From waking up in the morning to the time we wrap up chores and hit the sack, our lives are all about decisions. There are day-to-day decisions like what to wear and what to eat? And fun fact, you make most of your daily decisions subconsciously!
But, as the day drags on, you start to feel more exhausted with each passing decision you have to make. This exhaustion is known as decision fatigue. But what is it? This blog will explain what decision fatigue is and how you can overcome it.
What is Decision Fatigue?
Social psychologist Roy F. Baumeister coined the term decision fatigue. He says that people experience decision fatigue after a prolonged decision-making session. While most people don’t realize it, even micro-decisions can put a lot of stress on the mind and drain our energies. So, you can imagine what business leaders, who have to make extensive decisions every day, go through. A day full of decision-making would take a toll on their logical and critical thinking, willpower, and self-control.
The brain is so exhausted in this state that it lacks emotional intelligence, and a low ability to access risks or produce innovative solutions. When experiencing decision fatigue, the brain loses the ability to make more decisions. And if it has to make decisions, they’re a lower quality.
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Overcoming Decision Fatigue
Here are a few tips that could help you overcome decision fatigue and making more productive decisions.
1. Plan your schedule and reserve your mornings for big decisions
Your ability to make demanding decisions starts depleting with time. In the morning, your energies are high, and your mind is free of stress. So, mornings are an ideal time to make important decisions. For this, you will have to plan your schedule in a way that you reserve the first half of the day for decision-making.
2. Minimize decision making
Did you know Mark Zuckerberg or Barack Obama set a day-to-day routine to minimize decision-making for tasks that don’t need a lot of attention? Rather, they reserve all their attention for critical business decisions. Setting up a similar routine for minimal tasks such as what to eat or what to wear will help focus all your energies and willpower on major decision-making.
3. Take time off
Have you ever noticed that most people get the best ideas in the shower or when they are doing something they like and enjoy? That is because their prefrontal cortex—which is the part of the brain that is responsible for logical thinking—is relaxed. The prefrontal cortex is responsible for applying logic and willpower without being impulsive when making decisions. So, when this part of the brain is free, it’s possible to make better decisions. At the same time, if you’re suffering from decision fatigue, taking time off can be a solution to overcome it.
4. Make sure to set deadlines
There are a lot of people who get motivated to complete a task as they near deadlines. Deadlines = motivation to be more productive! The same applies to decision-making. When you set a deadline to make a decision, you will be more motivated and focused on fulfilling it. Additionally, having deadlines will result in the brain being more innovative. However, your deadlines must be practical.
5. Eat healthily
Make sure that you eat healthily! This may seem like a generic tip, but healthy food, especially the food you snack on, can positively impact the brain. Researchers have found that the stomach, when hungry, releases the hormone ghrelin. The hormone decreases impulse control. When you have to make decisions in such a state, they tend to be more impulsive. On the other hand, eating healthy gives you a wave of energy to help your brain be more logical and productive.
6. Batch your work
Batching your work can also help you be more productive. By batching work based on its nature or priority, you will not have to decide on what tasks to do now and what to do later. This brings consistency to work, and it frees your mind off menial tasks, which lead to decision fatigue.
By batching your work, you will have a better routine dedicated to any critical decisions that need your focus.
7. Cut down on options
Do you get confused when offered too many options? You’re not the only one. There are scores of people who find it extremely difficult to make decisions when faced with too many options. This causes delays in decision-making and leads to decision fatigue. One way to overcome this is to limit the number of options.
8. Stop rehashing your decisions
Being a leader, you have a lot of responsibility when making decisions. There are several factors that you have to take into consideration. But once the decision is made, you may feel tempted to go back and reconsider it. But we advise you to stick with it. There’s no such thing as the perfect decision and most of the time, your first mind is typically your best one.
9. Follow a decision-making process
Another way to avoid decision fatigue is to have a decision-making process in place.
A ‘decision matrix’ is one of the most popular decision-making tools. Using a decision matrix, you will be able to analyze the choices you have against distinct factors and considerations. Thus, it eliminates any confusion and also helps make faster decisions.19
You may not be able to avoid decision-making, but decision fatigue is avoidable! Know what decision fatigue is and once you find it setting in, try the above tips to handle it. Have more tips? Share them with us!
Anshi has over 12 years of experience in demand generation, digital marketing, and managing global teams. In her prior role as head of marketing operations for a high growth US healthcare tech organization she transformed marketing from cost to revenue center.
Published April 13, 2022, Updated October 10, 2022