Every day, we have access to a wide variety of options that we can choose from. Even though this might seem appealing, having too many choices at once can have a detrimental effect on our ability to make decisions as well as our cognitive capabilities. The inability to concentrate effectively and a loss of energy as a result of having to make an excessive number of decisions are characteristics of decision exhaustion. What follows is a strategy that has proven successful for me in overcoming decision weariness.
- Reduce as much as possible the amount of choices that you have to make.
It might sound crazy, but there are a lot of things we can do to cut down on the number of judgments we have to make during the course of our workday.
Think about it: I’m willing to wager that you didn’t decide to brush your teeth first thing this morning. You just accomplished it (hopefully). It is possible to significantly reduce the effects of decision fatigue by bringing a similar degree of automaticity and ritual to other actions that you perform throughout your work day.
As an illustration, the following are some examples of things that I’ve found to be beneficial in terms of systematizing and automating in order to reduce the burden of decision making:
My routine in the morning, including what time to get up, what I have for breakfast, what I wear, and what time I depart for work. As far as commuting is concerned – which path to take, while riding the subway, and which audiobooks to listen to.
Organizing and prioritizing the tasks that need to be completed, as well as determining the best times to schedule appointments and create daily schedules.
When to take my break for lunch, where to dine, and what to order; e-mailing – when to check my emails, and how to efficiently sort and prioritize my emails in order to maximize my productivity.
Writing: how to organize an email or article; how much time to spend composing versus editing; and how much time to spend overall on the process.
You will be able to protect yourself from the negative impacts of decision fatigue to the extent that you are able to systematize and automate a greater portion of your day.
- Be mindful of your own well-being
It should come as no revelation that getting enough rest and maintaining a healthy diet are two of the most important factors in preventing decision fatigue. Let’s analyze these in greater detail.
The significance of getting enough rest each night – It’s common knowledge that getting enough slumber can do wonders for your performance, and the same can be said when it comes to warding off decision fatigue. In a study of critical care nurses, researchers identified a strong correlation between nurses experiencing decision regret, which is the feeling that they made the wrong clinical decision, and lower quality sleep. The study also found that nurses who felt decision regret were more likely to report poorer sleep quality.
It is absolutely necessary for you to get a sufficient amount of rest in order to reduce the negative effects of decision fatigue. What exactly does it mean to have a full night’s sleep? For me, the goal is to sleep for a total of seven and a half hours each night. Is that something that’s always possible? Of course not! However, if you are able to make sleep a priority and get as close to eight hours of sleep per day as is reasonably possible, your brain will be much better equipped to fight off decision fatigue.
And one more thing – if you’ve got to make a really essential decision, don’t be afraid to think about it the next day when you wake up! You would never make a significant choice without first exhausting every available option to guarantee that your choice will turn out to be the best option. Why, then, would you make a significant choice when you are worn out at the end of the day or after only a few hours of restful sleep? If you want to be sure you’re making the correct choice, waiting one more day is almost always the best course of action to take.
Consume food to keep your determination muscle energized – Researches discovered that, although prisoners had a tendency to fare much worse off later in the day, those seen immediately after the judges ate lunch proved to be the exception to the rule. It has been discovered that glucose can replenish the regions of the brain that are depleted as a result of the process of decision-making.
The lesson to take away from this is that you shouldn’t make judgments when you’re hungry, and you should make an effort to get something to eat at least once every few hours while you’re at work. Nevertheless, before you reach for the cookie container, let me remind you that high-glucose foods like sweets and candies will only confer a temporary spike in glucose. You’ll be much better off with low-glycemic effect foods, which release a steady stream of glucose that lasts for a longer period of time. These foods can be thought of as having a high protein content and a low carbohydrate content.
Personally, I like to combine this tip with the one above by ordering the same nutritious meal every day for lunch – chicken burrito bowl, no rice, extra guacamole. This has the dual effect of removing unnecessary decisions from my day and recharging my mind for the afternoon and evening ahead of me.
- Plan out your day so that you minimize the number of choices you have to make
You can improve the quality of the decisions you make by using the information you have, as well as by planning prior and writing down your thoughts. While at the same time preventing fatigue, this enables you to think more effectively and come to better conclusions.
In all likelihood, by the late afternoon or early evening of the same day, you will be experiencing some level of decision weariness, even if everything goes according to plan. Personally, I find that between the hours of five and five thirty my intellect begins to mush. As a result of this, I’ve found that I am able to perform at a level that is MUCH higher when I schedule the tasks that are the most challenging and high-impact on my day first thing in the morning rather than at the end of the day.
You can attempt this straightforward exercise to see how well it applies to your own work:
Make a list of the things that are most essential to you that you want to accomplish first thing in the morning and put them in order of priority. Put these things in order from most difficult to least difficult. Proceed with those tasks in the sequence listed above.
You’ll have finished your most difficult tasks by the late afternoon or early evening, when decision fatigue is at its peak, and you won’t lose any of your ability to complete the simpler, less important duties that you’ve put off until the end of the day. This is because you’ll have saved them earlier in the day.
There are client fire drills, project deadlines, and meetings that you can’t shift, all of which conspire to throw off this type of planning. I’ll be the first to admit that it’s not always practical to follow this to the letter. However, if you implement this strategy to the aspects of your work that are under your command, you will remain way ahead of the competition.
In conclusion, decision fatigue is still a subject that is up for discussion. Those who experience the impacts of decision fatigue may find that it becomes increasingly difficult to make the most appropriate selections as the day progresses. Many people report having experienced the effects of decision fatigue, despite the fact that further research is required to completely understand the phenomenon.
Changing the way you think about self-control can help you change the way you react to different kinds of decision making process and the fatigue it may cause.