6 Steps to Combat Decision Fatigue

Decisions, decisions.

We make about 35,000 decisions every day, according to rough estimates. The vast majority of these are automatic/unbeknownst to us or moderate. We may make several moderate decisions in a day or week, depending on our jobs and lifestyles, and all of us are confronted with major decisions at various turning points of our lives. E.g., Auto-pilot decision: Brushing teeth. Even rising out of bed or breathing. Moderate decision: What to have for dinner tonight? Major decisions: Do I stay with this person or leave?

Decision fatigue is something that happens when we feel overwhelmed by our lives, because making good decisions relies on our level of emotional fitness. When we feel strong, confident, and in control of things, we feel calm, more relaxed, and able to make decisions (and accept the possibility of them not turning out the way we’d hoped). When we feel emotionally, physically tired, or unsupported by others, making even the tiniest of decisions can seem impossible, and totally immobilize us. It’s a form of anxiety. People with high anxiety are always second-guessing the smallest of decisions and can therefore never make one (or it takes them a very long time, lots of wasted energy).

More of us are now making big decisions than ever before because of the pandemic! So, what you keep in mind is this:

  1. Physical fatigue affects good decision-making as it undermines focus. Get good sleep! This is also your best defense against illness.  Besides if you are struggling with a difficult decision at night, rather than rushing to make it before turning in, you are better off sleeping on it and reconsider how you feel in the morning.
  2.  Make bigger decisions in the day during your “prime” (i.e., when you feel most alert/awake).
  3. Automate as much as possible (e.g., grocery lists that auto-populate everything you purchased the last time are really cool upside of tech). Really successful people have a capsule wardrobe they wear on repeat, so they can save all their brain energy for other things.
  4. Time spent on decisions should be in proportion to the impact on your life (e.g., choosing a flavour of ice cream, vs. time spent in choosing a partner).
  5.  Use a “consigliere” for big decisions – a trusted friend or even a professional, especially when it comes to challenging decisions, it helps when you are not alone.
  6.  And last but not the least PACE YOURSELF. When you make one decision after the other it’s easy to end up with cognitive fatigue. That’s why it’s important to rest and recover throughout the day so you are not mentally on all activities at all times.