As I was saying, too much choice can lead to too little happiness, but the psychology can be turned around. Thank you Melanie for the recent great comment, your “so this is progress” post nails so many of today’s technology overload issues on the head. Technology should make us more productive and efficient, not less.
Here are some tips to help reduce the stress and anxiety caused by the daily choices technology gives all of us. There is a real-world and a virtual-world application for each, so something for the office and something for the PC.
1. Make decisions once and move on them
How many times do you need to re-evaluate each decision? The research shows that permanently leaving our options open causes more stress and less success. If you don’t consciously make the decision, you will carry on trying to make it subconsciously, flattening your batteries in the process. Make the decision, then make that decision concrete. Take an action that moves it on, so that next time you think of it you are having a new set of thoughts, rather than unproductively revisiting old ones – Don’t wear grooves into your mental pathways.
Remember that there is always one more piece of critical information that will really, really help with the decision you are trying to make. Remember too, that it is unlikely to actually affect the outcome of your decision! Don’t wait every last piece of detail. Make a decision, then commit to moving on. As it becomes a habit, watch your stress reduce.
2. Declutter to move faster
Clear out your office and clear off your desktop. All of that clutter hanging around, both real and virtual, slows you down. It is a constant reminder of decisions still to be made, tasks undone and things unprocessed. Deal with it, even if it means putting it all in a folder for later. Put it out of sight. It will free your brain up for the task that you are doing right now, free from the distraction of the ones that you aren’t. Reducing clutter limits your brains options in a wonderful good way.
3. Have less to get more
Do you really need everything that you have? Fifty pens, four text editors, three mp3 players? This is your life, not the twelve days of Christmas. By using less tools, you can focus on becoming expert at using the ones you have, without worrying if you’ve fired up the right application or picked up the right gadget. Less gadgets and less things means less stress.
4. Create Routines To Get Peace
Routines and habitual behaviour are effective ways to reduce the number of choices required each day. Think of them like presets on a radio, that save you scanning around. They are automated choices with a repeated play back mechansism. If you do exactly the same thing when you wake up each day, you don’t have to think about what to do when you wake up everyday! If you build good habits that deal with the things that regularly need doing, then you have just de-stressed a whole area of your life. In the virtual-world, see what you can script. How many of the things you do on your PC are repeatable tasks? Have the computer take care of them, that’s what it is for. Most operating systems have good scripting tools. Scripts are good for the computer and they can be good for you as well.
5. Commit to one thing at once
When you have picked one thing to work on, work on that one thing like it was the only thing in the world. Build the habit of closing everything else out. When you are doing the one thing, it isn’t the time to think about the ten things are you aren’t doing. You are doing the one thing. The power of focus is incredible, build the habit of getting into a flow state and having that ‘matrix moment’ where you look up and it is as if the rest of the world has been moving in slow motion whilst you have darted around everything. You’ve achieved lots, but the clock has hardly moved. If you are struggling to get started, check out The Now Habit – Dealing with Procrastination and Why Don’t You See What You Can Do in an Hour?.
Be productive, be happy, and share what works for you!