March 17, 2022

I recently bought a house and it’s the first place I’ve lived that I truly LOVE. I want to make the most of it. So, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how to make it look. What furniture I should get, and where it should go (I’m mostly starting from scratch there). What flooring I want. What color roof I should get. And… what color the walls should be.

What colors the walls should be. This has tormented me. Realistically, it’s not a high stakes decision. They’re just walls. The outcome is reversible. If I don’t like it, I can repaint it. And I have time to make my choices; no need to push myself into exhaustion, no need to rush.

But it’s not the type of decision I usually make.

I imagine interior decorators don’t belabor this type of decision the way I have, even though it’s their job to belabor. They get paid to belabor. But they make this decision all the time. I imagine that it’s less exhausting for them.

I think about the sorts of decisions I make every day that most other people don’t. I do a lot of research. I’ve written more surveys than I can keep track of. I can write a survey in a morning and have enough energy to write two more in the afternoon. I do it for a living, but I don’t perseverate.

It’s hard. It’s work. But for me, it’s not exhausting.

Then I think about junior researchers I’ve managed and mentored. The surveys they write don’t require that much more work or any more decisions. But they feel much more spent when they're done. Because the decisions they're making are new to them. They can’t coast through. They have to think harder.

I’m talking about more than just experience. Choosing paint is choosing paint. Writing a survey is writing a survey. You still have to put a lot of thinking into it. It’s just… not as tiring.

The next time you’re faced with a decision, ask yourself, “Am I used to making this kind of choice?” If you’re not, brace yourself. You could get tired. Even if it’s simple and low-stakes.

I’m not sure if there’s any research to support the idea that fatigue is more likely when you’re less familiar with a decision. I'm too tired to look it up. I mean…. It seems to be an intuitive assumption. But when you’re in it… when you’re in the actual process of choosing paint color, and when choosing paint color is a pretty new thing to you, you may not spend any more time on it than an expert, but you certainly feel more exhausted.

At least that's true for me.

That is all.


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