Food for the Decision Fatigued

11 Nov

Usually, my husband and I eat pretty well. Organic ingredients, humanely raised meat, and farmer’s markets are just part of our life.

Wednesday night however…pizza.

Why? Well sometimes after a day full of decisions and choices we get tired of making the “right” decision. So we do the easy thing and eat less than healthy.

Has that happened to you?

After work, I went to the gym and swam laps, then went to a great voice lesson, all the while planning to go home and make a healthy dinner. As I am leaving my lesson and am on the way to the store, I crossed a mental line and was just done.
No motivating me to cook after that point!

I guess this must happen to lots of people because already prepared foods have become so popular. They are everywhere!

This reminded me of a GREAT post I read over at Art of Manliness, “Bookend Your Day: The Power of Morning and Evening Routines”.

The section that I directly experienced is decision fatigue. Here is a portion of that post:

The New York Times recently highlighted psychologist Roy Baumeister’s work on decision fatigue. According to Baumeister, we all have a finite amount of willpower that we can expend during the day, mental energy that is depleted by every decision–big or small–we have to make. In our crazy, hectic, modern life, we’re inundated with choices. Should I check email or work on this memo? Do I surf Art of Manliness or The Economist? Should I lift weights or run today? Should I have Sonic or Arby’s for lunch? If I go to Sonic, should I get a coney or a burger? You get the idea.

By the end of the day, our willpower reserve is running on empty which results in us being irritable boors, making poor decisions, and taking the path of least resistance. When given a choice between going to the gym or playing video games, we’ll choose video games. Write 500 words for our important work memo or surf the web? Mindless surfing here we come!

While it’s possible to increase the amount of willpower we have at our disposal, Baumeister suggests an additional tactic in the fight against decision fatigue is to manage our mental energy more efficiently throughout the day. One way we can do this is by making positive behaviors or important tasks routine parts of our day. When something becomes routine, we no longer have to think about it–it’s set on autopilot. Instead of having to use willpower to decide whether or not you’ll work out that day, you simply work out because that’s part of your morning routine. The less you have to think about doing something, the more likely you’ll actually do it. That’s the power of routines.

I have added morning and evening routines to my life, but sometimes I get lax and when I do so does my decision willpower.

The solution: make more of my life routine so that I can eat healthier or _______ (fill in whatever you have been slacking on here).

We have the power to change our lives and live out our goals! Take some time and develop a routine this weekend.

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One Response to “Food for the Decision Fatigued”

  1. Stephen November 12, 2011 at 11:25 #

    Each person has been given a fixed number of hours in a day, within which they choose how much they will use to sleep, work, play, eat, excercise, etc. An unspoken rule in western modern culture is that those who can squeeze the most activity into that static time-frame are better than those who haven’t learned how to “maximize time management”. In other words, we should constantly be striving to develop systems to shrink the amount of time it takes to perform necessary tasks, in order to be able to do more and more and more of the things we think we should do. One facet of this mindset that is rarely addressed, is that everytime we reduce an activity to a function of a systematized repetition (aka, a routine), we reduce it’s value as well. This is all well and good for things like brushing our teeth, and tieing our shoes, and mowing the lawn, but what about spending time with loved ones, investing our talents, expanding our minds, and giving of our resources? If we make as many things as possible in our lives mere routines, do we sacrifice some of what it means to be human? Reducing decision fatigue is a noble goal, and the suggestions in this post for doing so are appropriate. However, we should be careful that we are not merely freeing up more time so we can add more into it. Think of a home with a large empty wall in the living room. It needs decorations, so the home owner adds framed photos and a couple shelves. After receiving compliments from friends, she decides that if a little is good, a lot would be better. So she adds paintings, baskets, and more photos until the wall is full. After reflecting on the wall, she deciceds that if she rearranges things to fit together like a puzzle, even more can be added. Pretty soon, it no longer looks like the wall with tastefull garnishes that earned the praises from her friends, but merely a mass of indistinguishable decorations. Lost in the attempt to be better and fuller was the beauty of Empty Space.

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