Our life is a sum total of the consequences of all the decisions that we make everyday. Every single day, we make countless big and small decisions which shape the course of our lives. What to wear, what to eat, whether to go out for dinner with that friend you haven't seen in a while or stay home and cook, so on and so forth. This constant decision making in every moment can take a toll on our mental space and leave us feeling exhausted.
How do we cope with this? One way is to simplify our decision making. But, even after you do that, you still have to make those decisions. How about taking it one step forward and automating the decision making process? This, automated, simple and well-thought out decisions then become rules.
Creating rules for your daily routine tasks frees up not only your day but clears up a lot of your mental space. These rules are based on your pre-thought out decisions. They are not made by any authority but by your own self which increases the chances of you actually going through with it.
How do these rules look like?
They can't be too generic - like Eat Healthier. This is not a rule. It is a state of life you want to reach to. Eat less sugar - this leaves ambiguity in the definition of what 'less' is. How about saying - Eat one sweet a week? This is actually a rule that I personally follow and so far I have been able to keep it up reasonably well. By making it time bound and by allowing a few treats I am also making it easier for me to follow since no sweet is much more difficult to do than one sweet a week.
There are multiple benefits with this. First is obviously that I eat less unhealthy stuff. Secondly, it is completely upto me to eat whatever I want as that one sweet of the week. I can choose to treat myself guilt free and without inhibitions.
Here are some of the rules that I intend to follow:
- Creating restraints - Eat one dessert over the weekend, one in a weekday is OK; check social media two times a day for 15 minutes each; one hour of leisure internet in the evening. This gives me the time do indulge into those guilty pleasures while keeping a check on them taking over my life.
- 30 seconds rule - After a work meeting, or after finishing up an article or after a movie, take 30 seconds to think through and if possible write down what happened and what you would like to remember about it.
- Zone out time - This is the voluntary zone out time to let your mind wander. While doing our everyday tasks, our mind has a habit of wandering off. When this happens, our tasks get delayed, work gets affected. Instead, what we can do is notice that this is happening, tell ourselves to keep this thought for the zone out time to think about later and gently bring the mind back to the task at hand.
- Once a week clear up - Clear inbox over the weekend; clear Pocket queue; organise Evernote; clear out excess stuff from the house. This is to ensure a minimal style of living.
- Eat that frog - This is a technique that I've actually been following for quite some time. Do the most difficult task first when your energy levels are higher. Keep the smaller stuff for later.
- 15 seconds of mindfulness - Before starting a new activity, take a few moments to think if you actually want to do it or is it happening on its own accord. Be deliberate and take a few extra moments before rushing onto the next thing.
These rules are intended to free up your mental space so that you can divert your time away from the mundane, unimportant or trivial to the more important stuff. Hope this technique serves you well.
For further reading on this topic, I recommend this Zenhabit's article.
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