Do you feel as if you are running short of the stamina and patience needed to make decisions? As if you cannot decide without any kind of tiredness creeping in? You might be suffering from a condition called decision fatigue – and it can be quite a difficult problem to overcome if you’re not sure how.
Luckily, you are not alone. Decision fatigue sets in quite regularly, especially if you are expected to make many decisions in one day. So, if you are struggling to make decisions or are growing increasingly dissatisfied with the decisions that you have made, it could simply just be that you are tired of having to make choices!
How does it affect me?
Decision fatigue is a term coined by renowned social psychologist Roy F. Baumeister, and (at its core) refers to the deteriorating quality of choices made due to the lack of mental and emotional energy. Our energy depletes as we take on our daily to-do list – processing and internalising information to make decisions. The more we need to process, the more tired we get – making it more and more difficult to make decisions. This causes our brains to eventually look for shortcuts, resulting in less than ideal decision-making.
We aren’t always consciously aware of the exact point when decision fatigue sets in. But, if you understand that this is a real condition and you can recognise the signs, then you can find a solution to the problem.
The why’s and how’s.
Decision fatigue is more serious than most would think. So much so, that many influential political and business figures have gone to great lengths to avoid it. Take Barack Obama, Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg for example. They save brain power by limiting their clothing options, opting rather for a ‘uniform’ than spending energy on deciding what to wear.
It is estimated that the average adult makes roughly 35 000 decisions in one day, with varying degrees of importance. How, if we are faced with so many decisions can we even attempt to avoid decision fatigue? By avoiding the temptation to make too many decisions.
What can I do?
Achieving this is easier than you think! We recommend that you:
- Prioritize your decisions. Make the most important decisions early in the day.
- Simplify your options. If it’s a low priority decision, try to refine your options as close to Yes or No as possible.
- Proper prior planning. Set time aside at the end of each day to plan and prepare for the following day. Pack your lunch, choose your outfit, finalise your to-do list for the next day, etc. Making these less energy-intensive decisions the day before, when your energy is already low, frees up your time to think about the bigger issues when you have the most energy.
- Whittle it down. If you have more than five options for any decision, whittle it down to three. If you have three, try whittling it down to two. In this way, you are reducing the energy needed to decide by dividing the process and information you need to internalize over a longer period. This allows for less energy needed at each step.
You can also have a look at our Problem Solving and Decision Making short course? This online course will teach you how to work quickly and efficiently through a systematic approach in order to make the best decisions and to solve problems effectively.
Decision fatigue does not have to get you down. Just keep the above in mind as you go about your day. Remember, we all have a finite amount of available energy. Do what you can to make sure that you use your energy wisely and effectively.