Experiencing Decision Fatigue?


Too Many Choices

Are you feeling overly stressed and irritable? Exhausted and overwhelmed?

Then you might be experiencing a condition known as decision fatigue. Coined by social psychologist Roy F. Baumeister, decision fatigue is the emotional and mental strain resulting from a burden of choices.

How true in this day and age – the age of technology. People switch between tasks (Google, browser tabs, email, IM, social media) hundreds of times per day. Not to mention the endless amount of other decisions made in a 24 hour period - from what to eat to more complex decisions (financial, physical, emotional, and work-related). Your ability to make the best choices can eventually run out due to decision fatigue. The result? A lack of energy and focus.

Decision fatigue equals poor decision-making. This type of fatigue leads to either risky decision-making or decision avoidance. Because your mental energy is running low, you will go for whatever is easiest. Researchers have found that prisoners are more likely to be granted parole if their case is heard earlier in the day (or right after a meal break). Exhausted, weary judges (who have spent an entire day making decisions) seem to be less likely to grant parole.


What Can We Do About Decision Fatigue?

Virtually everyone would agree that having choices is an essential part of life. However, having too many choices available can be a daunting prospect.

We can take a lesson from Barak Obama's presidential outfits. He claims to have worn identical colored suits every day to limit the number of decisions he has to make. Individuals describe a similar practice: select a work uniform that is essentially the same outfit worn to work daily. By not choosing what to wear, they avoid expending the mental energy that goes into picking out an outfit. While this might not appeal to everyone, the principle here is to limit how much of our day is spent making choices that aren’t personally important to us. Other suggestions for managing decision fatigue include making critical decisions earlier in the day (before fatigue sets in) and knowing when you might need to take a nap and revisit a problem with fresh eyes.

It’s also important to remember that it’s completely normal to feel depleted after working on an activity that requires lots of decisions—even if it’s an activity you like. When we face many important decisions in a short period, it can be imperative to practice self-care (activities that promote our mental and physical well-being).


Seeking Relief

If you need help to cope with decision fatigue, contact an Autonomy Mindset Coach. A coach will walk with you to simplify everyday decisions to alleviate stress and promote a sense of well-being.

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