on decision fatigue and cognitive budgets (part 1)17 Apr 2016
a couple of months ago i was listening to the eric zimmer episode of design matters. eric mentioned an episode of his own podcast discussing decision fatigue and cognitive budgets. even before he explained the terms, i understood where he was going.
basically, every time you make a decision, it uses up some mental capacity. mental capacity is a finite resource. this means that everything you do over the course of a day (including decisions) takes up some of your daily ‘cognitive budget.’ if you make too many decisions in a day, you experience decision fatigue. decision fatigue, for me, looks like massive productivity slow downs.
i love these ideas. they explain so much of the commonality between all the different work flow research and theory. they also explain why not sticking to my work flow structures makes things fall apart. examples:
- do your most important work of the day before you have a chance to be interrupted. processing interruptions requires decision-making, even if the decision is to defer or ignore.
- when i have morning meetings, my days are less productive. meetings eat up a lot of cognitive budget. hence my allergy to morning meetings.
- scheduling menial tasks for in the afternoon keeps my mornings focused on solving complex problems. my brain literally doesn’t have energy to handle these late in the day.
- picking out clothes the night before.
anywho, more to come about this (and the all-important connection to routines) later. in the meantime, this blog post from barking up the wrong tree has lots of relevant research and thinking. it changed my life.
follow on to part 2 right here.