Eliminate the Thinking

One of my goals is to find a way to minimize the amount of thinking I have to do about any particular subject. My brain is really addicted to thinking. It’s one of its favorite things to do.

But there’s a certain amount of useless thinking that happens about things that don’t need as much brain time on them. For example, thinking every single day about when I’m going to exercise and what type of exercise I’m going to do takes away brain space from thinking about other things.

If I wake up in the morning and I avoid a workout, then I’ve just added that to-do into the docket of things for my brain to ruminate about:

I ask myself at 11am: will you workout now? Okay, there’s a class at 12-noon. But wait — you have a call at 1pm. So later? Yeah, maybe 3pm? Oh, but I just ate. So let’s go at 5pm? Oof, yeah, I’m tired. Damnit. I missed today. Maybe tomorrow.

There are things worth spending brain energy on and things not worth spending brain energy on.

Thinking every day (every day!) about when I’m going to work out is not something that I want to dedicate time to.

All it does it take away brain space from thinking about other things. I want—I crave—this time to go deep into writing. To work on the next chapter of my book. To carve away the mental clutter and focus on work that matters.

And if that is what I truly want, then I need to ruthlessly eliminate all of these other, unnecessary, periods of thinking.

So for workouts, as an example, I have a very boring schedule that I stick to (which I’ll write about another time). It’s dreadfully boring for my vata-type, eager-to-think, overworking mind. There’s no excitement in planning and dreaming and scheming about fancy workouts, and this is by design. I need to reel in my analytical mind and give it different puzzles to focus on.

The schedule is what will let me actually succeed.

When I don’t schedule my workouts, I only end up exercising 2-3 times per week.

When I stick to the schedule, I end up going 3-6 times per week. There’s a very clear advantage to the boring routine.

The criteria for the schedule has to be:

  • So easy I don’t have to think about it
  • Incredibly simple to remember
  • Harder to not do than to do
  • Start as small as possible
  • Ideally linked to some behavior or habit I already do.

With exercise, here’s what this looks like as an example:

I drop my kid off at daycare every day. Same time, same place, gotta do it. (Make it linked to an existing behavior).

So I put my sneakers and pants on, and every day after I drop him off, I exercise. (Wednesdays are my break day: I do this weekdays Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday.)

It’s easier to get to the park and exercise when I’m already in my clothes and I’ve already left the house. (Make it so easy I don’t have to think about it.)

I do it every day. (Harder to not do than to do.)

When I first started that schedule, I only did it for 15 minutes each time.(Start as small as possible.)

Don’t think, just do.

When I think about exercising, all I’m doing is thinking about exercising.

When I set up a habit and a routine that’s simple enough to do the same way every time, I spend more time exercising than thinking.

Eliminate the thinking wherever you can.

How might this apply to other areas of your life? Leave a note in the comments below.

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5 Responses to Eliminate the Thinking

  1. Sonja says:

    Your process appear to follow BJ Fogg’s Behavior Change Model. Our brains love automaticity, and it tries to make our routine behaviors become automatic. That way, your brain conserves its energy for more complex cognitive tasks – like decision-making or creative work. Also, by starting with tiny steps with a new behavior, we don’t need will power because the new behavior is so easy to do. Nice examples of how to make new behaviors actually stick!

    • Sarah K Peck says:

      Thanks! Love BJ Fogg and yes, I am maybe intuiting it and could go back and re-fresh on his teachings.

  2. Jodi Henderson says:

    I can totally relate. This reminds me of how I feel about eating. Well, maybe just the cooking part. I make a meal plan every week so I not only avoid having to think every day about what to make, but I improve my chances of not eating out. It’s far to easy to stand in the kitchen after work and think how nothing in the house sounds good so, hey, let’s just go out. Pre-planning makes a huge difference for me. Now to apply it, as you did, to my exercise routine. :)

    • Sarah K Peck says:

      I’m the same way! Sometimes I want to think about eating (because it’s fun), but for the most part — eliminate the thinking!

  3. Sarah, thanks for this great post! I wholeheartedly agree — for *every* area of life. I am a devoted scheduler. If I schedule, I keep my word. If I schedule, I don’t have to think about when I’m getting groceries or what we’re having for dinner when, or when I’ll follow up with clients. The schedule frees me to have a clear mind and lack of urgency. It frees me to be able to be present and full of energy with people I love. There are so many things, like exercise — but also my relationships, my work, my spiritual practices, play — that I know I want in my life. Scheduling them helps me keep true to who I want to be!