We make close to 35,000 decisions every day. You read that right–35,000! It’s no wonder that some days we feel like we can’t bear to make another decision, big or small. From what to wear to work, what to cook for dinner–and every decision in between–our day is filled with decision making. That’s why it’s easy to get to a point in our day where we start making decisions that aren’t so great for us, or we avoid making decisions altogether. Decision fatigue is exacerbated when you have to make important decisions that impact other people, like your team at work.
If this sounds familiar, don’t fret. Here are five tips for conquering decision fatigue.
Make important decisions when your energy is at its highest
Choosing a handyperson to perform work on your home is a big decision. Depending on the work, you may want someone who’s experienced and reliable and is insured. You may want to read reviews or check references to make sure you’re getting the most qualified person for the job. Because it’s an important decision, you likely wouldn’t want to make a choice when you’re already experiencing decision fatigue. Or if you have a high visibility project at work and you have to decide which of your employees to give the project to, you want to make sure you’re thinking clearly about all of the consequences. If you have important decisions to make, try to make them during the point in the day when your energy levels are highest. That way you can approach important decisions with the forethought and clarity they need.
Make it easy/convenient to make good choices
Whether it’s choosing the fruit instead of a donut or getting in your 30 minutes of exercise daily, it’s much easier to make good choices for yourself when you make it convenient for yourself. If you start to get hungry at your desk every afternoon around three, then keep a stash of healthy snacks in your desk drawer. When decision fatigue has already set in and you have to figure out what to eat, you’re likely to go for what’s easiest, not what’s best.
A different example is your morning workout. If you already know what you’re going to wear and have made that decision ahead of time, you won’t have to make the decision when you’re groggy and looking for an excuse to stay in bed. Make it easy to make good choices and, when possible, make the choice ahead of time when you’re thinking clearly.
Batch process everyday activities
Batch processing everyday activities like picking out your clothes or making your lunch can help reduce the number of decisions you have to make. You won’t have to make a daily decision about what to eat for lunch or what to wear to work if you decide for the whole week by picking out your outfits ahead of time or meal prepping your lunches. Sure, you could decide what you’re going to eat for lunch in the middle of the day and be just fine. However, it’s the thousands of little decisions that add up, leaving you feeling exhausted. Another example of batch processing would be scheduling all of your appointments at the same time or running all of your errands at once.
When you aren’t well-rested you’ll find it harder to think clearly and make good decisions. Ensuring that you get proper rest will enable you to make better decisions for a longer period of time each day. Studies have shown that when it comes to making split-second decisions you make more accurate ones on a full night’s sleep. You’re also able to make faster decisions. If you work in an environment when you have to make important split-second decisions, then getting proper rest is critical for your success.
Defer to later
If you’re experiencing decision fatigue, try to defer major or consequential decisions until later, when you have a clearer head and more energy. Saying yes or making commitments when you’re not thinking straight can only complicate things later. For example, if you’re constantly saying yes to obligations when you’re tired and not thinking clearly, you may later feel overwhelmed by a packed schedule. Don’t be afraid to make “let me think about it” become your default answer when you’re not at your best.
Decision fatigue can seem like a small thing, but constant decision fatigue can be a sign of burnout. When your days are long and filled with lots of big decisions, it can be a good idea to apply some strategy to your decision making. Applying these tips can help keep you on track with your goals while accepting that we’re not at our best all the time.