Heightened emotion and desire to make the best selections for our homes is understandable. But the pressure to make the “perfect” choice for every single thing in our new builds can deplete our time, energy, peace of mind and definitely our enjoyment of the building process.
If you tend to overthink most things, or suffer from analysis paralysis or decision fatigue, this episode/post is for you.
We defined analysis paralysis and decision fatigue in episode 203 called "Your Home’s Interior Design: What to Do and Where to Start, Part 1.” But here’s a reminder of what those terms mean.
Analysis paralysis is basically continuously acquiring information and over thinking your options because you’re afraid of making a bad decision. It’s when you don’t have a good decision-making system in place and you overanalyze everything, making decisions very slowly, or not at all.
Decision fatigue is when you’re under the gun to make decisions quickly and you get tired of making so many choices in that short period of time. That fatigue might cause you to take on an “I don’t care anymore” or “whatever” kind of attitude. Taking too much decision making time because of analysis paralysis can ironically lead to you to having to make too many decisions in a short period of time, causing decision fatigue.
This week’s show will give you some tips that will hopefully help you make decisions in a timely manner and decrease the overwhelm and anxiety you may have about all the selections you’ll have to make in your homebuilding journey. I’ll also give you some perspective about what decisions matter most and what you can spend less time analyzing.
Before we get to those tips, think about this: Because you’re consuming content from this podcast/post, you’re already ahead of the game. By equipping yourself with the basic knowledge you’ll need to make informed decisions about your new build, you’ll be making better decisions than many people who build their homes. In fact, you may have as much, or more, general knowledge as some professionals in the homebuilding industry. Although those professionals will hopefully know more about their specific field than we do, we’re developing a wide range of general knowledge that will help us make wise decision in most aspects of the homebuilding. So you are, or soon will be capable of making good, educated decisions for your project. Trust the knowledge that you’ve gained. And when you don’t know which direction to go, you’ll at least have enough information to ask the right questions that will help you come to an appropriate conclusion. Don’t minimize the importance of the education that you’re giving yourself through this podcast and other resources. You can make good decisions. And here are some tips about how you can make them without analysis paralysis or decision fatigue.
1. Make decisions early in the day and/or early in the week. Experts say the more decisions we have made in a day or week, the harder it is to make more decisions. It’s like we get tired of thinking. They say that on any given day, we have a finite amount of mental energy and willpower to make choices about anything, not just house stuff. And by the end of an especially decision- or action-packed day, we usually just don’t have the capacity to make the best choices. To avoid ineffective, stressful decision making, narrow down your selections and make final decisions when you’re fresh, before you’ve made a slew of other choices.
2. Narrow down your choices to your top 2-3 favorites, then choose the one you and your family like best. It’s easier to do that than to make your final selections from 10 or 20 options.
Having trouble deciding on the final selection? Ask yourself which one of the finalists you’d miss the most if you didn’t have it in your home. That will help point you to your favorite. If everyone likes all 2 or 3 final options equally, ask your contractor or showroom salesperson what they think the best choice is and why. Search for reviews online to help you decide. If you still don’t know what to choose after a decent amount of time analyzing your final 2 or 3 options, and if you like them equally and they are similar quality and price, consider simply flipping a coin a time or two to make your final selection.
3. Decrease the number of selections you have to make. Use the same selections in multiple spaces whenever it makes sense to decrease the number of decisions you need to make. Use the same toilets, bathrooms sinks, sheets, flooring, vanity lights, wall colors, etc in multiple spaces if you’re having trouble making decisions. If you like an item in one space, don’t feel bad about using it in several areas. That can actually add to the continuity of the home. Alternatively, you can hire a designer or utilize a production builder (instead of a custom builder) that will give you a limited number of options to choose from. To hear more about whether you should hire a designer take a listen to episode 132 and to learn more about production builders check out episode 169.
4. Start your design with the 3 F’s. Think about the functions, focal points and feelings you want for each of your spaces to help narrow down and focus your design decisions. Episode 203 explains the 3 F’s in more detail. In addition to the 3 F’s, consider your priorities and the price. Does the material or construction method fit with your priorities or goals for energy efficiency and sustainability, for quality, ease of maintenance and safety? Does the price tag for the item’s purchase and maintenance fit comfortably into your budget? All other things being equal, it’s usually wise to go with the option that will give you the biggest bang for your buck.
5. Ask yourself what’s the worse that can happen if you make the “wrong” decision. Then answer the question. Facing your fears and coming up with solutions for worse case scenarios help you feel less fearful and overwhelmed. Our brains tend to make us anxious about things that aren’t a big deal. Think about it, 8 times out of 10 when we feel anxiety about “what if” scenerios, the "what if" never happens. And if it does, it’s almost never as bad as we imagine.
When building a house, we’re making decisions about stuff. Just stuff, not people and not principles. Stuff can usually be replaced or altered if it doesn't work out. And although we don’t want to waste money on materials that are poor quality, unsafe or not optimal for our tastes and lifestyles, we also have to keep things in perspective. Making less than ideal decisions about most materials for our homes (especially non structural materials) will unlikely cause lose a job or lose of life or limb or any other tragedy.
We may have to look at or live with something that we don’t like for a little while, but that’s inconvenient and unpleasant at most. It’s not the end of the world.
And if, God forbid, something goes wrong with the structure of your house, first of all, it may have nothing to do with your choices. Instead it may have everything to do with imperfections of the materials and their installation, or uncontrollable environmental conditions. In most cases, nothing catastrophic will occur if you address structural problems early. Many times your homeowners insurance or your warranty will pay for it. My point is if a “wrong” or less than ideal selection is made, it’s gonna be ok, so don’t put so much pressure on yourself to make the perfect decision. Perfection just isn’t possible. In fact, expect some imperfection and issues. Sometimes we even learn to like or live with what we initially viewed as than less than ideal. If not, we can change it (usually).
6. Make a mood board or inspiration collage. To help you narrow down your design options, put together photos of most of your selections for a room to see what goes and what doesn’t. You can make physical mood boards by cutting out magazine photos and pasting them on a sheet of paper, but this is more time consuming and less convenient than a digital mood board.
These days it’s easy to copy and paste digital images onto a virtual page to see how things look together. There are also virtual mood board apps available. Or you can do what I do and simply copy and paste digital images onto a blank Word document or Power Point or Keynote presentation slide. Or use a free mood board template in Canva. If you know how to use Photoshop, create mood boards there. Creating mood boards in Photoshop might be a bit too complicated if you’re not familiar with the program.
To help with architectural and floor plan choices, get a builder, architect or home designer to do a CAD or Chief architect 3D rendering which will give you a fairly realistic image of your home.
Alternatively, you can go to a site like Fiverr and search for a freelancer who does architectural and room renderings and/or animations. Hire them to do a virtual 3D drawing of spaces inside or outside of your future home. Have them include the final options you’re considering to see how they look. In a previous show I told you about a rendering company which is good, but very expensive compared to the freelance workers on Fiverr. Look a freelancer with good reviews, who can communicate well in English or your primary language and whose past renderings or animations you like. You can get a 3D rendering on Fiverr for less $100.
7. Give yourself a deadline for selections and stick with it. That deadline could coincide with your contractor’s deadline for your final decisions, but preferably you’ll make your selections earlier so you won’t be under so much pressure. Say to yourself you have until Monday, or
May 1, or the end of the day to make a decision. Note the final selection in that category, then move on to the next decision.
8. Don’t let what doesn’t matter too much, matter too much. Another way of saying that is "don’t sweat the small stuff." When building a home, we have innumerable decisions to make. Try not to overthink small details that are of little consequence to your overall experience of living in and enjoying your house. In other words, be careful not to let small, virtually inconsequential details take up a large amount of space in your head. You need that head space and time for expensive selections or structural considerations that will add to the quality, strength, energy efficiency, safety and soundness of your home.
If you choose a paint color that’s a little too dark, or mirror or lighting fixture that’s a little too small, it might not be ideal, but it probably won’t make your home less functional or enjoyable. And guess what? You can change most small things if you decide you don’t like them. Live with them for a few months and if they still irritate you, switch them out for something that works better.
But try to avoid spending multiple weeks of your valuable time on small, relatively inexpensive, inconsequential, easily changeable selections. Ask yourself, how much does this thing really matter? And if the answer is not too much, tell yourself, “This is what I think I should choose based on all of the information that I have right now. If find I don’t like it or if I want to make another choice down the road, I can change it.”
If it won’t really matter in 5 months or 5 years, and it doesn’t change the comfort or enjoyment of the house, it’s not really that important. By the way, you can apply the same mantra to people, pet peeves and situations in life in general. Don’t let anything that doesn’t matter too much, matter too much.
9. Remember there are many roads to Rome. And there are many roads to building a beautiful, high quality home. Since you are making informed decisions, you can usually narrow your choices down to several good options. There’s usually is no one single, correct choice or decision. There are many and all you have to do is choose one of the many good option available to get a good result. Try not to feel like if you don’t choice the exact right thing in every situation, the house will be ruined. No, polished chrome can be just as functional and beautiful as matte black or brass.
Sherwin Williams, Benjamin Moore, Behr, and several other brands all have quality paints. Just pick one. If I choose spray foam insulation, it doesn’t mean that the cellulose you want is the wrong choice. They both insulate your home well and they can both achieve an R value of 30, it just takes a thicker layer of the cellulose as compared to a thinner, more expensive layer of spray foam.
You are doing the right thing by educating yourself about building your house. But you can never know everything. Not even the experts know everything. Not making decisions until you have all the information is just not possible. Take the knowledge that you’ve gained and the tips that I’ve given here, and if you’re a praying person, ask God for wisdom. Then, make the best decision you can with the information you have. Consider your options, your budget, your lifestyle and habits and your goals and tastes. Expect excellence, not perfection. Remember that most things are tweakable or changeable. And finally, don’t let things that don’t matter too much, matter too much.
Well that’s it for this week. If you have people in your life or in social media groups who would benefit from this show/post, do me a favor and share it with them by text, email or on your social media platforms. I hope these tips will help make your selection process less time consuming and less stressful and I hope you’ll join me next time for the next podcast/post.
Please remember that the purpose of this podcast is simply to educate and inform. It is not a substitute for professional advice. The information that you hear is based the only on the opinions, research and experiences of my guests and myself. That information might be incomplete and it’s subject to change, so it may not apply to your project. In addition, building codes and requirements vary from region to region, so always consult a professional about specific recommendations for your home.