Do you suffer from decision fatigue?

Date: Friday, August 26, 2011 by GTD Times Staff

John Tierney has written a fascinating piece, excerpted from a book David Allen is featured in called “Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength.” It’s coming out next month.

These experiments demonstrated that there is a finite store of mental energy for exerting self-control. When people fended off the temptation to scarf down M&M’s or freshly baked chocolate-chip cookies, they were then less able to resist other temptations. When they forced themselves to remain stoic during a tearjerker movie, afterward they gave up more quickly on lab tasks requiring self-discipline, like working on a geometry puzzle or squeezing a hand-grip exerciser. Willpower turned out to be more than a folk concept or a metaphor. It really was a form of mental energy that could be exhausted. The experiments confirmed the 19th-century notion of willpower being like a muscle that was fatigued with use, a force that could be conserved by avoiding temptation. To study the process of ego depletion, researchers concentrated initially on acts involving self-control ­— the kind of self-discipline popularly associated with willpower, like resisting a bowl of ice cream. They weren’t concerned with routine decision-making, like choosing between chocolate and vanilla, a mental process that they assumed was quite distinct and much less strenuous. Intuitively, the chocolate-vanilla choice didn’t appear to require willpower. Read the full article

One Response to “Do you suffer from decision fatigue?”

  1. Rob says:

    Beforehand I did not think I had the willpower to read 7 pages on a website. But it was that interesting!
    GTD helps in this as thinking about what actions to take is essentially done at the (weekly) review I guess. And what action to ‘do’ depends on mental energy too.

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