Decision fatigue: what it is and how to prevent it
We are forced to make decisions daily, ranging from what we will consume for breakfast to issues of a more global nature. And while there are typically no issues with making straightforward choices, it can be significantly more challenging to make selections that have a worldwide impact.
Any person, at some point, will reach a point when they are sick of making decisions and will either push things off until a later time or refuse to choose anything. This problem of sufficient gravity can’t be disregarded any longer. In this article, we will discuss the unfavorable phenomenon we will be addressing and offer some solutions to the problem.
What is decision fatigue?
We all feel decision fatigue, sometimes without even realizing it. Whether you feel energetic and determined or apathetic, making decisions can be equally difficult depending on your subconscious psychological state, mental or physical exhaustion, and other factors. Don’t forget that the brain is also a kind of muscle that begins to tire by performing monotonous actions and experiencing stress.
In making decisions, the brain begins to resist them, demanding rest. Worse for it is decisions that do not differ but are quite difficult choices in terms of attitudes.
In 2012, for example, researchers at Columbia University studied more than 1,000 court decisions made by Parole Commission judges over a 10-month period, whose job is to determine whether or not to release an offender early. The researchers found that while the circumstances of the case took precedence in the decision, the mental state of the judges had a significant impact on the verdict. They determined that the odds of a favorable decision declined as the day progressed.
A comparison of cases showed that fatigue, hunger, and other factors greatly influenced the judge’s decision. At the beginning of the day, the probability of a favorable decision was about 65%, but then fatigue from making a decision decreased greatly until it was reduced to zero. However, after the lunch break and mental rest, this value rose to 65% and decreased again. The severity of the crime did not play a large role, and someone who had received a sentence for a more serious offense had a better chance of being released than someone who had done much less harm to society but who was in court closer to lunchtime or in the evening.
This example shows that decision fatigue is not far-fetched but a real problem that arises from various factors. The excessive number of decisions, their complexity, mental, emotional, non-involvement, and other issues all affect how enthusiastically you choose your options.
How to prevent decision fatigue
Decision fatigue requires a certain approach. If you don’t blow off steam, after a while, depending on the strength of your psyche, you may come to a point where you give up choices entirely in favor of procrastination. To prevent this from happening, follow the advice below.
1. Learn to prioritize
The problem with decision-making is that people often don’t pick priorities and just do them as they go. This is wrong, especially if your work or personal life is busy and there are a lot of difficult decisions to make every day. Such a workload without sequencing will quickly become unbearable.
So make lists of decisions and make the ones that need to be done as early as possible first. By visualizing the decisions, you can eliminate the feeling of chaos, reducing the mental load at least a little bit. In addition, you will be able to understand which decisions can be abandoned altogether without harming yourself or others.
2. Automate Decisions
As we already mentioned, many decisions quickly tire you out, even if they are minor and do not require a high mental load from you. Decision fatigue then occurs at nothing, and no energy is left for more serious choices.
How often do we have thoughts about choices like “what should I eat for breakfast today” or “what time should I wake up tomorrow? These minor decisions, seemingly trivial tasks, still demand attention and tire you out.
You need to understand one simple thought: you don’t have to make decisions all the time. Breakfast is just breakfast, and you can wake up simultaneously, especially since doctors advise. Once you stop wasting time on minor decisions, you’ll feel your energy freed up for the really important tasks. But how do you know when it’s okay to give up on decisions at some points? It’s simple: if a task has little effect on you and no negative consequences if you make the wrong choice, then it’s not worth the attention.
3. Limit your decision-making time and use efficient time
Studies show that people are productive for the first 3 hours of the day. So, above all, use this time for the most difficult decisions. If you continue to spend those hours thinking about what to eat or what to wear, you will not only mindlessly waste efficient hours but also quickly become tired so that you have no energy left to make important decisions.
In addition, limit the amount of time you have to choose. This may cause even more tension at first, but by setting a time limit for each task, you’ll keep them under more control than when you don’t know the limits.
4. Ask for help
Many people try to make decisions on their own, even if they affect others. This doesn’t seem right, and sometimes you not only can but need to ask for help from those around you to at least get their opinion.
We think you’ve noticed that even when you’ve made an unambiguous decision, there are still doubts swirling around in your head. But your doubts disappear as soon as someone whose opinion you are considering confirms your choice.
In addition, by asking for help from other people, you can get an alternative opinion on this or that decision and determine its priority, relevance, and other parameters. And it also helps shift some of the responsibility for the decision to others, at least in the subconscious.
5. Simplify the options
Often decision fatigue comes from having too many options. The brain is generally sluggish and wants to work as little as possible, and when it is forced to think about many options, it has to calculate different outcomes, which can lead to rapid overload.
So don’t overcomplicate it; try to simplify the choice as much as possible, reducing it to a couple of options. It’s worth prioritizing here. If the composition is not particularly bad, and the price is better than that of more chemical analogs, then you can take it.
It is best to reduce the choice to “yes” or “no.” This will help make decisions much easier and faster.
6. Take breaks
To combat decision fatigue, you should take small breaks periodically throughout the day to distract yourself from tasks.
This can be a snack, a short walk in the fresh air, hanging out on social networks, anything, as long as the brain was distracted from its routine and could rest, and then with new strength to get down to business. But the breaks should not be chaotic; it is better to choose in advance a certain time when your energy is reduced. You can determine this time only experimentally, paying attention to when decisions are the most difficult for you. It is at this time, and it is necessary to give yourself a rest.
According to several studies, a typical workday should be broken up into sessions that last approximately 50 minutes and are followed by breaks between 15 and 20 minutes. A break should be at least ten minutes long, during which time you should avoid making decisions and permit yourself to relax.