Yet more on decision-making

This great blog post from Kathy Sierra has been doing the rounds lately. I thought I’d share it because it reinforces a point I’ve been making, not very clearly, over the course of several blog posts on decision-making: your resources are limited, and decision-making drains them. I don’t like the way she seems to equate “fat” with “unhealthy/lacking self-control” but I think picking at that would drain my own cognitive resources, so I’ll focus on her overall point:

And that’s all awesome and fabulous and social and 3.0ish except for one, small, inconvenient fact: zero sum. What you consume here, you take from there. Not just their attention, not just their time, but their ability to be the person they are when they are at their best. When they have ample cognitive resources. When they can think, solve-problems, and exercise self-control. When they can create, make connections, and stay focused.

She makes a point I’ve never explicitly made (my bad): that willpower and cognitive energy are coming from the same “tank”. You drain it and it’s drained. That same tank is your source of emotional energy too. If you’re wobbly on recognising faces, you’re going to really struggle with it when you’re tired; if you’ve spent all day trying to smooth over a difficult situation, it’s going to be really hard to resist snacking, or concentrate on your creative work. And so on.

My only advice about this is very general-sounding: be self-aware, be realistic, be kind to yourself and others. And yes, that advice is much easier to dish out than to follow. But honestly, some of us treat ourselves in a way we’d never dream of treating a junior colleague: denying ourselves breaks, questioning our decisions, refusing to acknowledge our own achievements. Then we wonder why we feel so terrible.

I’m sort of repeating myself now, so I’ll finish. But really, go and read Kathy Sierra’s article. It’s very good.

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2 Comments on “Yet more on decision-making”


  1. […] emails ending up in the spam folder) hadn’t worked. In other words, this process has depleted my daily store of decision-making ability and left me with some vague worries and uncertainty about whether it’s […]


  2. […] occasions. But I figure that gift-buying involves initiative and decision-making, which means it drains your cognitive tank. And Christmas for many people involves buying multiple gifts for multiple people, which means a […]


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