I’m writing this on Thursday at 5:00 PM. Like my sweet dog Muffin Man, pictured above, I’d rather be napping. I’d intended to blog this morning, but I had to go to the doctor, do laundry, monitor the kids, attend a meeting for work, and answer a few of the emails in my inbox. So here I sit at the end of the day, trying to decide how to write about decision fatigue. At least now I know why I am having trouble deciding what words to use.
According to research, we have a finite amount of mental energy for self control. Making decisions depletes that energy, and it becomes harder for us to make good decisions. In his article “Do you suffer from Decision Fatigue?” John Tierney wrote:
“The more choices you make throughout the day, the harder each one becomes for your brain, and eventually it looks for shortcuts, usually in either of two very different ways.” Either we make a reckless choice (Oh sure, why not, I’ll eat a piece of cheesecake) or we avoid making a choice (You decide, honey).
Social psychologist Roy Baumeister has discovered that the people who succeed at self control structure their lives to conserve willpower. In other words, we beat decision fatigue by avoiding it—at least in the crucial parts of our lives.
So what does that mean for writers? Here are three suggestions for avoiding decision fatigue and writing more:
1. Set a specific writing goal. Choose what you want to accomplish in the next week or month and write it down. Be as specific as possible. Instead of adding, “write articles” to your to do list, make a list of the specific stories you want to write and the steps it will take to complete the articles. With this information, you will approach each writing session with a sense of what you need to accomplish. You will not have to decide what to do with your time.
2. Schedule your writing. Instead of writing when you have time or feel like it, make a decision to schedule time to write. At the beginning of each week or month, schedule your writing sessions. Once you have these in the schedule, treat the sessions with the same respect you give your annual check-up. Show up no matter what. Soon, your writing sessions will be as habitual as eating lunch.
3. Plan ahead. At the end of my daily writing session, I plan what I will work on during the next session. I leave myself a note about it so that when I start my writing session the next day, I can use my decision making muscles to choose words instead of deciding between projects.
These three simple tools have helped me write ten books and hundreds of articles fast and relatively pain free! What do you do to control decision fatigue and write more? Leave a comment below.