Decision Making

Two weeks ago today, Julia and I were supposed to fly to Israel for a wedding. Sadly, due to the terrorist attack by Hamas on October 7, the wedding and all the events were cancelled. In addition to the stress and fear we felt for our dear friends and their families, many of which had already arrived in Israel from North America, we found ourselves in a predicament of having no idea what to do next. Since we were already in London for a weekend stopover en-route, and our vacation was planned, communicated, and coordinated with work, we found ourselves with an open-ended schedule for the week and the freedom to go anywhere in Western Europe (our only real constraint, since coincidentally we had a second wedding to attend in Italy the week following).

At first, there’s something quite romantic about having the feeling that anything is possible; “the world is your oyster”. The reality though, at least for me, is the open-ended nature of the opportunity and feeling of endless possibility is actually a bit overwhelming! To start from scratch introduces a whole host of new decisions to be made. Even once we decided where to go next (Bologna), we had to coordinate hotels, restaurants, transportation, etc. We spent a meaningful amount of each day researching what to do and were constantly seeking info on our phones. During our first week, my daily average phone use was up nearly 100%, relative to a reduction of ~50% I typically see on vacation. Of course, we had a wonderful week, and you can’t really go wrong eating your way around Italy, even if you’re faced with hard decisions, like whether to eat mortadella or prosciutto cotto on your sandwich.

The whole experience reminded me of a quote and concept I like, which is “discipline equals freedom”. Even though the idea of having immense flexibility and freedom to do whatever you want is appealing, there is real value to reducing the number of decisions you have to make. Particularly ones that aren’t very meaningful and are unlikely to have a significant impact on anything other than the immediate to short term. If you can reduce the number of smaller, less meaningful decisions you make in a given week or month, you create more mental space and capacity for the smaller number of meaningful decisions that arise. And if you consider the many, many decisions you are regularly making, there are likely only a select few that deserve real consideration and will have a meaningful impact. Save your decision making capital for the ones that matter.