What Is Decision Fatigue and How Do You Fight It?

Posted on - in Culture & Communication

If you’ve ever been involved in a job where you have to make a lot of decisions, you know it can be tiring. Everything from the actual position you have to planning a wedding to having a baby to buying a house can be taxing, and it’s not just because it’s stressful. The more decisions you have to make, the more stressful something can be, and this eventually leads to decision fatigue.

Making some decisions is a good thing. It gives you an opportunity to feel like you’re in control and have a say in a situation. Decision fatigue doesn’t usually come from that kind of decision making. Instead, it tends to arise from a need to make decisions repetitively, even about minute details, and that constant strain affects your ability to make the right choices.

This is especially harmful when it comes to your job. A judge is an excellent example of someone who can suffer from decision fatigue and have that affect the lives of others. But no one is immune. A stay-at-home-mom is making decisions from dusk till bedtime and without a lunch break!

The Process

Making decisions is stressful, even when they don’t seem that important. In a lot of cases, you don’t notice the stress, but it starts to accumulate fairly quickly. If you take a break, you can usually recover and come back to make decent decisions. But the longer you go without a break, the longer you need to recover. If you’ve made decisions for the past four hours and taken a ten-minute lunch, you probably won’t have been able to reset your mentality.

The more stress you come under, the more difficult it becomes to make good decisions. This leads people to buy junk food at the grocery store after work, make bad deals late in the day, and skip the gym in the evenings. But there are plenty of things you can do to help yourself make better decisions.

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Take Breaks

One study focused on judge’s decisions and found that judges were more likely to grant appeals or shortened sentences early in the day or right after lunch. Another study found that getting up and walking around every twenty minutes is good for your health and can help you live longer.

The combined effect means there’s no downside to taking a break every so often. While it’s unlikely that your boss would be pleased with you taking a ten-minute break every 20 minutes, you can still do things that will help. Aim for a five-minute break every hour or so. It’s not perfect, and it won’t fix the issue on a stressful day, but it will help.

Make Big Decisions Early

Not everyone can take breaks every hour, or even depend on a lunch break throughout the day. It’s always best to make your most significant decisions early in the day. You won’t be worn out yet, and you’ll be able to make the best decisions possible. Plus, you can go throughout the day knowing you made the best decision you can, and that helps set the tone for everything else you do.

Limit Options

The fewer options you have, the fewer decisions you’ll have to make. Choosing between three options means you have to make two negative choices and one positive. Choosing between 10 things means nine negatives and one positive. The fewer options you have, the less likely you are to get flustered. Keep it simple, avoid frustration, and allow yourself to make good choices.

Plan Ahead

Limiting the number of decisions you have to make in the evening means you have fewer chances to make poor choices when you’re the most vulnerable. A lot of this comes down to personal decisions after work, like what to make for dinner or what, what to buy at the store, or if you should go to the gym.

A meal plan means you don’t have to make a decision that night because you already made it when you could make a good, healthy option. If you’ve already got someone waiting for you at the gym, there’s no decision to make since you’re already committed.

Plus, if you’ve packed your stuff up and have it all waiting for you in the car, you don’t have to think about it. And shopping so that you won’t have to make an emergency run for sugar during the week means no more splurges at the store!

Being fatigued is something to watch out for, but no one can avoid it. The key is to learn to recognize it and take steps to avoid it. Doing that, you can make the best decisions possible and avoid “buyer’s regret.”

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Kayla Matthews writes Productivity Theory and is constantly seeking to provide new tips and hacks to keep you motivated and inspired! You can also find her on Huffington Post and Tiny Buddha, and follow her on Google+ and Twitter to stay up to date on her latest productivity posts!

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