Focus More With Shark Habits and Pirate Maps

Treat Thompson



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It's estimated that the average adult makes 35,000 decisions per day. But throughout our day, our decision quality deteriorates as the constant decision-making onsets "decision fatigue".

It limits our ability to make quality trade-offs, influences us to make more impulsive decisions, impairs our self-regulation, and causes us to avoid decision-making entirely.

As Aristotle said, "we are the sum of our actions", so having the capacity to make quality decisions all day long is important.

Shark habits and pirate maps are tools that author and Olympic weight-lifter, Dan John, use to prevent and delay decision fatigue by automating insignificant daily decisions.

Shark Habits

Shark habits are premade decisions for miscellaneous tasks that don't deserve our decision-making energy.


  • Dan has 14 identical black shirts, 4 pairs of the same jeans, and 6 pairs of the same shoes. He does this so he doesn’t have to waste time figuring out what he’s going to wear every day.
  • Dan created a "clean the house" checklist and established "clean the house" days. When it's time to clean he knows exactly what to do and doesn't need to worry if he missed anything after.
  • Every day of every week, I eat the same exact meals. What, or when, to eat is not a guessing game for me. It's all been pre-planned; I don't have to waste a thought on it.

Shark habits prevent much of the clutter that would otherwise collect in our heads throughout the day. With them, your day doesn't come to a halt over a trivial decision.

Pirate Maps

Pirate maps are "tell me what to do's". They're premade processes you follow without putting much thought into it.

The pirate maps you're thinking of go like this: “go to this island, find the white coconut tree, dig down 6 feet, and there’s the treasure”.

Here are examples of the pirate maps I'm talking about:

  • Every morning I make my bed, weigh myself, read, eat, workout, meditate, and then start working. In the mornings I don't waste energy thinking about what to do. My pirate map smoothly leads me to start my work.
  • Every night Dan John eats dinner, makes coffee for the next morning, takes supplements, makes the next day's to-do list, goes in the sauna, takes a cold shower, and then goes to sleep. At night, Dan John follows a pirate map that smoothly leads him to prepare for the next morning and wind down for bed.

These basic routines simplify your days by letting you sleepwalk through relatively insignificant tasks.

You can use them as more than just morning and evening routines. I've created pirate maps for when I get home from school when I get into the office at work, and when I get home from the gym.

Dan John says, "to engage in something difficult you need to sweep the brain clear of all the traffic, the noise, and the accumulated crap."

With a finite decision-making capacity, we must use as much of it as we can on impactful moments.

This weeks quote

"The customs and practices of life in society sweep us along" - Michel de Montaigne

In this observation, Montaigne points out that most of what we do is determined by the example of others and not our personal choice.

He say's, "I did not invite myself to the feast: I was led there, brought to it by external considerations."

He acknowledges that no matter how ugly, repugnant, or immoral something is, it can always become bearable under certain conditions and in certain situations.

We've seen this many times throughout human history.

This weeks question

Are there areas in your day that you can automate to clear mental clutter and save your decision-making ability?

My Answer:

What to eat all day, what to wear, and what to do in the mornings and evenings used to waste too much of my decision-making ability. These relatively insignificant tasks and choices didn't deserve the energy and frustration I spent every day.

As small as it sounds, using shark habits and pirate maps to automate these things (and more) changed the flow of my day and relieved my decision fatigue.