woman making decision fatigue

Automate Your Life and Reduce Decision Fatigue ?

Making decisions can be challenging on a good day. We make an average of 35,000 conscious decisions EVERY SINGLE DAY! Weighing up pros and cons, assessing the potential consequences of our decisions, whether good or bad, can be tough to navigate.

woman making decision popart

Some decisions are, of course, easier than others. We choose what to wear in the morning, choose what to eat for breakfast, or what to take for lunch. Other decisions can be tough. Should you accept that new job? Which school should you send your children to? Who will you spend the holidays with this year? Most days, it can be hard to decide what to eat for dinner.

When we make lots of decisions in a day, or over a short span of time, we can become overwhelmed and feel drained.

What is Decision Fatigue?

Decision fatigue is when a person’s ability to make decisions are impaired after they’ve made many decisions. When we make lots of decisions every day, or your decisions affect others, you may experience decision fatigue. It can also happen during a difficult season in your life or if you have perfectionist tendencies.

decision fatigue overwhelmed woman screaming

While it is not entirely clear or understood why we can become fatigued or experience brain fog after making many decisions, Dr. Roy F. Baumeister1 introduced the theory of ego depletion. This theory suggests that humans hold the power of independence and free will to make their decisions. But we can be challenged with choosing between what we want right now and what’s best in the long term.

For example, imagine you are still hungry after work, and you have the option of eating cookies or fruit. You know the fruit is typically the healthier choice. But you have a sweet craving. That sugar will satisfy your sweet tooth in the moment and give you that hit of dopamine. Weighing motivations and priorities can be a challenge.

The ego-depletion theory (similar to the cognitive load theory) suggests that when we go through these decisions, our energy is drained. When that energy depletes, our executive function – in the prefrontal cortex of the brain – is impacted. The theory concludes that our willpower and free will have limits.

So, what are the signs of decision fatigue?

  1. Decision Avoidance
    • Avoiding certain situations and people is a common consequence of decision fatigue!
  2. Brain Fog
    • You may notice you struggle to focus on tasks, both household and at work. Or your speech may come out wonky.
  3. Decision Paralysis
    • Sometimes, if we have too many options or too many decisions to make, our minds might freeze and struggle to weigh the pros and cons.
  4. Impulsivity
    • If you notice you’ve impulse bought something, or done something with little thought, you may be suffering from decision fatigue.
  5. Irritability
    • If you got snappy at your friend for asking where to go to lunch, it might be time to acknowledge that decision fatigue.

How can we prevent decision fatigue and have more control over our thought process and choices?

  1. ? Make big decisions in the morning
    • Research shows that the quality of our decision-making is better in the morning when we have more energy to weigh the options. Plan your most energy-intensive work for the time of day that you feel most energetic.
  2. ✋ Stop Second-Guessing Yourself
    • Don’t keep revisiting or worrying about a decision you have made. Trust your decision and move forward. This prevents you wasting a lot of energy and fretting over something that has already been decided.
  3. ?️ Plan Meals
    • Especially when you have a busy week ahead, create a menu for the following week (pre-made meals are fine). That way, you have delegated time to this task so you can conserve your energy and executive function when it comes to weeknight dinners and battles over what to eat and who makes it.
  4. ? Remove Distractions and Addictive Media
    • When we choose to scroll through Instagram or Facebook when we have other things to do, we can drain our willpower to complete important and enriching tasks. Reduce fatigue by eliminating distractions, notifications, and stop procrastinating. Completing that task you have been putting off is a way to save yourself the energy you are spending fretting over it.
  5. ?? Delegate Decisions to Others
    • Can your partner decide what the kids eat for lunch? Can your work colleague make that decision regarding the client or the project? Let go of that inner perfectionist voice and allow others to take the initiative with some tasks. Bask in the relaxation of not having to make the choice.
  6. ?‍♂️ Movement and Exercise
    • Ah, there’s that pesky advice. We all know that exercise is good for our minds. It can help us make better decisions, too. By releasing dopamine and serotonin through movement, you can release muscular tension and improve executive function.
  7. ??‍♀️ Self-care and downtime
    • Make sure you are looking after yourself and setting time to just be. Whether that is allowing yourself to read, paint, or simply lounge on the couch watching your comfort show. Allowing yourself and your mind to rest is vital for protecting yourself against brain fog and decision fatigue.
  8. ?️ Develop Daily Routines
    • When you create routines for yourself, you can help make less important tasks become automatic and complete them on “autopilot.” It is also a great way to reduce anxiety and preserve your energy for more important decision-making.
decision fatigue worsened by media and notifications

Conserve Your Energy

Decisions can be tough, and they can be never-ending. Learning how to manage our routines and choices is a great way to prevent ego depletion, and consequently, decision fatigue. Being mindful and aware of procrastination and decision paralysis can help you identify the root cause of your decision fatigue. You can automate some choices and change your mindset to improve your decision-making skills and stop hesitating and overthinking when you make a choice.

Resources

  1. Podcast with Roy F Baumeister: Willpower: Self-control, decision fatigue, and energy ↩︎
author avatar
Mandy Career Coach
Mandy Steinhardt, a Raleigh career and life coach, empowers women to break free from "good girl" syndrome and reclaim their power. Through one-on-one coaching and supportive women's circles, she helps them heal from past hurts, rediscover their strength and beauty, and create a life filled with purpose and balance. Whether you're feeling lost or uninspired, she's here to guide you to the career, pay and lifestyle that is perfect for you.

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