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I’m convinced that no one has to make more decisions on any given day than an RVer. (Okay, except maybe the president.)
How far do we want to drive today?
How much should I fill up the fresh water tank?
What are the stores like where we are headed? Should we stock up on groceries here?
Do we refill with gas now, or try to find a truck stop down the road so it’s an easier stop?
Do we want to do this hike or this one? Or should we take advantage of the weather and kayak today instead?
Interstate or backroads? (And are there any low clearances or length limits that we need to research ahead of time?)
On more than one occasion, Heath would ask me yet another question and I would throw my hands up in the air and say I don’t care! It’s 9 AM and I’ve already had to make a dozen little decisions about my day. It’s exhausting.
We’ve all heard about Steve Jobs famously wearing the exact same outfit every day to cut down the number of decisions he had to make in a day. Decision fatigue is a real thing and for travelers—specifically RV entrepreneurs—it’s a million times worse.
In addition to worrying about travel logistics, you’re throwing in details like “We can drive 100 miles this morning, but then I have a Skype meeting at 11:30 AM. So we should stop somewhere with reliable internet by 11:10-11:15 so I can prep.”
(Please tell me we aren’t the only ones who have structured travel days like this.)
And while you can cut down the items in your closet to make dressing easier, commit to making the same meals to make shopping and cooking easier, and plan your travel routes ahead of time to avoid last-minute decisions, you can’t completely avoid having to make multiple decisions every day.
This is something Heath and I struggled with BIG TIME in 2018, for a lot of reasons:
- Because we were in smaller RVs in New Zealand and Canada, we were traveling a lot faster, staying in places for only a night or two at a time. This meant constantly deciding where to stay tonight, what to do that day, how far to drive, etc. Oh and BONUS! These were both foreign countries so we had the added difficulty of converting kilometers to miles or remembering to drive on the left side of the road or trying to recall what the names of the good groceries stores were.
- Heath was onboarding new customers to Campground Booking and trying to decide if he could realistically scale the business while traveling full-time.
- In June, we were searching for the perfect campground to host the Summit and found two we loved. How do you choose between two awesome campgrounds???
- We were shopping for campgrounds online so we could buy our own and trying to nail down where to spend the next couple of years of life.
- And on top of it all, we were trying to decide if now was the time we wanted to have a baby. (Because why not throw on one more major life decision?)
There were so many decisions piling up and each one was wearing us down slowly.
And then Heath came to me and said, do we really want to go to Canada this fall?
It was June, we had just gotten back to our Winnebago after three months abroad and two back-to-back weddings. It was hot, we were exhausted, and nothing sounded worse than driving a few thousand miles across Canada.
All of a sudden, Canada wasn’t this sure thing we were doing anymore. It was another decision to make.
This was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
They say the easiest way to tell if you’re struggling with decision fatigue is if you start to avoid making decisions altogether. This was us.
Easy decisions like what to eat for dinner were daunting. Which RV park to stay at tonight became an argument. We couldn’t even decide where to host our Summit (Heath was team California, I was team Alabama), so we created a poll in our Summit Facebook group and let past attendees decide for us to avoid making our own decision.
The added decision to go to Canada was the hardest of all. It had been on our calendar since before we left for New Zealand and it was a sure thing. But once Heath threw out the idea that we didn’t have to go, things got tense.
One more major decision to make.
The road trip was for Campground Booking. We would be traveling across four provinces recording data on various campgrounds, national parks, and points of interest to build out CB’s trip planner feature. It was a three-month commitment that would involve thousands of miles of driving every single day, after we just spent months driving daily in NZ. It would almost be a full-time job with all the travel and all the work we would be doing in addition to running our blog, making Youtube videos, and recording the podcast.
And since it was all for Campground Booking, the real decision to make was: Is this trip worth it for the company?
Which led to, is spending all this time on Campground Booking worth it?
Should Heath be working on Campground Booking at all?
Did he waste three years building this company?
What are we even doing with our lives?
Side note: If one seemingly small decision leads to you thinking ‘what am I even doing with my life?’ You’re probably in dire need of a massage and a nap.
I can feel all that pass stress bubbling up in me just writing about those times.
For the past year—namely since those intense summer months when Heath and I were constantly trying to decide if going to Canada was worth it for the business, if we wanted to sell our Winnebago or take Leisure up on their offer to try out their new Wonder, if we wanted to keep RVing full-time at all or just nap indefinitely on a beach somewhere—I thought we were the only people struggling with this. Surely other people don’t get stuck in this loop of indecision and decision fatigue.
And then we had coffee with a couple RV friends and I heard the most comforting thing.
“The indecision is the worst part. You just have to make the decision and be okay with making the wrong decision. And if you do make the wrong decision, you just fix it later.”
WHERE WAS THIS ADVICE SIX MONTHS AGO?!
Heath and I spent so much time weighing pros and cons, trying to map out the future, struggling through big decisions, and I wish someone would’ve come along and said hey. You’re killing yourself with this indecision. You’re stressed, you’re not happy, you’re not going to be happy until you figure these things out. So just make a decision and move forward. And if it’s the wrong decision, you can fix it later.
This mindset has lifted the weight from my shoulders…and opened my eyes to how deeply our decision fatigue was affecting Heath and me. We were constantly overwhelming ourselves trying to make the perfect decision instead of making a decision and being okay with it regardless of the consequences.
I wrote this blog a few months ago when Heath and I had just moved into our apartment and still in the throws of making big decisions. (Did we really want to sell our Winnebago? Wouldn’t that make part-time travel easier if we just stored our motorhome when we weren’t using it?)
I realized I couldn’t in good conscience post this blog without taking the time to actually come up with a solution and a framework for how Heath and I make decisions now having learned from our past mistakes.
Here are the five rules I’ve come up with to help combat decision fatigue.
Rule #1: When in doubt, just say no.
The best part of being pregnant is having an automatic out to say no to everything without feeling guilty. My official answer for anything right now has been “We aren’t making any major decisions until after our daughter is born. Ask me again over the summer!” (I would say only about 1% of the time do people actually follow up, so you’re off the hook with this line!)
If a decision is going to load on more work, add stress, take away your time, or you’re not 100% sure you want to do it, just say no. (Nancy Reagan would be SO PROUD.)
Rule #2: If it’s fun, do it!
A few months ago, CNN reached out and asked us to film a video with American Express. CNN was doing a “branded partnership” with American Express (who we love because our Delta Amex credit card means we can fly places like New Zealand for free) and it sounded really cool. We would fly to New York City, film the ad spot, record voiceover, and share a little bit of our story.
Having worked in film over the past few years, Heath and I almost always decide to say yes to film opportunities. We always learn so much and have a blast. It meant four days of travel and missing out on a week of running our business and it didn’t really make sense for us business-wise, but it would be fun! And everyone could use a little more fun in their lives I think.
Rule #3: Find a way to make fewer decisions daily.
Deciding to move to an apartment in a town we knew was one of our solutions to our decision fatigue. No more needing a GPS or needing to research the area to make a quick trip to the grocery store.
We make extra food for dinner so we can have leftovers for lunch—one less decision to make in the middle of the workday.
I can only fit into maternity clothes now, leaving only a few options when I’m getting dressed in the morning.
These little decisions add up. Your solutions may look different than ours, but anything you can do to make fewer decisions in a day (specifically in the morning when your brain is fresh) will free up your mental energy to focus on other tasks or even make future decisions.
My personal favorite: Before I close my laptop for the night, I move 2-4 Trello tasks to my “Today” list so when I open my computer in the morning, I already know what I need to tackle that day.
Rule #4: Set your values and filter your decisions through them.
When we set our goals for 2019, we took a different approach this year. Instead of just setting our normal goals like “100K pageviews a month” we started with figuring out what our biggest values would be for the year.
For me that was:
- Growth (both personally and in business)
- Financial stability
So when an opportunity comes along that would make us a lot of money but isn’t good for our family, it’s a no.
When an opportunity comes along that is good for our family—like the beachside RV resort that offered to let us stay this week and enjoy a “babymoon”—it’s a yes. Any time a decision leads to more quality time with Heath, the answer is yes because he’s really cute.
Rule #5: If nothing else, remember that you don’t have to do it all right now.
I don’t know if this is something all entrepreneurs struggle with or if it’s a sign of our youth, but when we come up with a business idea, Heath is ready to do it RIGHT NOW. Once he built an entire job board for RVers in a day before he realized that running Campground Booking, HeathandAlyssa.com, our production company, AND a job board might be a little time-consuming.
Can we run four businesses? Sure. Can we do it all at the same time? Um, NO. That is a recipe for burn out.
When we moved into our apartment, we were still searching for a campground to buy and trying to figure out how to balance our plans to travel across Europe with our daughter and run a campground. This would be on top of Campground Booking and our blog and podcast, of course.
Again, it would be too much at once! We would burn ourselves out, become overwhelmed, and struggle with decision fatigue.
So we decided the campground is part of our 3-5 year plan (How adult does that sound? We are planning years ahead!) and that traveling with our daughter (value #1 is family!) would be more important.
Don’t overload yourself trying to do it all right now. Sometimes the best decision you can make is to say “I’ll revisit this in a year” (or feel free to use my noncommital “Not making decisions until after the baby is born” line for guilt-free decision-making).
2018 was an unnecessarily difficult year for us because we let decision fatigue plague us for months. I hope these five rules that I made up to help us navigate future decisions can help you avoid the self-inflicted stress and torment we suffered.