- Like meditation, routines are often touted as a special sauce for successful people.
- Human brains only have the ability to make a set number of decisions per day – don't waste them on small details, like what to eat for lunch.
- There are frameworks you can use to reduce the energy you spend on decisions, and free up your life for important stuff.
So there is a lot of noise out there about 'hacking' in regards to food, nootropics, exercise regime etc. Anyway...
Something that comes up a lot, though, amongst very successful people (i.e people who have their shit together), is the power of habit. This can come in varying degrees.
For example: Steve Jobs (yeah, we know, another Steve Jobs thing... just keep reading) would wear the exact same thing everyday.
Why? So that he could save his energy for making more important decisions and one less decision per day proved to be helpful for him. This might sound trivial but whether aware or not, Jobs was avoiding something called ‘decision fatigue”.
What is decision fatigue
In decision making and psychology, decision fatigue refers to the deteriorating quality of decisions made by an individual after a long session of decision making. It is now understood as one of the causes of irrational trade-offs in decision making. This is a real thing.
A study found that judges in court have been shown to make poorer quality decisions late in the day than they do early in the day. Decision fatigue may also lead to consumers making poor choices with their purchases. No, we aren’t taking about that decision to buy an oodie last night at 11 pm. That was a completely reasonable thing to do.
Everyone knows what it's like to experience 'brain fry' after a particularly intense day at work, or hours shopping with your spouse. Yeah, that's decision fatigue.
So let’s talk about reducing decision fatigue on a daily basis to increase efficiency. We make about 35,000 decisions everyday on everything from
- What to get for lunch?
- Chicken salt on your chips?
- When to go to the bathroom
- Serious things like whether to take a new job or try for a kid
Some decisions are large and some are small, but they all cost a set amount of energy.
Make fewer decisions
Or, said another way, remove unnecessary decisions.
Don't eat whenever you're hungry
- According to Mindless Eating, we make 200-300 decisions regarding food a day. Remove or reduce them.
- A good way to do this is eat the same thing everyday, or if that’s too boring, pick 5 lunches and cycle through them.
- Make a schedule as to when you will eat. Skip breakfast maybe? (Intermittent fasting can make your life a lot easier here)
- Meal prep to take food decisions out as well (will probably be healthier as well). A good guide can be found here.
Also, food decisions are specifically bad because they are hard. The sheer amount of choice in the food court, combined with improved quality of take away, plus no real strong feeling as to what specific cuisine we want to eat creates serious drain.
Stop being fashionable
Echoed before, many successful people like Zuck, Jobs and Obama conform to the thinking that too much effort is spent figuring out what to wear.
Because of that, they wear the same thing, daily… like a uniform.
There are fashion brands in the US that are launching specifically to cater for those who want a uniform – those who understand the cost of making these often-meaningless decisions.
Binary is splitting things into 2 choices, then making the decision, and moving on.
Example: What do we want to do for dinner?
- Cook or take out (takeout)
- Eat out or deliver in (deliver in)
- Expensive or Not (Not)
- Guzman or Thai (Thai) (sorry Guzy)
Note: you can use this method for extremely complex decision making. Give it a go. Alternatively, read: Smarter Better Faster
Make important decisions in the morning
Your powers will drain throughout the day. Schedule more critical decision making time in the AM before decision fatigue sets in.
Decide trivial things at night
What to wear has a low marginal return. 60 min decision vs 60 second decision probably wont make much of a difference. Decide at night what you will wear tomorrow. Remove that decision from your morning.
Load up the start of your day or week with all the important stuff.
No more cases of the Mondays. You will be tired by beer o'clock on Friday.
- Entertainment. Lack of stuff to watch on Netflix / read on Kindle? Create a list. Whenever someone gives you a recommendation, write it down. Next time you hit the flix (or whatever), go straight to the item. NEVER go in ambivalent. Never. This also works well for weekend activities.
- Food. Meal Prep Sundays. Gold standard: Create your meal plans for each week, buy groceries and cook all on one day.
- Exercise. Prepare a workout plan in advance. Find a workout plan and schedule each exercise ahead of time. Buy a program off an Instagram model. Go to HiiT or group training.
- Clothing. Put your wardrobe on autopilot. Plan out your week and just let if run! At the very least make a selection the night before instead of wasting your precision morning mental power.
Smashing out to-do lists
“Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.” - Eat That Frog by Brian Tracy
Eat that frog!
The frog is a metaphor for the most important task you have. The thing that moves makes the biggest impact on your ideal future. Very important, not necessarily urgent.
Brian Tracy’s advice is to make sure you tackle this frog at the beginning of your day when you have the most energy and willpower to take it down.
It might sound oversimplified, but if you want to eat into that list you have to prioritise. Block out a portion of your morning to work on your list. If that’s impossible, maybe you just need to come in a little earlier to get into it before the hurricane finds you.
Common excuses (and handy rebuttals)
- “I have so many things to do, they are all important, I can’t choose which one to work on first.”
The first rule of frog eating decision making: If you have to eat two frogs, eat the ugliest one first.
- “I jump back and forth between a few very important things and don’t seem to finish any of them.”
Pick the thing that makes the other things easier or even unnecessary. If that doesn’t help, just pick something and finish it. Getting into the habit of finishing is another powerful tool.
- “I have trouble getting started.”
If you’re going to eat the frog anyway, spending energy worrying about eating it doesn’t help anybody. Just put it in your mouth and get chompin’.
- “When I get to work, things are crazy and new priorities get dumped on me.”
A reactive state is where you are waiting on problems to come to you, which you put at the top of your list because they are given to you by someone else. You will always find people demanding your attention.
The night-before rule
That special man, Brian Tracy himself, goes into detail about his favourite habit of millionaires here. The crux: each minute in planning saves 10 minutes in execution, so the #1 habit is planning your day the night before.
Just get it down on paper.
The 80/20 rule
Prioritise your todo list with the 80/20 rule, otherwise known as the Pareto principle, law of the vital few, or the principle of factor sparsity, yadda yadda.
It states that roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the effort. This actually applies to many things. Many things include, sport, wealth, economics, nature, computing etc.
So what does this mean? On your to-do list of 20 things, the majority of the impact will come from around 4 of those things. Do those things first... those are your frogs.
- Adopt a routine, for eating, fashion
- Try a todo list and 'eat your frog' tomorrow.
- Read more about the 80/20 principle