Detail is the devil. That’s my big problem in life. I’m fundamentally clumsy and prone to errors, and don’t have much of an eye for details. I tend to make a lot of silly mistakes. So whenever I’ve to do some task that requires precision, it requires me to put in way too much energy, so that I don’t commit any mistakes. This is why I have a problem with “routine” tasks. Routine tasks being routine, you are expected to complete them with one hundred per cent accuracy. Ninety five percent won’t do. That transformation from ninety five percent to hundred, though, takes up a lot of energy, and I tend to get stressed out.
Essentially, for a routine task to be done with one hundred percent accuracy, the mental energy I spend is far more than what the average person does. This means that if I do even a small bunch of routine tasks, all my mental energy is exhausted and I have nothing in store for anything else I’ve to do. This is the reason I’ve had an indifferent corporate career so far. Essentially, I face a competitive disadvantage in performing routine tasks.
This is something most people don’t appreciate. Most people assume that it doesn’t take much effort to perform routine tasks, and if you don’t do them well, you’re a good for nothing. And I must admit I’ve also not played to my strengths so far, routinely getting into situations where I’ve to show “detail” and “one hundred percent accuracy”, and not saving my energy for things I’m actually good at. Detail has been the devil.
PS: The motivation for this post was some small form I’d to fill (by hand). The space was limited and I knew I’d to write carefully without any mistakes, and that drove me completely nuts!
I’ve never been a fan of discipline. I think it is a major constraint and hinders creativity, and puts too many walls within which you need to live your life. Despite constant exhortations by my father, I never wanted to join the army. Hell, I tried my best (successfully) in order to even avoid NCC when I was at IIT. I pride myself on being some sort of a free spirit who isn’t held back by any arbitrary rules that I create for myself to live my life by.
A really nice article that I read today, however, makes me think twice about this stand. So this article is about “decision fatigue” and is not very dissimilar to what I’d read a long time back (again in the NYT) about the Law of Conservation of Willpower. So this article talks about how every time you need to make a decision it consumes some part of your mental energy. Irrespective of the size of the decision that is to be made, there is some willpower that is lost, and that causes you to be suboptimal in your decision making as the day progresses.
The article really struck a chord with me, and I realize I’m also heavily prone to decision fatigue. Sometimes the smallest decisions take away so much energy from me that I simply put NED. And yeah, on a related note, I’ve got the wife upset innumerable times solely because of my indecisiveness, a part of which can be attributed to decision fatigue. I even remember not going to a wedding reception some three years back because I couldn’t decide which shirt to wear! And no, I’m not making this up.
So on that note, here’s where I think discipline has a part to play in life. By putting certain constraints on your life, you are reducing the number of decisions that you have to make. And that implies your willpower and mental energy will be reserved for those things where it’s really important that you decide carefully. By making a schedule for yourself, you are outsourcing to you-the-planner all the trivial decisions of your life. Yes, you might feel constrained at times. But it saves you so much energy by way of saving you from several trivial decisions.
Of course, feeling constrained can also affect your mental energy in a negative way, and prevent you from giving your best. Nevertheless, this decision fatigue thingy implies that discipline may not be all that bad. Or maybe I need to think about it some more.