Decision Fatigue: How Your Choices Are Affecting You
Have you ever started out your day with nothing but a list of tasks that need to get done at some point, but somehow as the clock ticks by you just can’t seem to find the motivation to finish that list? Well as you probably know, this could be from any number of common reasons such as, lack of sleep, poor diet, not enough exercise, but what if I told you that it just might be something different. Something that has been directly causing you to feel drained and get less work done, and it’s been happening for so long that you don’t even realize it is affecting you. I am speaking about something called Decision Fatigue.
What is Decision Fatigue?
Decision Fatigue is the psychological term describing one’s decision-making abilities being weakened throughout the day with every new choice made. So what exactly does all of this mean? It means every choice you make, from the time you wake up to the time you knock out in your favorite recliner with the hum of infomercials in the background, makes it harder for you to make the next choice. This can lead to unnecessary stress and poor decisions.
Now lets hold on here for a moment, because it’s easy to look at this and think “Oh, well I’ve had to make a couple big decisions at work today and that’s unavoidable, so this is useless knowledge.” You’d be right to some extent, those big unavoidable decisions are most likely large contributors to your Decision Fatigue, but this information can still be very useful. This is because big decisions are not the only ones that have this effect. In fact, it’s often the countless, less obvious, and less important decisions of the day that have the greatest effect. So that choice between Hazelnut and French Vanilla coffee in the morning, choosing what shirt to wear last-minute, whether to drive or walk to work today, where to go for lunch, these seemingly insignificant decisions start to add up. This is where things get interesting, because, honestly, who would have thought choosing coffee in the morning could prevent someone from picking the right stock to invest later in the day (just an example but you get the idea). This is something that could be hurting your performance in and outside of your career, so how can you fix it?
Identify, Simplify, and Delegate
There are many methods out there to help make your daily choices easier. This is the way I find most effective.
The first step to reducing Decision Fatigue is to find all the simple choices you make each day. Use the examples given in the last paragraph to get an idea of what to look for. Basically, find any choice that you normally overlook or don’t need to be making and take note of it. I mean actually take some time and write these down, it’ll make things easier. Once you’ve done this, move on to the next step.
Take a look at the tasks on the list you’ve written. Ask yourself, “How can I make this decision more easily next time?” The answer to this question depends on the person asking it. Sometimes the correct answer is to eliminate a useless task. For most choices, however, it is better to simplify them by taking out the decision-making process altogether. By this I mean, taking decisions and turning them into habits. For example, if you normally have to choose between coffee flavors, try sticking to one instead. If you don’t know where to get lunch, pick one good place and eat there regularly. Of course, for most people, this lack of variety can get old quickly. If you are one of these people, do not worry, there are ways to keep some organized variety. Instead of choosing one thing and sticking to it everyday, try making a schedule that alternates throughout the week. So instead of one coffee flavor everyday, you can keep both flavors but decide now to switch between them each morning. This allows you to keep some variety while benefiting from the schedule deciding for you.
So you’ve identified all the small decisions you make each day. You’ve successfully simplified most of them and turned them into habits. You should already notice a difference in your daily stress and fatigue, but you can do more. It’s likely that there are still decisions you can eliminate. Decisions that you might think require you to be the only one making them. These decisions could include looking through emails, deciding what calls to take, even buying clothes. These are all decisions that you can delegate to someone else. That’s right, I’m telling you to hire an assistant. If you value your time and ability to make decisions then it’s something to seriously consider. If you don’t work in an office or just don’t want to pay for a person to work for you full-time, there are other options. You could try a virtual assistant service, these are assistants you can hire online that do everything a normal assistant would. This is a cheaper option and growing in popularity. You can find out more on choosing a good virtual assistant service here. There are also some more pricey but convenient options to cut out shopping by subscribing to clothing and food delivery services such as Trunk Club and Fresh Direct. If none of these sound good to you, there’s always the option to ask your friends and family to help (at your own risk).
Making decisions gets harder throughout the day, so you should make the most of them. By learning to identify, simplify, and delegate you can reduce Decision Fatigue. Hopefully this article will help you to understand how the mind works a bit more and maybe take you one step closer to being stress free.
Written by Austin Corn