Learning to Reduce: The Hidden Cost of Indecision

In college I would get flyers or mail with interesting opportunities but be unsure if that’s where I should invest my already stretched time. I’d read a flyer, find it difficult to decide and then drop it on my desk so I wouldn’t forget I needed to do something about it. Needless to say, this lead to a desk piled with papers and a mind full of unmade decisions.   I was stressed all the time and never had the energy at the end of a long day to sort through the piles of papers that held yet more work for me. This would last for weeks or months until the stress gave me enough reason to summon my courage and clean up my desk and overflow piles. I would pick up those same interesting opportunities and note with relief that the due date had passed so I could trash them without mental energy.

Not to decide is to decide

We can’t get around it. We can’t put off decisions for a magical time “later” when we’ll suddenly have more time. I still think I’ll have more time later even though I always have less time now than I did before! When we delay a decision, we are in fact deciding not to act. Not to decide is to decide – or is it? My college habit of postponing decisions took up an enormous amount of energy and mental space but returned no productivity whatsoever. Not to decide is much worse than deciding not to. If I was so relieved that the opportunity had passed then it probably wasn’t very important in the first place. What if I had had the courage to say “no” when I first got the opportunity? What freedom and peace of mind – not to mention a cleaner desk – I would have experienced!

Deciding to Reduce

Did you think of something you’d rather cut out of your life after reading my last post? Did you decide to reduce the effort you put into it and accept it as an area where you’ll perform below industry standard? Or did you put off deciding?

Front load your “no”

Decisions take energy, but deciding not to decide wastes precious brain space until the question is resolved. Our subconscious will continue to work on the problem when we’re trying to focus on something else. The more unmade decisions we carry around, the harder it is to get anything done. Don’t let my words sit in the back of your head. Decide to decide, even if it is to decide not to. Don’t let that low performance area of family life that you don’t like and wish you could remove sit around and make you feel guilty. Decide. Can you cut it? Can you reduce it to a minimum acceptable level? Can you front load your “no” and be at peace with your lower level rather than carry around guilt that you don’t measure up and more guilt that you haven’t decided whether it’s okay not to measure up?

The Next Action Trick

If you can’t decide to reduce or cut – it’s just too much or you’re too afraid that it’s something you shouldn’t cut, then take a moment to think about what you might do if you were to improve in that area. You don’t have to do it now, just think what would be the very next step necessary to move in the right direction. Could you act on it right now? If not, then you need to burrow down one more level. You might need to find a tool, or ask a person, or find a number, or look inside a box – yes, I’ve made Next Action tasks like “look inside sewing box” because I’m too overwhelmed by the guilt of neglecting to act on “decide what sewing needs to be done.” And I still procrastinate! So this call is for us all:


Pick one bothersome area and decide to reduce, cut or think of a next action. Enjoy the peace that comes from deciding. You get extra credit if you decide NOT TO and take it off your to do list and guilty-conscious mental list for good!

I’d love to hear what you decided not to do today! You should be able to see your comment right away and not have to wait for moderation. Please try it so I can see if I set it up right.

9 thoughts on “Learning to Reduce: The Hidden Cost of Indecision”

  1. Here’s a comment to test your system. I like the picture. 🙂 I’m still struggling with coming up with something to reduce — but at least I’m discovering how many ways I’ve already reduced over the course of my life. Maybe I’ll write about that. There must be more, I just don’t know what it is yet.

    1. I’d love to hear an example or two of what you’ve already reduced. I like having readers further along than I am!

  2. One area in which I’ve reduced is personal care. Well, maybe that’s not the right term: my dental hygiene routine is longer and more involved than most. Maybe I mean personal adornment? I wear no makeup, and my hair needs only a quick brush in the morning. I have no need of business attire, and am not embarrassed to be seen in jeans and a t-shirt most times when I go out. Even my church clothes are simple, though upgraded from everyday wear. I almost never bother with any jewelry but my wedding ring. It helps to be blessed with a husband who is okay with this. I realize that this is “below industry standard,” but in my Blue Ocean it saves me a lot of precious time — and money.

  3. This is exactly what I need right now. I have not yet thought of an area that I wish I didn’t have to do (having just read your previous post a minute before this one.) But I have an overflowing inbox that I was just about to tackle.

    One item I know is in there is a brochure for a neat place to visit as a field trip. It has been hanging around for more than a year. But I am going to trash it. Our schedule is so busy and if I put in a field trip it will be for the museum we already have a membership to. Yay! Thank you for helping me get that off my mind. (And if someday we do want to visit the brochure place, I can find it online.)

    By the way, we are pretty minimal on baths and showers as well. But it reminds me of something that I do wish I didn’t have to do and that is shaving. So I made myself sit here and make a decision. My husband and I have already talked about it, with the conclusion being he doesn’t care at home, but wishes for the public not to see my leg hair. So I do not shave in the winter, and in the summer only shave the parts that the public can see. Today I have decided to keep doing it that way. The main reason is that my husband has a lot on his plate right now and I’d rather spent my conversation with him on other topics rather than revisit this one. So now I will move forward with this decision and not grumble when it is shaving time!

    Thank you, this is so helpful. And really, it took me about five minutes, sitting here thinking about it, and it would have taken so much more mental energy over time if I had not decided. (It did help that the baby fell back asleep while I was thinking!)

    1. Wonderful! Go you for deciding NOW! So glad my post came at the right time for you. You also show that deciding not fix something now, but be at peace until a later time, is also a decision. Thanks!

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