Every day we are forced to make hundreds of decisions from food, to clothes, how to balance our time and workplace negotiations. It often seems like we have to spend so much time deciding what to do… that nothing gets done! After a day of making countless choices, we can be left suffering from the 21st-century dilemma of ‘Decision Fatigue’. The accumulative draining effect that making decisions has on us can have detrimental effects on many areas, including the workplace.
Here we will discuss what we need to understand about ourselves when we experience decision fatigue, and what strategies we can implement to stay fresh.
Why decision fatigue can be detrimental
When we make too many decisions, we are left taxed from the mental effort, or frustrated by any negative outcomes. The resulting fatigue can lead to two dangerous decision-making habits:
1. Poor judgement
When we are tired our judgment is decreased, leading to bad decision making which can affect many areas. For example, you could rush an important proposal, let your team down with slow responses, make a poor investment choice, or choose an unhealthy option for dinner.
2. Accepting the status quo
Another danger of decision fatigue is that you shut down altogether. Although it can be wise to hold off on a decision that doesn’t have to be made immediately, accepting things as they are can prove to be costly later. You must create enough time for yourself to make the important decisions needed in the day to support your personal, work or study life.
Five strategies to fight decision fatigue
Finding the right clothes every morning can be taxing, especially when you have to account for varying occasions. To minimise decisions, it is common knowledge that Steve Jobs wore the same outfit to work every day – a dark sweater and jeans. It was an easy way to minimise the decisions he made during the day. Taking the time on a Sunday night to plan what you will wear for the week, will have you waking up with the confidence that your first decision is handled.
Arguably a stressful and time-consuming task we face each day is deciding on what we are going to eat. The solution lies in taking the time to make a meal plan on Saturday, then shop and prepare on Sunday, ensuring you maintain a nutritious diet throughout a busy week. Using pre-saved online shopping lists is another easy decision-making tip. Upsizing your dinner meals works great for taking lunch to work the next day. Mastering this step takes dedication, but if you stick to it, you will reap the rewards in the long run.
Prioritise and delegate
Making decisions is easiest when you are most alert. If you know you have a big day of decision making ahead, confront your larger tasks first. As the day goes on and you inevitably feel decision fatigue taking over, plan for the decisions you are making to become smaller. Ask yourself these questions to navigate what decisions need making now and what can wait for later:
- Do I have everything I need to make this decision? If not, what is missing?
- What are the consequences if I delay this decision? Give yourself permission to sleep on it.
- Do I have to be the one to make this decision? If not, delegate.
Leave earlier to beat traffic and use the time before work
Sometimes the best way to get yourself to do something is to leave yourself no choice. If you are struggling to find the time to balance your work-life with study or a personal project, then a change to your routine will help you find the extra time you need. Set your alarm an hour earlier to avoid peak hour delays and create extra time for your personnel endeavours like study or exercise before work. You’ll find that this is an effective time management plan as it takes you away from any distractions that you would encounter at home.
15 minutes mindfulness
Having a pause in the middle of your day to be mindful can allow all the decisions that you are juggling a chance to fall into their correct slots. Break your mindfulness time into two parts:
Whether the decisions you’ve made throughout the day seemed good or bad at the time, your opinion may change when you make time to reflect. Allow yourself to relax and pay attention to how you feel about the decisions you’ve made throughout the day. Understand why you made that decision at the time and take note of what improvements may be necessary for the future. When reviewing, it’s important not to judge yourself harshly – the goal of this is activity is mindful corrections for future success.
Once you have reviewed your decisions, it’s time to let go and allow yourself to focus on what’s ahead. While it can seem wasteful to stop for fifteen minutes, many agree that the best way to continue with your day is to recharge with a guided visualisation or calm breathing. If you want to do a guided session, then look for body scans, grounding or breathing exercises that allow you to release tension. (There are many apps you can use, or you can complete a search on Spotify.) You might find it can be useful to keep a journal nearby to jot down your clear thoughts at the end of your session.
Overcoming stress created by decision fatigue is no small task, but with practice it can be done. These techniques require initiative but are realistic, habitual ways for you to make better decisions about things that matter. If making changes seems overwhelming, try implementing one technique at a time, slowly working towards a more efficient and less fatigued you.