Do you feel like you've been putting out fires all day at work but haven't gotten anything done?
All that switchtasking leads to decision fatigue.
Our decision-making power source is like our iPhone battery. We start the day fully charged at 100%, but our mental charge depletes as the day progresses and decisions are made.
Do you hit the snooze button or get up with the alarm? One decision. Battery down to 99%.
Do you make the bed or not? One more decision. Battery down to 98%.
Do you want to check your phone notifications first thing in the morning or do quiet time first? One more decision. Battery down to 97%!
And so the decision-making continues into our day.
The number and complexity of decisions throughout the day will decrease our willpower and discipline and increase that feeling of overwhelm.
Signs of Decision Fatigue
Decision fatigue may affect people differently, but there are some common signs.
• Mental fatigue
• Brain fog
• General tiredness
Choice fatigue can lead to worse decision-making, which can lead to:
• Impulsivity, especially impulsive buying
• Difficulty in making trade-offs: Decisions between two outcomes that each have pros and cons
• Procrastination and other avoidance behaviors
“Clutter is postponed decisions.” – Barbara Hemphill, Founder of the Productive Environment Institute
When what we last touched—around the house, in our car, in our inbox—becomes “left for later,” it becomes clutter.
Why do we do this? We want to live in an uncluttered environment, but “left for later” doesn't allow us to, ultimately leading to decision fatigue.
5 Ways to Decrease Decision Fatigue
Whether making decisions is tiring or not, studies show that many leaders try to combat decision fatigue by limiting the number of decisions they have to make. Former United States President Barack Obama, Steve Jobs, Matilda Kahl, and Mark Zuckerberg cycle between one or two outfits or colors to reduce their daily decisions.
1. Simplify your wardrobe.
Minimizing your wardrobe reduces the number of outfit options you have to consider. While you don't have to take it as far as Mark Zuckerberg, reducing your wardrobe also minimizes the number of morning decisions you make, saving your decision-making power for more important things later in the day.
2. Practice a morning routine.
Implementing routines and rhythms into your day is key to reducing decision fatigue.
If your mind is bombarded with choices first thing in the morning, your mental energy will be zapped by noon. Instead, keep things as predictable as possible in the morning.
Get up at the same time, have tea or coffee (Ideally, wait 1-2 hours in the morning to get the real caffeine boost!), enjoy some quiet time, read something inspiring, meditate on affirmations (Calm is my favorite app), exercise—whatever gets you most ready for the day.
For some, it might be as simple as creating a ‘To-do list,' while for others, it might be more complex. Different management apps could be used to simplify your morning routine, such as Clickup**, or you could use an analog reflection and planning tool, like our Powered Path Playbook™. These will streamline your routine and help you make fewer decisions, leading to less decision fatigue.
Morning routines prepare your mind to tackle the day from a place of positivity.
3. Reduce the clutter in your environment.
If your environment is cluttered, you’ll constantly see items that must be addressed. The stack of bills on the counter, the pile of broken toys in the corner, and the pants that have been sitting to take to the dry cleaner for two weeks.
One of the biggest clutters that we go through every day is not in our houses or offices. It is the one found in our inbox. You can have decision fatigue due to poor email time management. We have an Email Action Plan with personalized recommendations for your role and situation.
Bottom line: clutter is distracting and draining, leading to even more delayed decisions (which causes more clutter!).
To become more productive, declutter your spaces, and embrace healthy living, check out my book Work Well Play More!
4. Apply the Rule of 3 to your To-Do list.
Write a list of everything on your mind each night to accomplish the following day.
Then choose the three most important tasks and commit to doing them (save the other tasks for another day).
You start your day with a plan by clarifying what you want to accomplish. You work deliberately, not reactively. Plus, your mind stays sharp because your mental energy is not bogged down trying to decide which tasks to address and which to let go of.
You can also check out our Powered Path Program. It's the perfect course and tool to teach you to reflect, plan, and prioritize.
5. Simplify your meal routine.
Save that brainpower for more important decisions by creating a streamlined meal routine. Set parameters for your meals that allow for variety within your guidelines. This will help you plan meals, save time and money, reduce food waste, and feel more confident about your choices.
You can check out more techniques for reducing decision fatigue here.
Decision Fatigue's Primary Culprit
Clients say, “when my phone goes off, I just ignore it. When I get a pop-up, I just ignore it.” You can't. Instead, you're making a micro decision to either not react, not respond, or look at it so quickly that you think you ignored it. You didn't. You made a decision not to respond.
So if you have all of these notifications going on throughout the day, plus somebody knocking at your door, your dog's barking, and an Amazon delivery person comes, all of these decisions and distractions add up to decision fatigue.
What step do you want to take today to prevent decision fatigue?
Post written by Marcey Rader and Rijul Arora.
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