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.