It is estimated that the average American adult makes 35,000 decisions every day1. I decided not to even try to verify that number, as when I consider everything from “do I go ahead and get up or catch 9 more minutes of sleep?”, “shave first or brush teeth?”, “toast or Poptarts?“, “which of these 95 shirts do I wear?”, and I am not even out of the house, 35,000 sounds reasonable.
Even decisions as trivial as coffee size can add up to a cumulative overload. A study was done of judges who are called to make important decisions all day long.1 It was found that cases heard early in the day had about a 70% chance of a favorable ruling for the defendant, while those heard late in the afternoon had about a 10% chance. The judges rule on a couple dozen cases a day, on top of the trivial ones they made on the way to court.
Against an unceasing onslaught of trivial decisions, it can get very difficult to even see the truly important matters, much less have the mental stamina to weigh the various issues. Further, the ability to instantly search for additional information to make a better informed decision only makes the decision exponentially more difficult. The amount of effort that can go into trying to make a decision can make it seem like we are actually doing work, even if it is trying to figure out what movie to see or where to eat.
This summer has brought a bumper crop of moles to some planting beds at our house, so I asked Google to find some answers to “mole problems”. Google came up with 24 million responses, and it tells me it only took .43 seconds to find them. If I spent 3 minutes on each entry, I would be researching “mole problems” for roughly 137 years. My response was to drive to the lawn and garden store and buy one of the two products they had on the shelf. I expect that neither will work, as moles are hard to get rid of, which is why there are 24 million suggestions. My point is making decisions is hard.
More research probably will not help people come to a decision of which leading presidential candidate they dislike the least, as an undecided voter seems to be as rare than an invited mole. If you had a choice, which of the two moles in my yard should I send to yours?
The word “decide” literally means “to cut off” the thought process. One sure way to make a decision is to flip a coin, which works very well, until the coin flipper mutters “let’s go for 2 out of 3” as soon as the coin falls.
Bryan Trible, CLU
Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor
P.S. I Googled “investments”, and in .71 seconds it found 370 million answers for me. And I thought moles were complicated. 1 Jim Sollisch, “The Cure for Decision Fatigue,” Wall Street Journal 6/11/2016