be choose anything from the fruit bowl or choose anything from this insert healthy snack options.

But it means that they feel that they’re choosing for themselves, but they understand, especially at their age now, they understand that I’m giving them boundaries. I’m saying, “Yes, you can choose, but these are the choices that I am giving you because I feel that I know what’s best for you.” Having less choice, but still having choice, can actually work for the other people in our lives as well. Have a little think especially if you’re a parent as well. I think that you’re probably already doing this yourself.

I’m not trying to reinvent the wheel here, but I found that this has definitely helped me be able to get my kids to make faster decisions and just reduce some of that kind of conflict or any of those tantrums where they want more and sometimes they want the things that I don’t want them to have. Oh, that’s going to go on for a long time, isn’t it? Like I say, they’re only six and eight, so I’ve got many, many parenting lessons to learn as we go.

But I would love you to have a little thing too about how having less choice in your life can actually make you more productive as well.

And I would love you to let me know whether this is something that you’re already really conscious of and you’ve been very conscious of reducing choices to give yourself more time, less stress, less decision fatigue, to set your boundaries stronger. Let me know. You can send me a DM. I’m @paperplannerclub on Instagram or Facebook. I would love to hear from you. Thanks for listening, love, and I will see you in the next episode.

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I acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the land I work and live on, the Awabakal peoples, and pay my respects to Elders past and present.
I thank them wholeheartedly and express my love and gratitude for the privilege to live and work in such a beautiful part of the world and for the opportunity for my family to be part of this vibrant and supportive community.

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