Decision Fatigue: How to Deal With It

Do you find yourself making decisions more often than usual, but feeling less satisfied with your choices? This is called decision fatigue and it’s a thing! 

Decision fatigue is defined as  “the inevitable mental drain that comes from having to make so many decisions, both big and small.” The more decisions we have to make in a day, the less energy we have to devote towards making those decisions. This concept is especially relevant for people who are constantly faced with difficult choices.  It can happen in all sorts of situations: grocery stores, when you’re trying to decide what to eat for dinner, or even when you’re looking at different social media feeds. 

When we are tired, our decision-making abilities deteriorate and we become more impulsive and less logical. So, if you need to make a decision, choose one and give it some thought before moving forward with anything else.

What can we do about decision fatigue?

  • Take breaks throughout the day and night. Taking breaks is good for productivity and decision-making in the long run. You’ll find yourself more focused when you get back to work because your brain will have recharged during your break time
  • Plan ahead as much as possible. People are not designed to make so many decisions in a single day, so it is essential to plan ahead of time to avoid this issue. For difficult tasks, one method is to use an “If-then” plan. For example, if you have a long day at work tomorrow, then you will pack your lunch and lay out your clothes for the morning on your bedside table the night before.
  • Delegate tasks appropriately.  Make a list to make sure that nothing slips through the cracks and they’re easy to reference at any point in time, then set aside specific days where you have designated blocks of time for work and personal life so that there isn’t any overlap between the two categories. 
  • Limiting the amount of time spent on any given task. For example, if you have 15 minutes before work, spend 10 minutes cleaning up your email inbox- this will help clear out some mental space for other tasks later in the day.
  • Avoid choosing between two equally good alternatives when possible. This could really take your time in deciding, so instead, try splitting them into smaller steps and tackling each pros and cons.

It may not feel like making one little choice will fix everything, but sometimes taking care of something big will give us back enough energy to handle more minutiae later on down the line. These small steps will go a long way toward improving your mood and freeing up mental space to tackle more difficult problems.

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