Decision Templates: Your Mental Shortcuts to Smarter Choices

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Do you find yourself agonising over seemingly simple choices – what to eat for dinner, what to wear, how to respond to a work email? Imagine having a mental “cheat sheet” for those recurring decisions! That’s the power of decision templates. These simple frameworks guide your thought process, reduce overwhelm paralysis, and conserve your willpower for choices that truly matter.

What is a Decision Template?

man with his two hands open asking what are decision templates

A decision template is like a roadmap for your mind. It’s a predetermined set of questions or factors you consider when faced with specific types of recurring decisions. They’re not about blindly following rules, but about guiding your thought process to streamline decision-making and conserve mental energy. Here are some common examples:

  • Outfit Template: Factors like weather, dress code for the day’s activities (work, errands, social events), and your mood can streamline choosing clothes.
  • Restaurant Template: Budget, type of cuisine, dietary needs, and location reduce the endless options when dining out.
  • Work Task Template: For recurring projects, you can have a standard list of initial questions to ask or steps to follow. Prevents reinventing the wheel each time.

Why Decision Templates Work

Now that you understand what decision templates are and have seen a few examples, let’s dive deeper into why they’re so transformative.

  • Reduce Thinking Time: Instead of starting from scratch each time, a template provides a framework, reducing the time spent overthinking.
  • Minimize Cognitive Load: Templates provide structure, decreasing the mental effort required to evaluate every possibility from the ground up. 
  • Combat Decision Fatigue: When decision-making feels effortless, you preserve willpower for tasks that truly need your focus and creativity.
  • Improve Decision Quality: Templates ensure you consider the factors that matter most, preventing impulsive choices based solely on convenience or momentary whims.

How to Build Your Decision Templates

Our modern lives are filled with a barrage of decisions, big and small.  This constant need to choose, even about seemingly trivial matters, takes a toll on our mental resources.  That’s where decision templates become our allies and it’s time to build your own! 

Here’s a simple step-by-step process to make these mental shortcuts work for YOU.

  1. Identify Recurring Choices: Where do you experience decision fatigue most often? Examples could be choosing clothes, planning meals, handling work tasks, or even social engagements.
  2. What Matters Most? Determine the key factors influencing your decision. For choosing an outfit, consider the weather, the dress code for the day’s activities, and your style or mood.
  3. Rank Your Factors: Some factors might be non-negotiable, while others are just “nice to have.” Create a hierarchy to help quickly disqualify irrelevant options.
  4. Keep it Simple: The more complex your template, the less likely you are to use it! A few key questions or criteria are usually enough.
  5. Test and Tweak: Use your template for a few decisions. Is it making your life easier? If not, don’t be afraid to adjust it until it feels genuinely helpful.

Real-Life Applications: From Daily Life to Big Choices

make real life choices easier with decision templates

Decision templates are useful in every aspect of life

  • Wardrobe Decisions: Reduce the morning scramble with a template considering the weather, the day’s activities, and what makes you feel confident.
  • Meal Planning: Templates for “breakfast ideas,” healthy lunches, or categories of dinners (vegetarian, budget-friendly) eliminate daily mealtime stress
  • Work Projects: Templates streamline recurring tasks, from answering emails to outlining project plans. This combats procrastination and ensures consistency.
  • Big Decisions: While not as automated, templates can guide even complex choices. Create a template with key factors for evaluating job offers, making investments, or major purchases.

Make Better Decisions, One At a Time

Decision templates are a surprisingly powerful tool to reduce stress, make smarter choices, and conserve your mental energy for what truly matters.  Choose ONE recurring decision that’s been draining you and create a basic template with 2-3 essential factors to consider. Use it the next time you face this decision, and observe how it changes your experience.  For even more strategies to combat decision fatigue, check out my post on the Power of Routines. Remember, small changes yield big results!

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