Tuesday, February 16, 2016

So Many Choices... So Little Mind

Here’s some news you can use —

Our good friends in the field of neuroscience have proven that the brain’s most productive time is within the first two hours of waking up.

Ah yes, smug pessimists, you’re right about this one — it’s all downhill from here.

But optimists, take heart! Applied wisely, this could be the best news you’ve heard all day.

First off, let’s explore why this is so.

Well, in not-so-super-scientific terms, your brain gets tired. 

And what makes it tired? Three things really —

Decision. Decisions. Decisions.

Okay, that looks like only one thing. But it turns out that mental energy is drained away with every choice you make — especially those that involve willpower. At a certain point your grey matter thinks nothing matters... “Like whatever, Dude. Whatever.”

The actual super-scientific term for this is called decision fatigue. And it explains why a health-conscious person will refuse that tempting bowl of donutty frosted fun first thing in the morning, yet gleefully scarf down two or three at noon.

But is this fact of life only helpful for those trying to avoid donuts?


Arming yourself with this insight can actually help you reach your creative goals. Here’s how:

1. Eliminate unnecessary life decisions... like that pesky morning fashion dilemma. Trust me, if your closet contains only black mock turtlenecks (Steve Jobs) or gray t-shirts (Mark Zuckerberg), you’ll free up your mind for more important choices. And if you want to really go full throttle with decision elimination, you can ditto successful CEOs Alexa Von Tobel and Leo Widrich by eating the same meals each and every day as well.

2. If you spend the first two hours of your day watching YouTube videos of cats wedging themselves into teeny tiny boxes, you might want to rethink the way you start your morning.  Remember that those first two hours are 120 minutes of golden creative opportunity.

3. Creative endeavors require willpower. That is, for most of us they’re optional activities so a decision must be made daily — as in, “Will I write something today, or not?” And we all know what happens when you leave this decision until evening...Yep, you’re glazed and confused from eating ALL the donuts, and you’ve got no words in the file.

So, make the decision ahead of time. In fact, build a habit such as “Every day at (pick your favorite time) I write for X number of minutes or Y number of words.” And voila! That was just one decision, and you’ve already made it! So, if you stick to this plan, you won’t ever need to decide again — leaving your brain freed up for other important choices like...

Do I want the chocolate frosting or vanilla?

PROMPT: Give your brain a choice break and start building creative habits. For a kick-start in habit formation, check out Gretchen Rubin’s book Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives.

By the way, I am guiltily aware that one of your decisions today was spent on choosing to read this blog. For that, I am grateful.