Decision Packages

I try to minimize the total number of decisions I have to make, while simultaneously maximizing the impact and importance of the ones I do make. My normal strategy is to eliminate or automate most small decisions – things that are meaningless to my day-to-day happiness but soak up precious mental energy.

I recently heard of another strategy for doing something similar, and I found it interesting. The person I was chatting with didn’t use this term, but he essentially referred to “decision packages,” i.e. many smaller decisions bundled into one larger one.

As an example, think of an automobile lease package; many of these are “all-inclusive.” The insurance is bundled in with the lease itself, the maintenance schedule is automated, et cetera. Basically all of the smaller car-related decisions that you might have to otherwise make are bundled into one larger decision.

Once I saw the concept, I realized that people very often do this without realizing it; the appeal is strong. A single news source, like reading the New York Times or watching Fox News, is sort of a decision package. Instead of deciding what individual stories interest you, what you think about each one, which are important, and so on, many people just bundle that into a single large decision package by tuning into one news aggregator. Mainstream political parties work the same way.

Sometimes a decision package is a healthy way to reduce dead weight decision fatigue, but other times it can be a dangerous trap. It’s easy to accidentally let very meaningful decisions slip into a broader decision package when truly that decision deserved your full attention as an individual matter. And deciding which decisions to make adds a whole new layer onto the process.

As a shortcut, here’s how I view it: the more important the topic, the less I want a decision package. What I put in my brain deserves the consideration.

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