It can sometimes feel overwhelming to navigate the many decisions we are confronted with everyday. Here are tips to help you overcome decision fatigue.
Have you ever come home from a hectic day of planning and decision-making at work, secretly wishing you could just go to bed without having to face one more decision? If so, you’re not alone. Decision fatigue is a feeling that most of us frequently experience, even though we might not be familiar with the term. In this article, we’ll discuss what decision fatigue is, how it impacts productivity, and practical ways to overcome it.
What is Decision Fatigue?
Decision fatigue, also known as a choice overload, is a phrase coined by researcher Roy F. Baumeister to explain the mental exhaustion that many individuals experience when faced with making too many decisions in a fixed period of time. These decisions may be small or large, and can range from deciding what to wear to hiring new employees. In most cases, it is the action of decision-making that causes us to feel fatigued, not the weight of the decision itself.
Understandably, this type of fatigue hasn’t been made any easier by the current pandemic. COVID-19 has pushed people to make more decisions than ever before—with some decisions pushing individuals to their mental and physical limits.
How it Can Affect You
When decision fatigue is in effect, we enter a state of a low willpower, where we are more likely to make irrational choices that are not in our best interests. Decision fatigue also severely impacts productivity, since it can cause individuals to avoid work that involves problem-solving and complex thinking. Moreover, when we’re fatigued, we tend to make more mistakes and might even have to repeat the same task multiple times.
Decision fatigue may be difficult to recognize, especially in people who are usually calm and collected. It can make you experience emotions you don’t usually feel, as well as making you short and agitated. Worst of all, it can cause you to rush a decision that requires more time and attention than you’re capable of giving in that moment. This can lead to experiencing a low mood, which can negatively impact your overall wellbeing.
When you are fatigued, it can cause you to make poor decisions as an entrepreneur or in the workplace. According to Healthline, decision fatigue is a common issue for HR professionals who might overlook strong candidates towards the end of a busy and perhaps stressful day of interviewing.
However, decision fatigue doesn’t just apply to business. It can affect choices such as where to go for dinner, where to go on holiday, and what to do first when you wake up. These decisions can lead to fatigue if you find yourself having to make one decision after another during a busy period of your life.
Decision fatigue can feel similar to stress. You may experience symptoms such as brain fog and inability to comprehend a decision, never mind make one. It’s important to notice these symptoms as early as possible, so you can take steps to overcome them.
How to Overcome Decision Fatigue
When you find yourself becoming overwhelmed, stop and take a deep breath. According to Stress.org, deep breathing increases the supply of oxygen to your brain and nervous system, which promotes a state of calmness over your body. This reduces the pressure you feel and provides you with an opportunity to collect your thoughts before making a decision.
Make Decisions in the Morning
If you’re in a high-pressure job, making weighty decisions in the morning may be the answer to your fatigue. One study found that whether you’re a morning person or not, the most accurate decision-making usually happens on the early side of the day between 8 a.m. and 1 p.m. At that time, people tend to make more conscientious choices – but as the day wears on and decision fatigue sets in – they start making riskier decisions.
With this in mind, you could consider moving more critical meetings to the morning. This way, you can lock in big decisions when your willpower is high. You could also make it a habit to reply to requests the following morning, rather than later on the same day, when you might be fatigued.
Share the Decision-Making Load
Have you ever thought of delegating decisions in the same way that you might delegate tasks to others? This could involve asking a friend or co-worker for ideas for an upcoming project or event. Collaborative decision-making often leads to better decisions, while reducing the cognitive load on any one individual.
Also, let’s face it, some jobs require more decision-making than others. With this in mind, you could consider switching to a less stressful job that allows you to focus on simple tasks while other individuals or departments handle projects that require more complex decisions. Such a change can greatly reduce the pressure you experience at work every day.
Online distractions can be particularly disruptive to decision-making, causing you to lose focus and procrastinate. While it may seem a good idea to take a break and de-stress, you could quickly lose track of time. The FocusMe app can help you remove these distractions, by blocking or limiting your use of time-sucking websites and apps. As you become less impulsive and more resistant to distraction, you improve your ability to make better decisions and achieve the things that matter most in your life.
Make a Schedule
Planning for the next day can help you gain greater control over the decisions that need to be made. If you’re currently feeling the pressures of decision fatigue, remove the things from your life that are less important. Highlight and prioritize the most important things, so you can stay focused as you progress through the day. Creating a to-do list can help you arrange your decisions through sequenced tasks, allowing you to handle the most essential items first. Working through your to-do list can take the weight of your shoulders and remind you that it’s okay to take things one step at a time.
Simplify Your Options
Sometimes, our decision fatigue is aggravated by our desire to “shop around” and get the best deal. However, having too many many options will often leave you more stressed and confused. So whenever you have to make a significant decision involving multiple possibilities, try to reduce the pool of options before you even begin deciding.
Also, taking a speed reading course can help you sort through material faster and focus on the key takeaways. When you learn to process information quickly, you’ll be able to narrow your options and make informed decisions without feeling overwhelmed.
Allow Yourself to Change Your Mind
The decision you made today may not be the same decision you made the day before, and that’s okay. Give yourself room to be inconsistent. Sometimes additional information can come into the mix, changing the way you see things. You can reduce your decision fatigue by adopting a flexible approach. Be willing to recalibrate and adjust previous decisions when necessary, rather than trying to achieve perfection on the first go.
If you sense that you’ve been experiencing decision fatigue, now is a good time to take action. By implementing the steps above, you can create a system that allows you to spend more time on the things you love, rather than feeling burdened at the thought of making the next decision. As you learn to effectively manage the decisions you are presented with on a daily basis, you’ll improve your productivity and likely experience a greater sense of fulfillment as you work.
About the Author
Roli Edema is an entrepreneur and personal development author. She is passionate about continuous learning, psychology, and practicing the 80/20 principle to see greater results in life. Through her work, Roli provides individuals with useful tools to enable them to reach their personal, career, and business goals.