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Save your mental health – compartmentalize!

I read an article in the New York Times last summer about a concept called "Decision Fatigue." The article focused on the hundreds of decisions that we make every day and answered the age-old question, "Why do I make all of my bad decisions at the end of the day?" The article points to studies that found that willpower fluctuates throughout the day with glucose levels, that, after a certain point of consistently exercising strong willpower in our decision-making, we are unable to continue making "good decisions," and that people who demonstrate the best self control structure their lives to conserve willpower. By the end of the day, we've made countless decisions -- which webpage to view next, what to order for lunch, what task to do next, what email to read, etc. That doesn't even  include the big decisions we make every day as lawyers on behalf of our clients. And, if only we could be so lucky to make on decision at a time! Often, we are so inundated with decisions that we jump in what feels like a million different directions all at once. Fast forward five months later and, while I've identified my own day-to-day struggle with decision fatigue, I still haven't found a way to structure my life to "conserve willpower." The past few months have been particularly brutal in terms of my workload. When my workload is high, I find that I eat worse, drink more, don't make time for the gym, and, overall, I'm just not my usual, easygoing, happy self. I find my head is spinning at the end of the day between phone calls, emails and questions from my staff. I feel like I haven't completed one task but stopped and started different tasks all day. All of the "to-do's" that I have yet to get to, again, linger in the back of my mind and I feel like I'm not doing anything particularly well. I discussed my frustrations with a friend of mine who is in sales for a prominent bank in Maryland. She told me that her company precludes its employees from checking email, except for certain designated times, which are chosen by the employee ahead of time. She also suggested that I compartmentalize my day.

One comment

  1. Young folks can’t know what life was like before cell phones, fax machines, and internet. As an middle-age business woman, I remember the bliss of working a whole day with only a ringing phone for interruption, and that was often sent to voice mail until I took time at the end of the day to return phone calls. Back then, clients were happy if their calls were returned the same day. Now they expect a return call in ten minutes. DON’T GIVE IN! We should retrain people to expect a little less than instant response. An old addage in sales is to let the clients think you have so much business, and that you aren’t just sitting around waiting for their phone calls. In other words, don’t seem too eager. Take the time to focus. You’ve just discovered what we “old timers” already knew. Enjoy your peace and quiet! Good luck, and keep on writing the good stuff!

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