Digital shortcuts and cognitive load


I used to drive 200 miles to Boston once a week or so.

After a few trips on the highway, my subconscious figured out that getting behind a few trucks for the entire ride enabled me to spend four hours without using much conscious effort on driving.

Every day, we make decisions. These require effort, and there’s probably a finite amount of energy available for these focused choices.

That’s why our digital habits matter. Not to save us five or ten minutes a day, but to save us from a few hundred unimportant decisions that break our flow.

For example, if instead of trying to come up with a unique and original password every time you use a new service, you use a password manager, your load just got lighter.

If you adopt a file naming system (each version gets a number, from 1 to X, so the latest file always has the highest number before its name) then you won’t hassle with trying to figure out which is the most recent version.

If you use the sidebar in your file finder to put shortcuts to the folders you use often, you won’t burn energy finding your way through nests of folders, again and again.

When I worked at Yahoo, they were embarrassed to share the fact that the most clicked-on button on the entire site was the Yahoo logo (which did nothing on the home page) and the most searched-for term in their search box was also “Yahoo.” People hadn’t figured out what bookmarks were yet, or decided to simply keep clicking around until something worked.

Ten minutes today will save you from 30 decisions every day forever.


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