Decision fatigue is the deteriorating quality of decisions made by an individual after a long session of decision making.
Day in and day out we are plagued with hundreds of choices from what we may have for lunch to even more complicated decisions that involve our emotions, finances and overall physical well being.
Now no matter how strong you may think you are, your ability to make the best and most effective choices are limited and eventually you tend to run out due to what is called decision fatigue. This is that feeling you get when you are feeling stressed by the endless amount of decisions you had to make on any given day.
Identifying decision fatigue can be tricky because we often feel a deep sense of weariness and it probably affects us more than we ever realize.
We need to learn how to manage our decision making which can ultimately help to avoid feeling drained and helps us to conserve our mental energy.
How does decision fatigue work
Psychologist Roy Baumeister says that decision fatigue is the emotional and mental strain resulting from a burden of choices. She goes on to say that this type of fatigue leads to one of two outcomes:
- Risky decision making
- Decision avoidance
Meaning that when you run out of mental energy, you are less able to override basic desires and more like to go for whatever is easier.
How do we recognize decision fatigue?
Like I said before it is not easy to recognize but there are some telltale signs that might suggest you are on your way to burnout.
These signs are as follows:
- Procrastination. “I’ll tackle this later.”
- Impulsivity. “Eeny, meeny, miny, moe…”
- Avoidance. “I can’t deal with this right now.”
- Indecision. “When in doubt, I just say ‘no.’”
When this kind of stress stays constant in your life, it can lead to irritability, increased anxiety, depression and physical effects such as tension headaches and digestive issues.
What you can do about it
The best way to avoid decision fatigue is by consciously and consistently directing your thoughts and actions
Focus on self-care
With any stress response when the human system becomes overly taxed, self-care is highly important so set aside time to rest especially in between tasks and try to get enough sleep at night and make sure that you are getting some nutrition from your food (both solids, liquids)
Have a list of high priority decision
Reducing needless decision making by jotting down your top priorities for the day and ensuring that you take care of these first, by doing this in this fashion your most important decision gets done when your mental energy is at its highest
Have a personal philosophy for the major decisions
The best question to go by when faced with a major decision is How much impact on my life will this decision have?
If the answer is that it will have a high impact then develop a philosophy of decision making that only allows you to make those decisions when you have to make them or when you feel refreshed even if it means that you will need to block out time each month to evaluate the pros and cons associated with major decisions.
Minimize lows stakes decisions
Reducing decision drain by planning ahead and taking the relatively minor decision out of the equation. For example: take lunch to work so you don’t have to decide where to go for lunch.
Maintain or keep an unchanging routine
Prepare your day in a way where you have to make the fewest decision possible. What this means is that you must have strict and clear rules about certain things such as:
- When you’ll go to sleep
- When you will go be doing grocery shopping
- And so on
Opt for healthier snack
Good nutrition can help conserve your energy and having a quick, glucose-rich snack improves self-control and keeps your blood sugar from dipping.
Allow others to help
Sharing your mental load of decision making can help prevent feelings of overwhelming. This is called delegation. Some examples of the delegation are:
- Asking for help when choosing a plumber
- Or even allowing your spouse to choose the dinner activities
Monitor your mental and physical state
Understand everyone gets overwhelmed with decisions at times so pay attention to your emotional state and physical state along with your response to the situations, for example:
- Are you making poor and bad choices because you feel overwhelmed
- Do you make a habit of snacking on Junk food to avoid making decisions about lunch
Celebrate good decisions
We make so many small decisions during the day without even realizing it. And that’s on top of all the big, noticeable ones. We should purposefully celebrate the work of making a well-informed or good decision. If you nailed it at your presentation or manage to fix a leaky sink
All in all
If you’re feeling irritable, overwhelmed, or without energy, you might be dealing with decision fatigue. Take a look at all the big and small decisions you make every day and think about how you can take them out of the equation. By changing your habits and setting up the right routines, you can decrease anxiety and conserve your energy for the decisions that really matter.