Decision making has a direct impact on your effectiveness. From the simplest to the most far-reaching decisions, every choice you make influences the direction your life takes. Effective decision making requires careful evaluation of options, consideration of short- and long-term consequences, and a willingness to take responsibility for our choices. This process requires significant mental effort, which in turn consumes much of our willpower.
Willpower — that which allows you to control your impulses, avoid immediate gratification and maintain focus on long-term goals — is a limited-use resource. That is, it gets consumed as we use it until it’s depleted. Once depleted, it takes a recovery period to make willpower available again.
The term ego depletion is often used to refer to the temporary reduction in our ability to engage in actions aimed at overcoming a resistance and achieving what is desired (such as controlling the environment, controlling oneself, making decisions and initiating specific actions).
It’s amazing how many things help deplete willpower. Any decision you take, however small it may be, plays its part. Anything that gets in the way of what you feel like doing generates resistance that has to be overcome, and this counts too. That’s why people like Mark Zuckerberg dress pretty much the same every day. This means they have one less decision to make in the morning, leaving more of their resources available for the bigger decisions that are to come later on.
One way to reduce the number of decisions to be made each day, and thus keep a good amount of willpower and energy intact to move important projects forward, is to adopt a work method that provides the structure necessary for most organizational decisions to be determined by the system itself.
Work methodologies such as Getting Things Done ( GTD) provide a reliable and standardized structure that is less demanding on your attention, concentration and willpower.
Depending on how you organize and manage your tasks, your projects, your reference material, your daily workflow, your periodic reflections, you can significantly reduce the number of decisions to be made, and by extension, your effectiveness. Of course, you will have to make decisions about what to do and how to do it, but most organizational decisions will be made in advance.
If you capture your new inputs with the same capture tool, clarify their meaning in a routine way, and organize the results with concrete organizational rules, you will have much more mental energy available for the important thing, getting the job done.
Having concrete and clear action lists makes it easier to choose the next task to perform. In addition, a structured system that allows you to pick up exactly where you left off has the advantage of helping you restore your focus: you can take the breaks you need without fear of losing your train of thought.
Taking breaks between work sessions is important to restore energy levels and willpower. Taking a walk or even a short nap helps the brain process acquired information and prepare it to work with new information.
Want to be more productive while maintaining a high energy level at all times? Manage well your willpower. Reduce the number of decisions.