May 2019 – Decision Fatigue

Decision fatigue refers to the deteriorating quality of decisions made by an individual after a long session of decision making or the cumulative toll of the daily decision making grind.  No matter how capable you may be, you can’t make decision after decision without paying a biological price. It’s different from ordinary physical fatigue — you’re not consciously aware of being tired — but you’re low on mental energy. The more choices you make throughout the day, the harder each one becomes for your brain, and eventually it looks for shortcuts, usually in one of two different ways. One is to become reckless: to act impulsively instead of expending the energy to first think through the consequences.  Another is to avoid any choice or to procrastinate making decisions. 

Reducing Decision Fatigue

Plan daily decisions the night before.
Typically, the decisions that drain us are the ones that we make over and over again. Wasting precious energy, these decisions — which could be automated or planned in advance — are one reason why many people feel so drained at the end of the day.  What am I going to wear to work? What should I eat for breakfast? Should I go to the store before or after work? And so on.
All of those examples above, can be decided in a few minutes the night before, which means you won’t be wasting your time and energy on those choices the next day. Taking time to plan, simplify, and design the repeated daily decisions will give you more mental space.

Do the most important thing first.
What’s the most important thing for you right now?  Is it getting in shape? Is it enjoying time with family? Is it developing a special skill or interest?
Whatever it is for you, put your best energy toward it. If you have to wake up 30 minutes earlier, then do that. Start your day by working on the most important thing in your life.

Go beyond making decisions. Start scheduling commitments.
Of course you need to decide to do the things that are important to you, but more than that you need to schedule them into your life.
Rather than hoping to make the right choices each day, it can be more fulfilling and more balancing to scheduling the things that are important to us.

If you want to make good decisions and optimize mental energy, nourish body and mind.
There is an energy crisis in Canada.  Simply being properly hydrated is key to personal resource management.

Find ways to simplify your life. If something isn’t important to you, eliminate it. Making decisions about unimportant things, even if you have the time to do so, isn’t a benign task. It’s pulling precious energy from the things that matter.

Ask for help.
Too often we believe that we are obligated to solve all of our problems and make decisions on our own. Some times this is true and a sign of being responsible. But there will be situations where asking for help, delegating to others and finding a good “co-pilot” makes much more sense and will give us more physical and energy “bandwidth” in our daily lives.

Rest and Play.
These two aspects of our life are critical in our efforts to balance the decision fatigue that is built into our lives. Making decisions and scheduling time for rest, play and intentional vacations brings us and gives us our energy back.

“It takes courage to say yes to rest and play, in a culture where exhaustion is a status symbol”
– Brené Brown