Find your automation

The intent of making one less decision stems from a neuroscience principle that our brain has a finite capacity for decision-making, creativity and processing....

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Harbourfront (Toronto)

Last night I had a great catch up with a friend from university, discussing anything from neuroscience to social impact. One of the most interesting insights I got was her latest experiment where she purchased multiple versions of the same outfit to save time and energy each morning thinking about her outfit. This hack was based on Steve Job’s famous example of wearing the same black sweater. While she gained a few minutes each morning, she quickly discovered her creativity was dropping. The few minutes she had to pick an outfit everyday actually gave her a channel to express her creativity and build momentum for the day. Soon after she pivoted and looked for other areas to automate.

The intent of making one less decision stems from a neuroscience principle that our brain has a finite capacity for decision-making, creativity and processing. Much like any finite resource, it gets depleted when consumed and requires time and resources to replenish. As such, thought leaders and world-class performers are extremely strategic and methodical in where they invest their brain resources  – in other words, what processes to automate and what processes require the executive functions of their brain.

That said, it is critical that we are deliberate in which processes to automate. In this story, she attempted to automate the process of picking an outfit everyday. By continuously re-evaluating and staying aware, she discovered the impact outweighed the benefits. In other words, she saved time and decision-making capacity everyday but at the cost of creativity and energy (especially at the beginning of the day).

The key take-away here is that someone’s famous hack (e.g, Steve Jobs) does not apply to everyone. While Jobs may be perfectly okay with wearing the same outfit everyday, that may cause more harm to others  – especially those who get a sense of confidence, creativity and energy from picking their daily outfit.


1) Identify all of the processes that make up your day

2) Pick one that may provide the highest ROI via automation (or “auto-pilot” thinking)

3) Experiment

4) Track (daily) your thoughts, decisions and behaviours

5) Do you have more time, energy and capacity to do other things?

6) What was the impact on not doing this task deliberately?

7) Weigh the benefits and costs

8) Depending on outcomes: Iterate, extend experiment, move onto next

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