It took me a long time to realize this, and even longer to admit it. But I am a person easily overwhelmed by too many choices.
Give me a couple of options and I’m fine. English Breakfast or Earl Grey? Chocolate or vanilla? Red or white wine? I can make a quick, painless decision when the options are few. (Chocolate and red wine, always.)
But put me in front of a vast array of choices – booking a vacation rental on Airbnb, grocery shopping without a meal plan, clothes shopping of almost any kind – and I start to panic, then shut down.
I realized this again recently, when I headed to the mall to run a few errands. I only go to the mall about three times a year, but I needed to go to Target, which is attached to our mall. I also had two store coupons that were about to expire, and I was looking for a dark gray cardigan to replace my ancient one.
All of the above were fairly simple transactions. I bought the items on my list at Target (though I still spent more than I intended to), used one store coupon and decided to toss another, and searched for a gray cardigan (to no avail). The overwhelm set in when I decided to do a little extra browsing – and couldn’t find anything I liked.
I love browsing and having a ton of choices in a few specific settings: the farmers’ market, the library, the bookstore, the florist. Mostly because I know that a lot of the available options are things I will definitely love. (This is one reason I love a good series, literary or otherwise: it eliminates decision fatigue.)
At my favorite stores, it’s easy for me to zero in on what works. I enjoy consignment shopping because the options aren’t endless (and I can look for my favorite brands). I can also shop with a few specific items in mind. But a department or big-box store with too many choices is a recipe for disaster.
I do like to try new things: a different style of dress or shoe, a new flavor of ice cream or (nearly always) a book I haven’t read. But it’s amazing how helpful this bit of self-knowledge has been.
Sometimes, when I’m faced with a dizzying array of choices, it helps to narrow them down: to choose from four flavors of frozen yogurt instead of 20, or limit my shopping to one or two stores. I can usually find what I’m looking for, and I’m left feeling much less frazzled.
Of course, there are some things I never get tired of buying, and sometimes the decision-making is part of the fun. But for those times when it’s overwhelming, I’m doing my best to remember: narrow the choices.
Do you struggle with decision fatigue?