The Power of Habit, Avoiding Decision Fatigue

How many times during the day do we pause and ask ourselves what was I intending to accomplish today, how did I end up here?

According to one study, the cause of this is decision fatigue. Decision fatigue helps explain why ordinarily sensible people get angry at colleagues and families, splurge on clothes, buy junk food at the supermarket and can’t resist the dealer’s offer to rustproof their new car. No matter how rational and high-minded you try to be, you can’t make decision after decision without paying a biological price.

Conversely, the more of our key behaviors we can put under the automatic and more efficient control of habit, the more likely we are to accomplish the things that truly matter to us.

How different would your life be, after all, if you could get yourself to sleep 8 hours at night, exercise every day, eat healthy foods in the right portions, take time for reflection and renewal, remain calm and positive under stress, focus without interruption for sustained periods of time, and prioritize the work that matters most?

Research says, the solution is to make fewer decisions each day. We can do this by learning to co-opt the more primitive habit-forming regions of our brains, so that rather than reinforcing our negative impulses, they become the soil in which we build positive rituals that serve our long term interests.

So how do you get started? Begin, by slowing down. Speed is the enemy of reflection, understanding and intentionality. When we slow down, we can take the time to examine the things we do each day and decide which of these merit daily decisions and which perhaps could be given up to habit.

Repetitive decisions are perhaps the easiest to “automate” by making them a habit. Yet, for some of us, we find joy in making these simple decisions each day. The choice is ours to make with the goal simply being to make fewer decisions each day.

Here are a few examples that we all share: eating, dressing and getting to our morning destination.

I enjoy choosing what to wear, so that is a decision, albeit a frivolous one, I choose to make daily. Breakfast, on the other hand is simply sustenance, so I generally make a smoothie. And, I let Google Maps guide me to my destination for the day even if it is a route I know, just so I don’t have to think about it.

What daily decisions are you making that you could give up to habit? For inspiration, Jeff Bezos’ daily routine here.

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