Primed For Good Decisions
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00:02:08 Ego Depletion
00:08:48 Combat Decision Fatigue
00:14:40 Impulsive and knee-jerk reactions usually turn out to be very bad or wrong.
00:15:19 Lower Transaction Costs
• The concept of ego depletion is important because it leads directly to decision fatigue. With overuse, certain cognitive processes can flag and wane, in exactly the same way that muscles tire with extended exercise.
• When you reach decision fatigue, your decisions become incredibly suboptimal because you will either become paralyzed or make a rash, unresearched decision. Your willpower can perform weakly, in the same way that a tired muscle is just not as strong.
• How can you preemptively deal with the effects of ego depletion and willpower fatigue? You can time your decisions wisely such that they made only when rested such as in the morning or after a rest or a meal
• You can categorize the trivial daily decisions you have and make sure to only allot a trivial amount of time to them, drawing limits on how much attention you’ll spend on inconsequential decisions. Ask what risks are attached to a decision, the impact it will have, and whether you’ll care about it in a month’s time.
• You can treat yourself like an athlete and make sure you are mentally tapering off in preparation of big decisions, you can give yourself more time than is necessary to reduce the role of stress and anxiety. Anxiety and low mood can color our decisions. Don’t rush!
• You can also work on manipulating your transaction costs to make good decisions more of a default option, while bad decisions are more difficult.
• By automating as many decisions as possible, you take certain decisions out of your hands and get them done without you needing to spend any extra effort. Use tools, habits and routines to make good decisions automatic, saving your mental resources for those truly demanding decisions.
#AnalysisParalysis #Baumeister #EgoDepletion #MentalBandwidth #MentalFatigue #MentalResources #TrivialDecisions #PrimedForGoodDecisions #RussellNewton #NewtonMG #PeterHollins #TheScienceofSelf #TheArtofStrategicDecisionMaking
It’s mostly the prefrontal cortex, which includes functions such as planning, deciding, calculating, analyzing, problem solving, and decision making. These are generally known as executive functions. The prefrontal cortex is activated during all decision-related thinking, and yet, it is not infinite or unlimited. Like our bodies, our brains have limits and cannot carry on forever. If we run a marathon, we grow tired and fatigued from over-use.Speaker:
Our muscles cramp, especially the muscles that are used over and over, such as the quadriceps and calf muscles. It’s the exact same in the context of making decisions. Ego Depletion Our brains have a limited number of decisions we can meaningfully analyze and make every day, and the more decisions we look at, the more fatigued we get. The prefrontal cortex is like our calf muscle that grows tired and eventually stops working in the correct way. At that point, you’re likely to make a decision out of impatience or become frozen in your tracks.Speaker: periments (Baumeister et al.,: Speaker:
In other words, ego depletion was in full effect, and the amount of self-control they exhibited in resisting the chocolate directly weakened their ability to persist with the puzzle task. Decision quality decreased quickly as ego depletion started to take place. Once you get over the initial surprise that something as small as self-control can actively deplete your mental resources, you begin to find that it makes all too much sense. The brain requires energy to act and think. In fact, the brain requires up to twenty percent of our daily energy consumption, despite being only two percent of the mass of our bodies.Speaker:
It works hard, and the act of self-control is not something that’s easy, nor is it infinite. The thought process involved in the debate over indulging in chocolate or not can be quite lengthy, and as the experiment showed, it can eliminate your capacity for self-control and discipline in the future. It’s easy to resist chocolate once or twice, but when you encounter the temptation repeatedly throughout the day, your self-control will likely erode, and it will become nearly impossible to say no—because your brain will run out of juice to do so. Further support for the theory of ego depletion came in the form of feeding versus starving the brain, and then seeing what happened while using self-control. Experiments showed that using self-control depleted the brain of glucose, it’s primary energy source, and that ingesting sources of nutrition and glucose could reverse the ego depletion and energize people’s sense of discipline and self-control.Speaker:
Self-control uses a significant amount of your brain’s power reserves, and purely exercising self-control can make you function noticeably lower overall. How does this relate to making decisions? Besides the fact that any important decision will probably involve a lot of self-control, ego depletion has its own special label in this context: decision fatigue. Decision fatigue is when you make too many decisions and use up all of the mental bandwidth in your prefrontal cortex, leaving any subsequent decisions short-sighted or improperly analyzed. Your ability to make decisions is limited, so you must conserve it and know what trivial decisions to avoid or minimize.Speaker:
Let’s take the simple example of sitting down in a restaurant and opening up the menu. Unfortunately, the menu is about twelve pages, front and back. It unfolds like a map and has enough space to document the rise and fall of the Roman Empire. This is going to be annoying no matter what, but let’s imagine how you might fare in two scenarios. In scenario one, it is Sunday morning and you are waking up fully rested; in scenario two, it is Tuesday night after a twelve-hour day at a work conference.Speaker:
In the first situation, you might be willing to thumb through the menu for a few minutes to optimize your decision. In the second situation, you would probably give up and select the cheapest hamburger because you can’t be bothered at that point in the day. No matter how rational or thoughtful you might be, it’s impossible to make decisions without decreased efficacy. If you make twenty decisions in the morning, you’ll probably splurge on an entire pie for lunch, buy a new bathrobe on the way back to the office, and then become angry and irritable when someone asks you what kind of format you prefer your reports in. You may not be aware that you’re tired, and you might be physically fit and alert, but the lack of mental resources will usually push you onto one of two paths.Speaker:
The first path is acting impulsively and missing or altogether skipping analysis and important factors. This may not matter if you’re only trying to decide what to have for lunch. A hamburger or a taco won’t have any long-term implications. However, there are plenty of scenarios in which the failure to consider every single factor can be either financially, physically, or mentally harmful. The second path that stems from decision fatigue is to do nothing at all and postpone a decision for another day.Speaker:
This might make you feel better, but it usually causes more problems in the long run, especially if these are any time-sensitive considerations. It might feel like a relief to push things off, but it’s not a reality in a life filled with duties and obligations. It’s clear in both cases that decision fatigue is a suboptimal choice and leads to even worse outcomes. Something as small as having to think hard in the morning about what you’re going to wear or thinking about what you are going to order at your local coffee shop—it’s things as small and trivial as these that can seriously short-circuit and deplete our brains for the rest of the day. If it leads you to think, “Oh, forget it.Speaker:
Let’s just pick one and get it over with,” that’s the effects of decision fatigue. They are small acts, but they have greater consequences than you’d think. Combat Decision Fatigue Decision power can be easily drained, so the question is how to safeguard this reservoir of brain power to use when you need it. How can you keep yourself primed for big decisions as often as possible? First, time your decisions wisely.Speaker:
You can do this in two ways: first, make your big decisions early in the day or week, and second, always make them after a break. If you make decisions early and well timed, you are doing what matters first before daily life robs you of energy. The purpose here is to make sure your brain fed is well fed and rested and generally functioning at a high level so you can properly analyze decision factors. You can’t do this if you are constantly harassed by trivial decisions beforehand or your brain is starved for glucose. Sleep on it, or eat on it.Speaker:
Don’t rely on your self-control or willpower as the first line of defense. Instead of putting yourself in situations where you have to use them, conserve them by developing preemptive habits to reduce mental fatigue. So, wake up and face your biggest challenge of the day, rather than waiting till you’re tired and crabby and hungry for dinner. Second, you should try to get a sense of what is trivial in your day so you can either ignore it, consciously make a quick decision about it, delegate it, or automate it. How do you know if it’s trivial?Speaker:
If it’s truly trivial, it won’t matter if you ignore it, or the choices you make will have no ill effect that lasts longer than a few minutes. This is a tough step for most of us because we are trained to give our full and undivided attention to something, lest we perform it poorly. In a way, this point advocates simply seeing what you can get away with paying little attention to—for your decision fatigue’s sake. Trivial decisions should only be allocated a trivial amount of decision bandwidth, so just try to keep things proportional. If something doesn’t impact your life, are you losing anything by not taking action, picking a “good enough” option, or delegating the power of the decision to someone else?Speaker:
Doubtful. Get it off your plate as soon as possible. The overall aim of this point is to make fewer choices a day. Instead of even dealing with some decisions, you could also choose to automate them—in other words, pick only one option and stick with it for consistency and easy. In a sense, you are making rules for yourself to ignore your choices and stick with, for instance, one lunch, one outfit, one music playlist, and one method of doing things.Speaker:
This is the purported reason famous Apple founder Steve Jobs had a standard uniform of sneakers, a black turtleneck, and comfortable jeans. It was so he could avoid making decisions and save his brainpower for when he actually needed it. On a daily basis, this can truly accumulate. When you can make parts of your life more predictable, you can focus on the fewer parts that are unpredictable. Third, if you’ve got big, multipronged decisions to think about on Tuesday, act like an athlete.Speaker:
This takes the first step to the extreme. That means to prepare and rest for Tuesday and lay off the heavy activity on Sunday and Monday. Your mental resources always recharge, but they are easily depleted. Get into battle mode and treat your brain like a muscle that you need for peak performance. Fourth, when you’re in the decision-making process, attempt to allot yourself more time than you think is necessary.Speaker: ible for it. Most recently, a: Speaker:
Remember what this area is mainly involved in? That’s right—decision making and analysis of costs and benefits. Decisions made under stress are incredibly impulsive and ineffective, notwithstanding the fact that stress is simply one of life’s greatest distractions. Let’s take the following scenarios. In Scenario A, you are in a foxhole during World War II and you are being shot at.Speaker:
Explosions are all around you, and the person to your left suddenly collapses to the ground. The rain is starting to pour, and your weapon stops working. Your foxhole starts flooding, and you can hear a tank roll closer and closer. In Scenario B, you have just woken up by the natural sunlight, and on a table in the room is left a splendid breakfast. It has croissants, jams, jellies, juices, and a stack of eight pancakes.Speaker: e, most recently confirmed in: Speaker:
Taken together, it’s very clear that stress, anxiety, and any type of pressure to make a decision are detrimental to making clear-minded, effective decisions. Lower Transaction Costs The final method of battling decision fatigue is to lower transaction costs. Transaction costs, or friction costs, is an economic term for the cost you must expend to be in the market. Whenever you do something, you have some sort of cost associated with it. The cost may be monetary, such as an investment to start a business.Speaker:
For us, it’s tied to the ego depletion cost in our brain’s continued functioning. These are simply the costs, or obstacles, you have to swallow to participate in making a decision. When you make a decision, good or bad, you incur a cost. The aim then is to manipulate your transaction costs for decisions. Specifically, you want to minimize your transaction costs for good decisions while increasing the transaction costs for bad decisions.Speaker:
You want to encourage good decisions, such as eating healthy or managing your time, by making them easier for you so that they “cost” less. Meanwhile, flip the tables and make bad habits, like being disorganized, having poor time management, and procrastinating, too expensive to entertain. How do you manipulate transaction costs in this way? In simpler terms, if you want to encourage good decisions, you must make it easy—almost the default option if possible. For instance, if you want to practice an instrument more, what are the costs involved there that you can control?Speaker:
You can make it easier to practice your instrument by leaving it on your desk, making clear notes as to what to practice, giving yourself fun goals, and clearing time in your schedule every day to practice. You are making it easy to make the decision that is optimal. It requires a bit of upfront work, but when you set yourself up thusly, you will have lowered the transaction costs and made it easy to make a good decision whether your ego is depleted or not. You can make poor decisions cost too much in a similar way. For instance, if you wanted to raise the transaction costs of eating poorly, you would remove all junk food from your house, only buy healthy snacks, put bottles of water everywhere around your workspace so you don’t feel the angst of hunger, and learn healthy substitutes for fatty food options.Speaker:
You are making it easy to ignore the decision that is suboptimal. If it helps, you can think of transaction costs as the amount of willpower you must exercise. Thus, the lower the transaction costs are in general, the more willpower you can conserve for the decisions that truly matter. Think of it as a way to make doing the wrong thing “expensive” and the right thing easy, “cheap” and automatic. A major key to effective decision making is to understand how decision fatigue will impact you.Speaker:
It’s more than a folksy concept or an excuse for being lazy. Decision fatigue and ego depletion are very real, but you may have simply become used to it If the phrase, “Okay, just pick one. I don’t care anymore,” is familiar, you’ve been through it. If you find yourself feeling irritated, indecisive or even apathetic around decisions, that’s a big clue that things could be better I this area. We’ll look at analysis paralysis in more detail in a later chapter, but for now, the conclusion is that if we only have limited brainpower, we need to proactively budget that wisely so we are making the best of our decision-making powers.Speaker:
Takeaways: •The concept of ego depletion is important because it leads directly to decision fatigue. With overuse, certain cognitive processes can flag and wane, in exactly the same way that muscles tire with extended exercise. •When you reach decision fatigue, your decisions become incredibly suboptimal because you will either become paralyzed or make a rash, unresearched decision. Your willpower will perform weakly, in the same way that tired muscle is just not as strong when it’s been working hard already. •How can you preemptively deal with the effects of ego depletion and willpower fatigue?Speaker:
You can time your decisions wisely such that they made only when rested such as in the morning or after a rest or a meal •You can categorize the trivial daily decisions you have and make sure to only allot a trivial amount of time to them, drawing limits on how much attention you’ll spend on inconsequential decisions. Ask what risks are attached to a decision, the impact it will have, and whether you’ll care about it in a month’s time. •You can treat yourself like an athlete and make sure you are mentally tapering off in preparation of big decisions, you can give yourself more time than is necessary to reduce the role of stress and anxiety. Anxiety and low mood can color our decisions. Don’t rush!Speaker:
•You can also work on manipulating your transaction costs to make good decisions more of a default option, while bad decisions are more difficult. •By automating as many decisions as possible, you take certain decisions out of your hands and get them done without you needing to spend any extra effort. Use tools, habits and routines to make good decisions automatic, saving your mental resources for those truly demanding decisions. [Music] this has been the science of self I'm Russell founder of Newton Media Group producer of the science of self you can find us at newtonmg.com if you have any feedback on today's episode please send us an email to podcast newtonmg.com and make sure you join Peter Holland's mailing list at bitly slash Peter Hollins thanks for listening