top of page

Tabs overload, or What makes your decision-making slow. Very slow.

Updated: Jan 5, 2023

You are quite rested physically, emotionally finding yourself in a good state as well, work is doing well too.. Yet your decision-making process is exceptionally slow and not where it should be..

Have you experienced that? (certainly, if we run a survey on the quality of decision making we all tend to portray ourselves as gurus of strategic foresight and efficiency.. Natalia's included admittedly). Yet really?

Among many reasons for that, the most common and hardly identified (we tend to reference a market uncertainty, general physical fatigue in a given period and sometimes emotional distress at work/home) is the fact that in our brain, aka a complex operating machine or super browser, we have too many tabs open, that are run on the background, and often getting automatic updates without our conscious supervision. All in the background, consuming data and battery power.

Here comes a famous concept of TOTE, formulated and run within a series of studies by a group of researchers led by George Miller.

What’s TOTE (trigger, operate, test and exit) for you today:

(the below example has been inspired by Alunika Dobrovolski):

The simplest and vivid example could be:

Our relationship with food and hunger:

<Trigger> for you to eat can be of different nature (you feel physical hunger and your stomach is growling, you see an appetizing image of food in the video or photo, you hear how somebody describes their meal in an exceptionally appealing manner, maybe you even smell the food and that makes you instantly hungry - different triggers for all). And here the need is born - eat.

<Operate> is when you are taking actions to ensure you satisfy your desire (you order food, you join the meal, you start chewing the food)

<Test> - are you satiated? You test yourself. You feel it. You know it. If you don’t yet - you continue eating or actively thinking of and looking for food. If the test is successful, then you can

<Exit> process.

Use this model and apply for instance,

  • For those investing, when somebody dropped you a message with a promise to engage you in the upcoming unicorn IPO and you keep preparing your financials to step in the deal

  • For those looking for a job promotion, when you’ve met KPIs and somebody else has been promoted on the same basis - you are working on your appraisal anxiously

  • For those who are parenting - you promised your child XYZ adventure and you are working on arranging it or you can’t arrange it infeasible future however you don’t call the promise off, and the list goes on.

As you can imagine, we have far more (>) than seven of such processes or operating tabs (FYI according to Miller’s team discovery human short-term memory is generally limited to holding seven pieces of information).

The good news, there are many of those "tabs" that are easily "exitable" - like food, your list of vacation destinations that keep eating yours during Covid19 lockdown. Yet with many more of those (parenting associated with the need of being loved, starting a business, changing job, investing - associated with ambition, self-validation, belief in a greater purpose), there is an emotion attached which makes it hard and seemingly impossible to identify that it is a dragging open tab which needs to be closed, as it is, wherever you are for the greater good of a better decision making.

Take care of yourself, work with your mind.


Useful links:

Alunika Dobrovolski - Offical website


Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page