It’s 4 p.m. You have an end-of-the-day deadline, five new items on your to-do list, and urgent emails to attend to; you can’t seem to make yourself focus. Gosh, you think, I need a quick energy fix. You were planning on an afternoon workout session, but that means getting into gym clothes and deciding what kind of exercise to do, and wouldn’t it just be easier to get a coffee and a brownie from Starbucks instead?
So, what is decision fatigue, and what impact does it have in and out of the workplace? In essence, decision fatigue is mental exhaustion resulting from the sheer number of decisions a person must make daily, leading to difficulty making—or making good—decisions. That may make sense if your decisions center on company strategy (what’s the best marketing plan for the new product?) or life-changing opportunities (should I take that new job?). The human brain, however, can get caught up in the same decision-making process around what to eat for lunch or wear to work.
Your manager has asked you to come up with a schedule for a project, and you need to make several decisions about whom to include, what steps are required, and what the end goal is. You find it impossible to get started on the project because there are too many decision points.
The emotional impact of decision fatigue can cause stress throughout a person’s life, not just at work. Too much ambiguity and too many choices, plus the additional pressure to make the right choice, can make it hard to make any decision at all, even about an activity that’s pleasurable—choosing a movie, for example, or a game to play for family game night.
- Put sleep on your side. “Sleep is tremendously important for willpower and decision-making,” Baumeister says. …
- Make some choices automatic. People make thousands of decisions each day, Schwartz says. …
- Enlist a choice adviser. …
- Give your expectations a reality check. …
- Pace yourself. …
- Tune into how you’re feeling.
How to Avoid Decision Fatigue
Why is it important to recognize decision fatigue?
Its important to recognize decision fatigue because recognizing and overcoming decision fatigue can help you avoid negative effects, including burnout symptoms. Overcoming decision fatigue can also help you conserve your energy, increase your productivity at work and feel less stressed.
What is decision fatigue?
Decision fatigue is an effect that occurs when a persons decision-making ability decreases after making several decisions. When a person experiences decision fatigue, they often feel a sense of mental exhaustion and stress, which can lead to burnout. You can recognize decision fatigue by watching for signs like procrastinating and avoiding making decisions.
10 ways to avoid decision fatigue
Although making decisions at work may be inevitable, you can take actions to help you overcome decision fatigue, such as:
1. Prioritize your decisions
One tip for avoiding decision fatigue is to prioritize your decisions. When you create your plan for the workday, try to pick out the most important things you need to accomplish. This can help you take care of important decisions early in the day, helping you to avoid decision fatigue.
2. Create a decision-making process
Creating a decision-making process can also help you avoid decision fatigue. A decision-making process is a streamlined set of steps that you can follow every time you have to make a decision. You can create a decision-making process by reflecting on your past decisions and cultivating a process that works for you. This can help you save time and energy when making decisions.
3. Plan ahead
Another essential tip for avoiding decision fatigue is to plan ahead, which can help you avoid having to make small decisions during the day. For example, try to plan what youll wear to work the night before. This can help you avoid having to make the decision in the morning, allowing you to conserve more energy to make important decisions at work.
4. Create routines
You can also establish routines to help you overcome decision fatigue. If you have a set routine for each day, it can help you make fewer decisions. For example, if you already know what time you go to bed, you dont have to decide your bedtime each day. Routines can help you avoid small decisions that can lead to decision fatigue.
5. Avoid unnecessary decisions
Another simple way to avoid decision fatigue is to avoid unnecessary decisions. You can do this by automating certain decisions at work or by having a process for making decisions that occur repeatedly. This can help you conserve your energy for more important decisions.
6. Take care of yourself
Taking care of yourself is also essential when dealing with decision fatigue. You can take care of yourself by managing your stress, taking breaks during the workday and developing healthy sleeping and eating habits.
7. Recognize your good decisions
Its also important to recognize your good decisions. When you make a good decision, try to take some time to reflect on the decision and reward yourself. This can help you stay motivated and avoid getting burnt out.
8. Create decision time limits
Creating decision time limits can be another effective way to avoid decision fatigue. By putting a time limit on making a decision, you dont spend too much time on making one decision. This can help you conserve time and energy for other tasks and decisions.
9. Commit to decisions
Another tip for avoiding decision fatigue is to commit to decisions youve already made. Once youve made a strong, well-informed decision, try to commit to it. This can help you save energy and move forward to other tasks.
10. Make big decisions when you have more energy
You can also try to make big decisions when you have more energy to help you avoid decision fatigue. This can mean avoiding making decisions when youre hungry or later in the day when youre tired. Instead, try to make important decisions when you have the most energy so you can make the best decision possible.
Examples of decision fatigue
Here are some real-world examples of decision fatigue and how to combat it:
Interviewing job candidates
Interviewing job candidates involves a sizable amount of decision-making, as you have to consider each candidate that you interview. By the end of a long day of interviewing, you might experience decision fatigue. In this situation, you could combat decision fatigue by taking breaks between interviews and using a streamlined interview process.
Planning your outfits for work
Deciding what to wear the morning before work can cause you to spend energy making decisions before the workday even starts. You could avoid decision fatigue in this situation by picking out your work clothes the night before work, instead of in the morning. This way, you can wake up with your outfit decision already made, allowing you to focus on more important work decisions.
Dealing with product issues
If your companys new software product is glitching and youre trying to fix it, you might make good decisions initially, but the quality of your decisions might decrease as you spend more and more time working on the problem. In this situation, you could overcome decision fatigue by taking breaks from work and practicing self-care.
Why do I have decision fatigue?
How do you deal with decision overload?
- Limit yourself to making no more than a few (three or four) big choices per day.
- Make most of your important decisions early in the day—when you’re relatively charged with mental energy—leaving lighter decisions for later in the day, and schedule important meetings in the morning.
How do you stop decision-making?