decision fatigue

How to Handle Decision Fatigue

Do you ever feel overwhelmed by the number of decisions you have to make? I’m not talking just about major decisions – should I take the job offer? Can I build my own business? Is it time for me to ask for a raise?  We have major career and personal decisions to make from time to time–that’s life.

But what about smaller decisions? Things like, what time should I leave for that appointment? What outfit should I wear today? What are we having for dinner?

I was considering the idea of decision fatigue one day and headed out to the car. When I turned on the car, the radio came on, and a gentleman was speaking. “You have to stop letting everyone else make your decisions for you.”

Timely piece of advice there.

You see, I suffer from decision fatigue.  On a weekly basis, I have the privilege (and sometimes curse) of deciding what work I will do when, and where I will do it. Will I work in a co-work spot? Coffee shop? From my home office? Should I go to the gym today? Practice bowling? (I play in a league.)

These decisions may seem unimportant in light of major life decisions. And for many, you may envy the flexibility my season of life affords me. But to be honest, sometimes these decisions drain me. They require mental energy and accountability to myself, which can be tiring.

That is why we should be attentive to the number of decisions we have to routinely make.

Think of it this way. You can have a major leak in a pipe, or a number of smaller leaks in areas that may be losing connection. Either way, it’s still draining resources. You might be able to last longer with the smaller leaks, but they are still going to affect you.

It’s the same with small decisions. Any exercise of our decision making “muscles” will tire us. It’s not that we don’t use them, and with use, they become stronger. But if we have to make too many decisions at a time, we can suffer from decision fatigue.

To reduce decision fatigue, you can apply the following ideas:

  • Set up routines (i.e. morning and evening) that you repeat daily (being flexible when you need to.)
  • Understand your energy cycles, and make important decisions when you aren’t under stress or exhausted.
  • If you have flexibility as to where you work, pay attention to the environments that stimulate your productivity, and don’t feel like you have to try every new place that comes along. (Speaking to myself here!)  Choose to work regularly in the environments that inspire you most.
  • Ask questions before you make a commitment. Why do I want to take this class? Is now the best time? How many nights out a week energize me vs. exhaust me?
  • Whenever possible, reduce the daily decisions. For example, simplify your wardrobe to match your season of life.  I currently don’t need a lot of business office clothes, so I stick with lots of mix and match pieces that can be accessorized in different ways, can transition into business or active use, and used year-round with layering.  Another example is following a similar menu each week, varying the dishes, but keeping the types of dishes consistent (i.e. Taco Tuesdays or Fend For Yourself Fridays.)

We will always have decisions to make. But if you can streamline your decision-making processes, you might be able to reserve the energy and focus you’ll need for the larger decisions of life and work.

decision fatigue


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