Ever have a day at work where you’re all revved up and you just FLY through your work?
But by mid-day, you just can’t focus so well. You may start to feel guilty. “Why can’t I just keep my momentum going?!” Every motivational speaker alive says all you have to do is just WANT it hard enough… “Oh man, what if I just don’t want it hard enough? What if…”
STOP. It’s okay. This happens to all of us.* But what gives?
Sometimes, this is due to your energy cycles. If you’re a morning person, your energy will naturally wane in the afternoon. But if you find that you literally just cannot focus in the afternoon (and your nutrition and sleep are in order), this psychological aspect may be what’s holding you back.
After a long day of making decisions, our ability to make good decisions, or to make decisions at all, is taxed. The weight of the decision itself doesn’t really matter: choosing the best contractor to complete your company’s work and choosing which todo you should do on your list use the same amount of energy to make. This is a concept called Decision Fatigue.
It’s impossible to avoid Decision Fatigue completely. In order to do any work, you’re always making decisions. Unless of course your work is so easy and trivial that you don’t have to think to do it.
If you’re reading my blog and actively looking for optimal ways to complete your work and enjoy life, I doubt this will be the case. But if your work doesn’t involve thinking, I hereby lovingly smack you upside the head and suggest you find a new job that can maximize your talents, ambition, and intelligence.
BUILDING SYSTEMS AROUND DECISION FATIGUE
Many articles have been written about how to work around Decision Fatigue (like Lifehacker, The Simple Dollar, and FastCompany) by putting your most important decisions first, to get enough sleep every night so you’re prepared for the next day’s work, and so on.
This is all good advice. But I feel we don’t often discuss the preventative and restorative measures: how do you MINIMIZE your Fatigue to begin with? How do you cope once we feel drained? Let’s address that now:
Every decision we do that’s outside our normal routine has a mental cost, for which we must recoup with rest/renewal. Anything that requires you to actually THINK will contribute to Decision Fatigue. If you have a large todo list, even making the decision between action items can incur Decision Fatigue. Finally, once you’ve fully succumbed to Decision Fatigue, you get so drained of energy you must take time for renewal.
For marathon-runner-like productivity, where you’re continuously working at a steady rate day after day, Decision Fatigue is important to keep in mind as you build your own systems. In fact, I gave you the formula for how to accommodate for Decision Fatigue in the last paragraph.
Did you get it? Tell me you got it. Here’s a hint: It’s in bold. If you need a second hint, please do us all a favor and press Alt+F4.
Let’s break this down.
Every (1) decision we do that’s (2) outside our normal routine has a mental cost, for which we must (3) recoup with rest/renewal.
But Frank, how can we use this to become more effective??? Essentially, any systems or barriers you can put in place that:
- Makes your work decisions easier to make
- Makes other decisions harder to make (i.e. deciding to procrastinate or work on something unimportant)
- Makes the decision more routine
- Makes variances from your routine easier to cope with
- Enhances the quality of your rest periods
- Makes it harder to not take your rest periods
… will help you mitigate Decision Fatigue and keep up your marathon of productivity.
MY ACTION FOR YOU:
In my next article, I’ll be covering tools and services I use to minimize Decision Fatigue as per the six points above. But until then, I want you to take action on what you’ve just read. So I want you to write in the Comments ONE thing you’re going to try that will accomplish one of the six points above.
- Will you write out three things before you leave work that you’ll prioritize first thing tomorrow?
- Will you block Facebook on your computer to make it harder to procrastinate?
- Will you step outside for a breath of fresh air during your breaks (and also so your boss can’t easily interrupt your break)?
If you need an extra kick to get started, I’ll be reading all the comments and nudging you to get it done.
An important part of working with Decision Fatigue is to ensure your energy cycles are steady. It’ll be very difficult to use my advice if you constantly feel too drained to do your work.
That’s why I created my Energy Optimization Checklist for you – so you can quickly overcome that barrier and get started dominating your work.
I’m giving away my checklist for free when you subscribe for my newsletter. Also, you’ll get my next article in your inbox the moment I publish it, which will be about my top tools and services I use to minimize Decision Fatigue. It’s solid wins all around.
* In fact, I’ve found this to be MOST common in GTD users. Sorry, David Allen.