What do anger, shame, remorse, guilt, frustration, overwhelm, indecisiveness, scarcity, and fear all have in common? When an emotional response occurs, the amygdala – the part of the brain most often referred to as “snake brain” takes hold, causing you to “process” the emotions. What’s actually happening then is that we’re living a memory from the past in the now – a form of time travel: the mind knows no different.
It’s up to you how you want to leave it though. The way you feel is determined by how you linked those two things. The way you feel when you’re triggered again is about how you link them now. When you’re inspired, it’s the same except you’re applying excitement or fear to the life you could have, not the life you do.
Step 1 – Realize You’re Drunk and You Don’t Even Know It
In a recent study conducted by Harvard Scientists, “Bandwidth Tax” was discovered, and fundamentally means you’re walking around drunk. It also happens way sooner than you think.
“[The] effects [of the two groups’ questions] correspond to between 13 and 14 IQ points. A gain of that many points can lift you from the category of “average” to “superior” intelligence. Or, if you move in the other direction, losing 13 points can take you from “average” to a category labeled “borderline-deficient.” In our studies, the same person has fewer IQ points when he or she is preoccupied by scarcity than when not. This cognitive penalty is the key to our story.”
And when this happens, it’s a perpetual cycle. This is the origin of stress, burnout, or overwhelm lives here, and is perpetuated by it.
Step 2 – Notice Repetitive Decisions
In order to reduce bandwidth tax, you must reduce the number of things you’re paying attention to and the frequency at which you’re paying attention to them. To do so requires identifying repetitive patterns and minimizing them.
When I was a boy, my mother calculated her budget the same way every month – she pulled out her pen and paper, started with her fixed income, subtracted expenses, and hoped for the best. Same numbers, same math, different expectations. And to top it off, we always ran out of money!
I couldn’t help but wonder, why was she acting as if anything else mattered other than what was left after bills? Her income didn’t change. The expenses didn’t change. But she kept running the same numbers, arriving at the same conclusion of having a certain amount left over, and doing it every month.
Don’t be like my late mother. Be on time. Take a look in these areas for repeating decisions:
- Is there a consistent outcome – like cash flow with my mother? Focus on the abbreviated form you can trust.
- Do you find that you spend impulsively under certain conditions? You can predict the conditions and the impulse.
- Are you using lists? Despite popular opinion, lists create bandwidth tax. Best to find a way to minimize what you see at once.
“Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.” – Thomas Edison
Step 3 – Create a Metric
You need a metric to measure your effectiveness. Metrics give you measurable and attainable ways to recognize improvements.
Some examples are:
- In the case of my dearly departed mother: “cash left over” or “time it takes to budget” could be the result of the consolidation we just discussed.
- With Bandwidth Tax the metric is IQ.
- Time is always a good metric because it’s the only thing we’re limited by. It can also apply to almost anything that causes inconvenience.
This metric should be how you measure all decisions of the same type. It’s the thing that tells you if you’re essentially 4 beers in, just 1, or none at all. It’s something that should be countable, but has to apply to your situation. This will create meaning in your productivity.
Step 4 – Batch Process
Now that we have metrics for all of these things that cause Bandwidth Tax, we can go even further. How can we begin to manage all of the metrics? Simple – batch processing.
I remember in high school I saw a teacher grading papers, and he was grading all of them at once – literally. “By grading all of the questions 1 first, then all of the question 2’, it’s much faster because my mind doesn’t have to keep ‘question switching’“ he said when I asked why. This stuck with me, and it began my deep dive into this phenomena
Also known as Chunking, batch processing allows us to focus on doing things of similar type over time to reduce bandwidth tax. It’s very similar to keeping that paper to budget, then using it for another family member. The goal with Chunking is to make it seem to your mind like all of the tasks you’re doing are so similar they might as well be the same, thereby reducing Bandwidth Tax. This is like focus, but further.
Step 5 – Ritual
But we can go, even so, one step further. And this is the step that will solidify the claim that we can trust our decisions in any state. This is the principle of Habitualization, or simple – Ritual.
This step involves making a groove in your mind so clearly – a groove that represents the stepwise, never-changing, very simple WAY of doing a thing that depends heavily on all that we’ve talked about. A ritual, or habit, tells the mind that it can, fundamentally, consider something so trustworthy it can be ignored. This is the opposite of bandwidth tax.
With any of the things we’ve worked on in this article, ask yourself how you might be able to “program” them into you. If there are changes to consider, can you consider them all at once?
Those programs are going to be the new subconscious, controlling the amygdala, and to do all 5 of these steps will make the thing that once made you act as if you were drunk seem like you’re simply taking a sip of wonderful spring water.