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Conservation of Decisions

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.

Last Week

On Python Bake

The week has gone by and I have not met my goals. I spent only about 4 hours last week studying and working on exercises. Well short of my goal. Part of my problem is that my goal of building the app that I want seems further away now than when I started. This has led to a perfect excuse to stop studying. While I wish that I could report that I have been successful and that I have scaled all hurdles and met my goal, I didnt.

Everyone knows the cliche by now -- you control your own life. Every decision in the moment is your choice. Some decisions we make are conscious, others are on auto-drive. Many of my daily decisions fall into the latter category. This is one of my greatest weaknesses - most days I move through like a zombie. I follow a pattern that is destructive to my personal and professional goals:

Every day I have about 5 hours of free time after I arrive from work. It should be relatively simple to use that time to study and focus on my goals. While the schedule above doesn't reflect it, I do use that time sometime for other things as well, including, exercise and calling my family. Still, these activities rarely take up more than an hour, and definitely do not occur on a daily basis.

In some sense it is sad that this is only my fourth posting on this blog and two of them have been more negative than positive. Still this blog is not really about me learning to code. It is about my personal effort to overcome my natural tendency towards procrastination and my lack of self-discipline. This is a problem that I have been dealing with for a very long time in my life and while I have achieved some level of success, clearly if I procrastinated less, I would likely be more successful professionally, personally and financially.

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