LRC Week 2 – Decision Fatigue (10 minutes/day)

Tibi gratulor! You’ve finished one week of reading! How did you do?

  • Did you finish your reading every single day? If not, don’t worry about it – just pick it up the next day. Eventually it’ll take less effort.
  • Was your reading easy and enjoyable? Make sure that you’re reading something that you might normally consider below your level.
  • Did you keep a log? Months from now you’ll look back at what you’ve done, and feel a real sense of accomplishment, and know that you’ve done something for yourself (and in turn, your students).

We’re going to continue building our regular habit. Later on, we’ll add some additional assignments reading strategies, but for now:

Read Latin for 10 minutes each day.

I'm still making up my mind...

I’m still making up my mind…

Decision Fatigue

These days, I have two major personal goals. One is to improve my Latin, the other my level of fitness. There are two ways, primarily, that I exercise – cycling and push-ups. Of the two, cycling is obviously the most enjoyable, but it’s push-ups that I’ve been able to do most consistently and see the most improvement.

Why should this be? Clearly, being fun is not enough to make something a regular habit. Cycling, while enjoyable, includes a lot of decisions and plenty of excuses. Where will I ride? How far will I ride? Have I had enough to eat? Did I sleep enough? Am I tired from the previous day? Even, as trivial as it seems, which jersey will I wear?

Push-ups, on the other hand eliminate the decision problem. For a few months I’ve been using the Runtastic Push-Ups app. The app tells me when to work out, how many reps to do in each set, keeps track of rest time, and gradually increases my total reps from session to session (usually just 2 reps more than the previous session). Some days I find that I can’t finish a particular workout. On those days I just do the best I can, and try again the next day. Whatever the result, I spend about 15 minutes doing push-ups, then I get on with the rest of my day.

We frequently hear success tied to words like “gumption,” “heart,” and “willpower.” Successful people, we are told, just have more drive than the rest of us. This indictment is a bit unfair. Instead, I think, these people have managed to solve the problem of decision fatigue. You can read more about this phenomenon here. In short, making decisions throughout the day, no matter how trivial, diminishes our ability to make decisions.

In his book, On Writing, Stephen King talks about his daily practice of writing. Rather than waiting for the muse to inspire him, King writes for a set amount of time every day, so that when inspiration does strike, he’s ready for it. Dancers, writers, athletes, and musicians don’t practice just when they feel like it. They schedule their practices, and adhere to those schedules religiously. Those practices won’t always be great, but it is the consistency over time that yields the results they desire.

Improving Our Practice

By starting the Latin Reading Challenge, I’m trying to eliminate the problem of decision fatigue. Don’t think about how long you should read, just follow the assignment for each week. Set a timer for yourself. Once you’ve picked a level appropriate reading, just stick with it (and by all means, re-read it until you are ready to move on). Schedule your reading using a calendar, and honor that commitment with yourself, just like you would a meeting with someone else.

The response to this project has been really inspiring and motivating for me. I especially like reading people’s summaries and seeing pictures of daily readings. If you’re not already, I suggest you follow #LatinReadingChallenge on Twitter, and post your own progress!


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