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What decisions can you put on autopilot?

“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,” writes John Tierney in a New York Times article about decision fatigue.

We have a finite store of mental energy for exerting self-control, according to social psychologist Roy F. Baumeister, who studied mental discipline in a series of experiments at Case Western and Florida State University. When people fended off the temptation to wolf down M&Ms or freshly baked chocolate-chip cookies, they were then less able to resist other temptations. Willpower, Dr. Baumeister asserts, is a form of mental energy that can be exhausted.

His studies show that people with the best self-control arrange their lives to conserve willpower. “They don’t schedule endless back-to-back meetings. They avoid temptations like all-you-can-eat buffets, and they establish habits that eliminate the mental effort of making choices. Instead of deciding every morning whether or not to force themselves to exercise, they set up regular appointments to work out with a friend,” Tierney reports.

Abraham Lincoln ate the same meal for breakfast every day: a hard-boiled egg and a cup of coffee. Steve Jobs was known for his signature black turtleneck. Kurt Vonnegut awoke at 5:30 a.m. and wrote until 8 a.m. each morning. What decisions can you put on autopilot?

Sunday Journal Prompt

How can you adjust your routine to reduce the number of daily decisions you make to conserve your mental energy?


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