Does your life feel over complicated and cluttered? I didn’t even realize mine did until I moved house recently.

For around about 12 months now I have been in the process of moving home. First moving out of my old home into a temporary location then into my new home this last week. In the interim period, I put most of my belongings into storage with a removal company. So for a period of about 8 months I was living with the bare minimum of possessions.

At the time I was about to move to my temporary location I began reading and watching material on minimalism. I’m now hooked!

Research evidence suggests that we are living in a world now where there are too many choices to make on a day to day basis. Alvin Toffler in his seminal work ‘Futureshock’ talked of “Overchoice” as our consumer identity was bestowed on us by the marketing media. Psychologists recognize this Overchoice and that it can lead to decision paralysis.

Even marketers are learning that more than 5 options and the chances of a sale being made reduces tenfold. It seems that we are attracted to look at a product by a wide choice but then deciding to buy needs a process of 5 or less options. It’s fascinating that this same number of choices (five) also holds for options in life and work decisions too. This is evidenced in coaching literature.

Even the simple act of buying food can present a blinding array of options. Do you buy the cheapest, but let go of the health benefit, or the most expensive because it implies it is quality. Factor in the whole family and all of the purchases and choices they need help to make and soon you’re into overwhelm.

So what does this mean for our work with colleagues and learners?

Teachers can often find themselves overwhelmed by the sheer volume of tasks they have to complete. Learners are often making choices about their futures and also in the digitally-demanding world they have grown up in, limiting their choices is very hard.

A very simple concept can help. Rule 5, 3, 1 is a simple mental construct that can support a clearer mind with less clutter and white-noise.

Whether it’s your to-do list or a decision about a future life move, or which options to take at GCSE. Write down all the options you can gather. Decide to keep 5 and reject the rest. Give yourself a time limit to do this. This will depend to an extent on the gravity of the decision. Eg a To Do list for the day might warrant 2-3 minutes of consideration. GCSE options might call for 2-3 hours.

Ring fence this time in some way…. Set an alarm or log your time spent on it.

Once you have your five options, set another time limit and whittle them down to 3 options.

Then set another time limit and pick the one.

The act of setting a time limit, and of having three stages of reducing options really helps.

You might want to get advice from others on the decision. The Rule 5,3,1 also works here too. Choose 5 or 3 people to ask. Record their key points of advice, then narrow it to 3 and then 1.

Try it out. It’s not actually about the options and their merits, it’s about having a strategy for making choices. Endless choices and endless time spent researching and weighing them up is what creates the paralysis. Manage the option number and manage the timescale and step it down to one and you’re a winner.

If you are making a decision about career change or development then have you considered trainers training? We are running our highly regarded Train the Trainer Accredited Master Trainer Programme in October half term again. Click here for more information