Stay with me here. I spend a lot of time genuinely trying to find ways to use my brain less.
In sports, coaches are fond of saying, “when you think, you stink.” There are tons of examples of this. One of my favorites is when Kris Bryant fielded the last out of the World Series in 2016. In the isolated view of him fielding the ball, you can see the humongous grin on his face; knowing he’s making the last out of the World Series. He fielded a ground ball. Something he’d done tens of thousands of times. He wasn’t thinking about what he was doing, he was just doing it. He was asked about that later. Someone asked him, “what if you’d booted it?” He said that didn’t even cross his mind, he was doing something he’d done tons of times, on the biggest possible stage, to close it out for his team.
Another example, one of my very close friends is a college basketball coach. My family went to watch practice a few years ago and they kept working on a press defense that their film study told them the other team would run. He’d found a weakness and kept saying, “if we do this right, it’s a big dunk on the other end.” They ran it over and over in practice and my younger son asked, “why are they doing this so much?” I said, “so that tomorrow, in the game, when this happens, no one thinks, they just react.” During the game he next day, after a made basket, I saw the defense being set up by the other team and I told my son, “watch this!” Sure enough, huge dunk on the other end. Same thing next play. Players on the court recognized it, didn’t think, just executed. Crowd was going insane. That was the last time they saw that defense for the rest of the game.
There are business examples of this, too. Executives, and even past U.S. presidents wearing the same thing every day so they don’t have to think about that part of their day. Doctors, while in residency, are constantly being asked questions when they’re exhausted. This helps them when they’re no longer in residency, and the same situation arises. They’ve had this situation before and they react, quickly working through something they’ve seen, so they don’t have to spend time thinking.
I have a personal motto, “make life easier for future me.” A lot of the time, this looks like planning. In reality, I’m trying to put things in place to think less. I plan my next day’s food as often as possible so I don’t have to think. Or stand there in front of the pantry or fridge wondering what to eat to make my day work (sound familiar?!?!). If we’re in a phase of tracking what we’re eating, do it immediately. If you’re going to try to remember what you ate later on to track it, that’s unnecessary brain-power being used. You’ll also most likely be far less accurate if you’re counting on your memory to help when you’ve lived some life in between the food and tracking it. It’s easier to just plan what you can and stay out of your own way.
We all walk around with a computer in our pocket or purse. Use it to help with this! When I think of something I need to do, I put reminders on my phone and calendar so I don’t have to remember things. The phone tells me to do something, I don’t have to think about when, past me already set the reminder. If I could have a pensieve to save brain space, like Dumbledore had in the Harry Potter books, I absolutely would!
I’m the primary vacation/event planner in my family. I joke that I’m a better person when I’ve got something to plan. While that may be true, I hate getting somewhere and having to figure it out on the go. I’m not saying I plan every day of a vacation down to the minute, I don’t. But I do have a general idea of what I want to do when we get there (don’t worry, this is a family activity, it’s not all just the stuff I want to do). If something needs tickets or reservations, I make those in advance. Makes the vacation less stressful. And believe it or not, actually maximizes our down time to do nothing and relax.
I’m told that I’m efficient. In reality, I love watching TV and movies. If I finish everything I need to do, I have no guilt when I do that. I try to plan in advance so I get to “watch my stories.” Maybe, on a larger scale, it’s actually some inherent laziness that actually drives how I try to live. If so, I’m fine with it, it works for me.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that the space between our own ears can be a scary/dangerous place. Decision fatigue is a very real thing. Try not to feed that! If you can, try to lessen some of the stress and scariness by doing things to help you try to think less!
Now go plan your day