Will-power, distraction and the fly-wheel of habit… Obama, Baumeister etc

So, there’s that long-but-interesting article about the current corporate meat-puppet POTUS. In which he tells Michael Lewis

You also need to remove from your life the day-to-day problems that absorb most people for meaningful parts of their day. “You’ll see I wear only gray or blue suits,” he said. “I’m trying to pare down decisions. I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing. Because I have too many other decisions to make.” He mentioned research that shows the simple act of making decisions degrades one’s ability to make further decisions. It’s why shopping is so exhausting. “You need to focus your decision-making energy. You need to routinize yourself. You can’t be going through the day distracted by trivia.”

And I’ve added all the links in this below, which is lifted from “Wired”

Conserve Your Willpower: It Runs Out

By Judy Dutton
October 6, 2012 | 6:30 am

Ever wonder why your resolve to hit the gym weakens after you’ve slogged through a soul-sapping day at work? It’s because willpower isn’t just some storybook concept; it’s a measurable form of mental energy that runs out as you use it, much like the gas in your car.

Roy Baumeister, a psychologist at Florida State University, calls this “ego depletion,” and he proved its existence by sitting students next to a plate of fresh-baked chocolate-chip cookies. Some were allowed to snack away, others ordered to abstain. Afterward, both groups were asked to complete difficult puzzles. The students who’d been forced to resist the cookies had so depleted their reserves of self-control that when faced with this new task, they quickly threw in the towel. The cookie eaters, on the other hand, had conserved their willpower and worked on the puzzles longer. [Dwight sez: yes, but the wikipedia article (linked above) mentions some research that complicates that picture, or de-generalises it...]

Further studies have suggested that willpower is fueled by glucose—which helps explain why our determination crumbles when we try to lose weight. When we don’t eat, our glucose drops, and our willpower along with it. “We call it the dieter’s catch-22: In order to not eat, you need willpower. But in order to have willpower you need to eat,” says John Tierney, coauthor with Baumeister of Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength.

But there are ways to wield what scientists know about willpower to our advantage. Since it’s a finite resource, don’t spread yourself thin: Make one resolution rather than many. And if you manage to stick with it by, say, not smoking for a week, give your willpower a rest by indulging in a nice dinner. Another tactic is to outsource self-control. Get a gym buddy. Use Mint.com to regulate your spending or RescueTime.com to avoid distracting websites. As Tierney explains, “People with the best self-control aren’t the ones who use it all day long. They’re people who structure their lives so they conserve it.” That way, you’ll be able to stockpile vast reserves for when you really need it, like hauling your lazy ass to the gym.

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