Imagine the barrage of decisions you have to make on a daily basis, from the colour of shirt you are going to wear to work to the breakfast you will have. From the route you take to work to which task on your to-do list to tackle first. Then things get real. Work decisions. Marketing decisions. Finally, congratulations, you have just reached the halfway mark of your day.
Consciously or unconsciously, you have no idea how many decisions you make each day. There have been some studies that have suggested that we make upwards of 35 000 decisions a day. But it is a difficult thing to measure properly.
The number doesn’t matter. What matters is that every decision you make, big or small, takes its toll on your willpower, ultimately affecting the quality of the decisions you make.
Willpower is directly related to your decision making ability, which makes sense. If you are on a diet, it is very easy to withstand the tempting smell of a fresh croissant coming out of the oven. Later that day, the rationalisations start flying, and your ability to resist a cupcake becomes pretty weak.
Let’s look at three ways you can bolster your willpower and make better, effective decisions.
1. Remove decisions where you can
It is well known that Steve Jobs wore the exact same outfit every day. Why? It removed a decision from his morning. He saved his willpower for more important decisions than what he should wear. The good news is that you do not need to be that extreme.
The lesson to learn from Steve is that habitual behaviours take less effort and will chip away less from your willpower.
Think about the areas of your life that you can turn into habits: Eating the same thing over and over for breakfast. Deciding on clothes you want to wear before you go to sleep.
The low hanging fruit will be to automate decisions around you diet, training, morning routine, and style.
2. Make big decisions early on
Your willpower will be strongest in the morning. Like a muscle, it is well rested. The more you use it the more it will fatigue. Make the first decisions in your day the important decisions.
If you develop a good morning routine and get to bed early, you will be energised, refreshed, and on top of the world when you finally tackle those decisions. Your thinking will be clear and concise.
To make this step even more effective, decide the day before which tasks and decisions are important for the next day.
We do not live in a perfect world. Sometimes you will have to make important decisions later in the day.
What do you do then?
3. Eat something
Your glucose levels can affect your willpower. In one study, they examined the factors that affected judges when deciding on parole hearings. The judges ruled favourably early in the mornings and after lunch when they had something to eat. However, late mornings, after making many decisions and not having eaten anything, their rulings were less favourable.
Your life is nothing but a series of decisions. You seamlessly move from one to the other. We hardly ever think of how we can optimise the decision making process. I hope this has demonstrated that there is a lot more happening behind the scenes the next time you choose whether or not to eat that cupcake.