The next big part of my life that changed with deep understanding of decision fatigue has been the way I interact with my laptop, smartphone, and the internet at large.
See, the issue is this: my job is on the internet.
And while the internet is a wonderful place with infinite opportunities to learn, work, have fun, talk to people you care about, and do pretty much anything you put your mind to, it also means there’s an infinite (literally) amount of options at any given moment.
Here’s why: I get distracted quite easily because thoughts and ideas stream in my mind quicker and more frequently than I’m usually capable of handling.
Add to that the easy pull that Twitter has over me, and within seconds, I’ll be scrolling and/or researching my latest lightbulb moment even though I was meant to be working on a project.
The internet, to me, is a risk of ending up on a YouTube binge or a new tool free trial registration that I just HAVE TO check out right now.
How does decision fatigue play into this?
Well… I’d love to be able to decide I’ll just focus on my project and leave the research/scrolling/idea mapping for later.
But I can’t. Because of, you know… Decisions I’ve had to make that morning, the evening before, that month (if there were some bigger ones), and even just physical or emotional fatigue that sometimes just happens.
I can’t decide to not open YouTube or Twitter when things get a little challenging and I’m looking for a distraction.
So I’ve looked for ways to have “someone” else make that decision for me, and that someone are my devices.
I’ve first truly internalized this idea when reading James Clear’s Atomic Habits, where one of the key approaches is that you should remove friction standing between you and the behaviors you want to do more AND create friction between you and the behaviors you want to do less of.
After testing a few different tools that would make this happen for me, I’ve settled on these few tactics that, for me, work perfectly combined:
- Freedom, a tool that I have pre-scheduled to block social media and a few other challenging sites (Amazon, I’m looking at you) for the majority of the time I’m hoping to be focused. My emails are also blocked until 11am. Freedom is a golden find from the Make Time book, which covers dozens of useful techniques, too!
- Keeping social media apps off my phone (for the most part; the exception is Twitter when I’m at conferences and similar events)
- iPhone on Do Not Disturb until lunchtime (at least) and on charge in a different room. The only exception to this is when I’m going out of my house in the morning, which is typically 1/week
- Browser bookmarks and Mac applications reduced down to only those I truly need for my focused period of time; I also tend to hide the bookmark bar in Chrome for much of my time
- I close all the tabs and windows apart from Asana and Google Calendar at the end of my workday. That way, nothing can pull on my attention as I log in in the morning and I can just go to my main task for the next couple of hours
Each of these could be a post on their own (which they might become). But the key takeaway is this:
With these in place, I can open my laptop in the morning and simply start working on what matters. If I try to escape it, my systems will make it really hard to find distractions, and after a few deep breaths, I can typically just go back to focusing.
An important side note: some days are just rough. If I realize it’s just not a day I’ll be able to be focused (due to pain, emotional stress, a bad night’s sleep, whatever it may be), I will go easy on myself and either take long breaks or take a day off altogether. When my body is trying to tell me something, I listen.
Check out part 3 of the decision fatigue mini-series!