A little while ago Rob wrote a post about how to simplify your life, and the section that provoked the largest number of emails was “Embrace heuristics” – with most of you suggesting your own heuristics, and some of you wondering what on earth is wrong with restaurant menus showing pictures of the food.
Why have heuristics? For us, it’s because we’re terrible at making decisions on the fly: we’re always worried about making the wrong decision and regretting it. And as a result, we used to waste a lot of time and mental energy on it. We created heuristics based on the cumulative times we made a good decision, because we figured that if that particular decision worked so well and for so many times in the past, it’s probably safer and easier to stick with it for all future similar situations.
I thought I’d share some more of ours here, but please do add your own in the comments so that we can all shortcut our way through the pointless, time-consuming and ultimately ineffective habit of umming and aahing over what to do next.
Warning: these most definitely aren’t the most serious heuristics you’ll ever come across. That’s because we tend to waste time on the silly little dilemmas rather than the big, important issues – which really do deserve time and thought rather than simple rules of thumb.
If the menu shows pictures, don’t eat there.
Ditto if there’s plastic food outside the restaurant to indicate what our meal will look like.
If the waiting time is over 45 minutes, don’t bother – the meal/drink/experience will be an anti-climax by the time we get round to doing it.
If the movie is longer than two hours, wait until it can be downloaded (so that we can take coffee breaks – we’ll only fall asleep in the cinema).
If we get invited to something that we know we don’t want to attend, say no right away rather than spend the next few days/weeks/months thinking up excuses.
If a main course costs more than £12 (London), £10 (NYC), £5 (Chiang Mai), £8 (Barcelona), £7 (Budapest)… we’ll probably feel a bit ripped off and that the food wasn’t worth it.
When looking through the options of tin foil, buy the one up from the cheapest.
It’s always fine to buy the “value” range items of the following: peanuts, tinned tomatoes, milk, tea, vegetables, salt, dried pasta.
Never buy the “value” range items of the following: ketchup, coffee, washing-up liquid, baked beans, cereal.
If garlic is the main ingredient in any sauce, condiment or anything else, don’t buy it (it’s not worth it the next day).
If we have to wonder whether we “need” to pack something, we don’t need it.
All clothes must be machine washable.
If the hotel breakfast costs more than £5 per person, find a local supermarket and have a bedroom picnic.
For Airbnb apartments in cities: if there’s a choice between getting a larger apartment outside the city or a smaller apartment slap-bang in the city centre, always go for the one in the city centre.
If the journey from the airport to our accommodation involves more than one simple change, splurge on a cab.
Book the more convenient flight as long as it’s no more than £20 per person more expensive than the cheaper one.
If TripAdvisor reviewers LOVE a restaurant, don’t go (or look at other review sites first): the restaurant is probably shit, overpriced and full of tourists.
Hire the cheapest car.
Do our three hardest tasks first every day.
If we can’t fix the problem (website maintenance, forum plugins…) after 30 minutes of trying, ask our VA to post the job on Elance.
If an email makes us angry, wait at least a full hour before replying.
If the Elance contractor starts his message to you with “Dear Sir/Madam”, delete the job application without reading any further.
If we’re struggling to use the free version of an app or website, test out the premium version and see if it makes life infinitely easier.
Please share your heuristics in the comments below – especially if they’re wacky or slightly ridiculous!