Data Overload | Are you too busy to read this?
So far, my reading is going well. Recent research suggests that the brain is able to make a finite number of decisions in a day. Like a computer, it is believed our brains have a fixed amount of processing power and a limited processing speed.
Too Many Decisions – Too Much Data
When we are very busy, we are making lots of decisions. What the most adept of us do is plan our days – and any highlights – in such a way that we reserve critical decision-making capacity for only the most important matters. How often do you ask friends or family: “What would you like for dinner?” only to receive the response: ”I don’t mind”. Whilst that individual is probably intending to be polite by leaving the choice to us, another way to look at this is that they are avoiding having to make a decision by putting the onus back on to us. It can be very tiring at the end of a long day!
There are articles written in the press about the eccentric behaviours of some of the top entrepreneurs, for example those who eat the same thing every day or wear a blue shirt and chinos day in and day out. They have the right idea. They are removing many insignificant decisions from their daily lives in order to keep their minds free for greater things.
Similarly, consider the luxury of a president, prime minister or a senior business person who has an entourage organising the minutiae of each day around them. They do not have to worry about how they will travel to a meeting, how long it will take to get there, or even who will be there; one of their team will be on hand to arrange all of this and will furnish them with all the details whilst on the way to the next appointment. During the meeting they will not have to waste precious processing power by worrying about what time they need to leave for their next appointment; someone will come and tell them.
Reducing the Data Overload – What To Do?
If I could remove many of these tiny decisions from my day, imagine how sharp my focus would be. However, for many of us (for example anyone who has responsibility for at least one other person in their life), we have not only our own allocation of everyday decisions to make, but we have to make decisions for others as well. Where this involves teenage offspring this may also be accompanied by debate and challenge. Now I understand why I am mentally exhausted on some days!
So how can we improve? As a coach I spend many hours working with clients on different aspects of their jobs. Time and again, a critical look at planning and time management can reveal many inefficiencies in the average day. For instance, a reluctance to keep a complete and accurate to-do list or an unwillingness to set aside time in the weekly schedule for important, non-urgent, tasks. Because we have done the task in the same way for the last five years, we tend to assume that it is the right way to do it. It may indeed be a good way but, as a coach, I like to ask: “Is there a better way?”
Challenge Our Thinking and Behaviour
Raising self-awareness and ability to assess one’s own behaviour encourages clients to look with fresh eyes at day-to-day behaviours and challenge themselves to improve the way they do things. The follow-through to the next coaching session and the accountability to the coach helps the client to develop the discipline of self-management to practice these new behaviours over time and thereby create better “habits”.
How much decision-making capacity and brain processing power do you think you could save by working with a coach and changing some of your day-to-day behaviours? If you would like to explore this further with us at LifeForward, drop us a line. And you can find out more about Coaching here. If you would like to read more about the mind and its processing capacity we recommend exploring our Online Resources.