Decision Fatigue

Decision Fatigue - Samantha Leith

In this busy and dynamic world we all live in, constant decision-making is an every day occurrence. Whether it’s the type of milk we want in our coffee, or if there’s time to catch up with our friend on the weekend to whether we can make that work deadline; decisions in this life are endless.

SO WHAT IS DECISION FATIGUE AND WHY DOES IT OCCUR?

Decision fatigue is defined as:

‘The deteriorating quality of decisions made by an individual after a long session of decision making.’

It’s essentially when you can’t make up your mind about something and there are many reasons why it may occur. As mentioned above, sometimes it can just be that we’ve made so many decisions throughout the day that we find it hard to make anymore.

Decision fatigue can have to do with ego, willpower, being too tired or having undertaken too many task switches throughout the day. You may have worked too long, your willpower is drained and so you’re finding decisions hard.

HOW DO I COMBAT DECISION FATIGUE?

There are many ways to combat decision fatigue. Many of these strategies revolve around creating space and ease in your day so you can focus on the important decisions rather than using up your energy on smaller decisions.

The important thing to remember is that not every strategy will work for you, so pick and choose the ones that resonate with you and will work in your life.

Simplify your life

There are some really incredibly successful people who swear by doing, wearing or eating the same things every single day. Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg famously have their own unofficial uniform. Just one less decision they have to make every single day. For me, choosing what to wear is something I like to do, so this doesn’t work for me, but others may have a self-made work uniform and then express their creativity on the weekends with their wardrobe when they’re not focused on work.

For others, food is the way to simplifying life and reducing decisions. They may have the exact same thing for breakfast every day or utilize food prep on the weekends so there are fewer decisions to be made around food during the work week.

Plan decision making for non-peak time

When are you at your best? For me it’s the morning, so if I can make my big decisions earlier in the day, then I’ll be more confident and feel I’ve made better choices. So if you know you have some important meetings or planning to do, ensure it’s scheduled for when you are at your best.

Similarly, Sunday afternoons or evenings are a great time to be planning out your week. You’ve had some rest and space after the weekend and are able to make big decisions about the week ahead.

Minimize and stick to your to-do lists

To-do lists are an amazing way to reduce decision-making. Having to-do lists theoretically means there’s no “what do I need to do next”. That being said, if you don’t follow your to-do list and allow yourself to get sidetracked or are constantly switching tasks, it will drain your willpower.

You should also limit your to-do list to five tasks. Too many tasks will be overwhelming. Five it a great number because it’s achievable and once you’ve completed your five tasks, you can refocus and write a new list.

Schedule your life and implement routines

Schedules can make an enormous difference in reducing decision fatigue. If you have a schedule, then you won’t always be wondering when you should go and get something done. If you love getting your nails done, get them done on the same day of the week, at the same time. It will become a routine in no time and you won’t think twice about it because you’ll be on autopilot. Just like that, one less decision.

Imagine if you get up at the same time every day, have the same thing for breakfast, going to the gym and then hopping in the car at the same time to head to work. That’s your morning routine. It stays the same and you never have to make any decisions around any of those four activities. That may sound boring, but it will actually leave you space to concentrate on more fun and interesting decisions in your life.

Delegate where you can

Delegate, delegate, delegate! If you have a PA or a VA, kids or a partner, then delegate whatever you can. If someone else can make a decision for you then hand it over. Delegation will empower your employees, teach your kids responsibility and share the load with your partner as well as shifting some of the weight from your shoulders.

Let go of perfection and trust your gut

If you’re trying to make the perfect decision, chances are that it’s not going to happen. You’ve got to make the best decision for you, or the person you’re making the decision for, at that particular time. Let go of the idea of perfection because it will make the decision and your life easier.

In a similar vein, trust your gut. Your gut is going to know and while it might not be perfect, it’s probably going to be your best option. If you’re feeling it in your belly or your heart, then it’s likely to be a pretty good choice.

Limit your options and set deadlines on your decisions

Similar to your to-do lists, limit your options with decisions to about five choices. This will make your decision making much easier. If you’re renovating your bathroom and have found four tiles you really like, you don’t have to go looking for more just to complicate your decision. You can if you have the space for it, but if you’re already feeling overwhelmed, limit your options.

Setting deadlines for your decisions will stop them from weighing on you and draining your willpower and energy. Have you ever had a major decision on your mind for weeks? That’s draining you, so set yourself a deadline and when it comes around, make your best decision in that moment for you and then let it go.

Remember, being wishy-washy will make your life harder. Being decisive will help you in the long run, so set deadlines and be strong in whatever choice you need to make.

WHAT IF I’M STILL EXPERIENCING DECISION FATIGUE?

Even with all of the above, decision fatigue can still happen. If you’re still having trouble making decisions then check in with yourself and see if there’s something that could be affecting your decision making ability. Are you hungry, tired, grumpy, bored or chasing perfection? If any of these things are getting in your way, take care of them and then come back to your decision.

You should also book in downtime because we all get fatigued and not just with decisions. So take a weekend off, an afternoon off and have a rest, a spa, or just chill out with a movie. Whatever it may be, just let your brain go and be kind to yourself.

Finally, beware late night decisions. While some people are at their best at night, many of us have busy lives and are fatigued after hours. Know yourself and consider how well you function at night. You can always sleep on a late night decision without acting on it and set yourself a deadline of the next morning to make your final choice.

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A Time For Boredom

A Time For Boredom - Samantha Leith

We live in a busy world.

We’re surrounded by technology; podcasts, phones, iPads, endless entertainment options, and then there’s our calendars, which are full of kids sport, social events, work meetings and family commitments.

So often we’re scheduled within an inch of our lives and many of us begin to feel that if we’re not multitasking, we’re not operating at the level we should be. Not getting enough done and therefore not achieving.

We’re listening to podcasts while we’re cooking dinner, trying to learn French while we garden or trying to speed-read articles while we’re already in a meeting.

The trouble is that without giving ourselves some quiet time, we’re not giving our brains the space we need for creativity and restoration. In fact, downtime, including sleep and meditation, is shown to improve neuroplasticity, which is the secret sauce to both creativity and preventing brain degeneration.

ARE WE SCARED OF JUST BEING?

When I was a kid and complained of being bored my mother used to say, “only boring people get bored”. While I don’t think that’s true, I also think there’s a difference between being bored and being okay with doing nothing.

Just sitting and doing nothing freaks a lot of us out because you just end up sitting in your thoughts. Heaven forbid we might do some self-contemplation, fall asleep or just do nothing.

We also have a million different things demanding our attention at any one time. There’s a membership to something, a podcast, notifications on our phone and something on TV when we’re tired and should probably just go to bed. There’s always something waiting to absorb our awareness.

The end result? Our minds end up unfocused and scattered and we can’t relax. How can we when we’re feeling pressure to do more, while simultaneously having our attention being pulled in multiple directions.

A TIME FOR NOTHING

Many of us, when we do have the space to relax feel an urge to fill that space and we often fill it with stuff that doesn’t need to be done. We don’t really want to watch that movie or do that task, but we feel we have to do it. Or we’re self conscious in doing nothing, so we do something, anything.

When was the last time you just sat quietly with the sun on your face? Or looked at the ocean without a device, music or a friend? When did you last stay in bed without reading or scrolling, hopped in a bath without shaving your legs or watching a show? When was the last time you allowed yourself to do absolutely nothing?

I bet it was a long time ago.

Well, that time is coming around again, because I am going to challenge you to do a little bit of nothing right now. To have a bath without distraction, sit in the sun, by the ocean, or even just to walk the dog without headphones. It’s time to gift yourself with the quiet of nothing.

Giving yourself the time for nothing will create a space that will help your creativity, give you more energy, aid in self-reflection and self-improvement. You will have time to work through your problems and will feel more grateful for the good in your life. You may also come up with some ways to get rid of the crap in your life too. You will come out of it calmer, happier and maybe with creative inspiration.

It will take practice, but with practice we can all just be. And in the stillness of being, we can regain our spark and make our own world just a little better.

It will take practice, but with practice we can all just be. And in the stillness of being, we can regain our spark and make our own world just a little better.

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