The way we make decisions is pretty interesting. Making decisions that are bad for us is easy and effortless. Think about how easy it is to decide to watch TV, eat some junk food, take a nap, and then play some video games. On the other hand, let's say that today you wanted to have a really positive day. To actually decide and convince yourself to prepare and eat healthy food, avoid watching any TV, power through your work even when you're feeling tired, and avoid wasting time on facebook is hard. Not impossible, of course, but just by thinking through these two scenarios, you can imagine how much more mentally taxing the latter is.
The trick to overcoming this is to make decisions once that will have an effect for a long period of time-- in other words, having a standard routine that allows for no variance. For example, I want to have a good sleep schedule. I can do what I tried to do for about 30 years, which is will myself to make a good decision on when to go to bed every night, which didn't work at all, or just say that computer is off at midnight no matter what, and I'm asleep by two no matter what. Now I don't get to make a decision every night-- I just turn of the computer, read, and go to sleep. All I had to do was make this decision once, and then train myself on it for a couple weeks before it became second nature.
Another huge benefit of rigid scheduling is that the schedules can be tweaked. I wanted to eat more Omega 3 fats. How do I do that? Well, if I just know that's a goal, maybe I'll go grocery shopping and figure out which foods are better, figure out how to prepare them, and make them. Or maybe I'll just dial it in by eating a couple more walnuts here and there and order salmon on the rare occasion I go to a restaurant. In my case, switching to eat more Omega 3 was simple-- I eat the same thing for lunch every day, so I just substituted a sardine sandwich and tuna sandwich for my nut/fruit sandwiches. One decision and my whole diet is improved.
Studies have shown that willpower is like a muscle. On one hand it needs to be exercised regularly to be effective, but on the other hand it's strength can become depleted through short-term overuse. If you're trying to eat healthy, exercise, work effectively, write, be financially responsible, and sleep well through micro-management, you probably won't be able to continue indefinitely. Instead you'll have a burst of a week or two where you crush it, and then you'll deplete your willpower and regress back to old habits.
On the other hand, if you conserve your decisions and operate through routine, you have willpower to spare. Let's say that I'm programming for SETT and I come to a problem where I can either write a sloppy patch or make the tough decision to rewrite something that badly needs it. If I've had to expend no willpower to wake up on time, eat healthy meals, and schedule my day, I have the willpower available to make the correct decision to rewrite. On the other hand, if getting to that point in my day was the product of a series of taxing decisions, I may be more inclined to just patch it and keep moving.
In other words, you can only make so many hard decisions per day. Make them count.
Back in the US! Had an amazing time in Japan, but also looking forward to getting back on my routine...
The benefit of having your subconscious make decisions isn't so much that it's a better decision maker than your conscious mind (it's probably not), but that it can make decisions much much faster than your conscious mind. You don't have to spend your focus and energy making decisions that you already have heuristics for.
For example, when I play poker, many of the decisions are made by my subconscious. This allows me to make many good analyses per minute, rather than just a few, and to dedicate my conscious processing to the most important factors at hand. It's not that I couldn't do all of the processing consciously, it's just that I wouldn't have time.
In the same way that offloading work to your subconscious helps you make decisions and opinions faster, I've found that implementing protocols has helped me take action faster, and has been a key component of my recent increase in productivity.
When you think about it, most of what you do is the same every day. The way you wake up, eat your meals, go to sleep, approach your work, and utilize your free time all follow predictable patterns. If that's true-- why don't we optimize these things for maximum efficiency?
This is a post from a blog I used to run, but I feel it might be useful to add to this site.
Mindfulness meditation, or at least as far as I have experience it, teaches us to do two major things; to observe the constant internal and external changes we experience and not to react to them.
This morning I ran my second 5k ever. It was a major personal achievement for my to run my first 5k, which happened a couple of months ago. I took that achievement and sat on it though, having barely run since. Yet as the weather here in Iowa has gotten unbearably hot I decided to pick my running back up and start training for my first ever 10k. This decision came at the beginning of this week, and I decided that I would look at events to give myself a clear deadline.
To facilitate getting back on the horse I registered for four 5k's, one of which was this morning, with plans to run seven by the end of November. I'll sneak a ten-er in there somewhere once I find a fitting one.
Now, I have run a 5k before and made it through in no small part with the help of a friend. I smashed my time on that first run and it felt great. But, this one didn't go quite so well. I was operating under the assumption that I would be able to press through, having done the distance and time before. I would just need to beat the mental games that one plays with themselves when running.