How to Outsmart Decision Fatigue

Amanda Tallent is a content creator and digital marketer. Her love of writing and passion for creating has led her to cover unique topics ranging from lifestyle to business. In her spare time, she enjoys hiking with her Australian Shepherd and traveling to new destinations.

Being in a leadership position carries a lot of responsibility and decision making. Most of the time, the shots you call effect many others down the line and sometimes for years to come. While it’s almost impossible to please everyone, there are some ways to guarantee you’re equipped to make the right decisions.

What is decision fatigue?

Research shows that we make anywhere from 10,000 to 40,000 decisions we make each day. All of those decisions and choices can really drain our mental capacity and even physical ability. You’ve probably experienced this exhaustion after a long day of meetings or hours of work that require strict focus. This loss of energy after making so many decisions is called decision fatigue. Decision fatigue can cause you to feel tired, irritable, and decrease your productivity.

Making important decisions while being decision fatigued is like writing an important essay at 4 in the morning. Your brain and body are tired, you’ve been up for hours, and the task itself requires a lot out of you. At work, decision fatigue can cause you to make careless mistakes and miss out on details that could cause issues later.

From deciding which outfit to wear to which route to take to work, your mind is constantly processing new information and considering past memories to help you make decisions. After a long day, you may find yourself making poor decisions that tend to lead to even poorer decisions (like indulging in junk food and then skipping the gym). Break that habit by avoiding decision fatigue so that even your afternoons and evenings can be restful and productive.

Decision fatigue isn’t entirely avoidable, but lifestyle changes can lessen the impacts it plays in your life.


How to Avoid It

Ironically, decision fatigue can be lessened with planning. Making more decisions upfront can streamline the mental processing your brain does when faced with decisions. Mint created this infographic that includes eight tips to avoid decision fatigue so you can be more focused and productive. Many of these tips involve simplifying your life to make decisions easier so that your brain doesn’t have to work as hard to make choices.

  1. Reduce your decisions

Although you can’t avoid all the decisions that come your way, you can prepare to make fewer decisions. At work, this may mean hiring an assistant or outsourcing some of your tasks so that you have more time to handle the things on your plate. Scheduling, planning, and automating processes can all help to reduce the number of decisions you make.

  1. Stick to a routine

Routines aren’t for everyone but they do help manage your time and expectations. When it comes to making decisions, getting into a routine can train your brain to expect to sleep, eat, shower, and do physical activity at a certain time. Deciding what to do next can be one less thing your brain has to worry about.

  1. Dedicate time in the morning for big decisions

Starting your day off bright and early with a big decision may not be the best route but since decision fatigue occurs after making too many decisions, that will naturally happen later in the day. Stay alert and focused in your decision making by finding a time in the morning to address it.

  1. Eat healthy and eat often

It’s no secret that food gives your body the necessary energy it needs to conquer the day. Feed your body healthy foods and avoid anything with too much sugar to keep your energy levels from spiking and crashing. Hunger and dehydration can also cause a lot of distractions so eating often with snacks and staying hydrated can help you fuel your body.

  1. Try time-blocking your schedule

No matter what time management method you use, planning out your schedule ahead of time can reduce the number of decisions you make throughout the day. Time blocking can make you more productive by allocating your priorities and available time to certain tasks. Using either a calendar, planner, or an app, set up the time you need to get things done and stick to it. You can move things around as needed but it’s best to plan a little extra time to deal with unexpected issues.

  1. Limit distractions

Email and phone notifications can pull us away from our task and most of the time it isn’t for good reasons. Switching tasks constantly makes your brain work harder and lose focus. Limit distractions and work in an environment that is conducive to productiveness so that you can stay on task.

  1. Get plenty of sleep

Your brain and body both recharge by getting rest. Whether it’s mental rest or physical rest, you need that time to yourself. Getting restful sleep can allow you to wake up refreshed and ready to take on all that the day brings. Make sure to stay off of your phone before bed to reduce distractions and ease your mind. You can practice deep breaths to fall asleep faster too. Keep your mind sharp by keeping it well rested.

  1. Automate your life

Even cars can tell you when it’s time for a tune-up. Automating things like auto bill-pay, auto reminders, and auto alarms can help you worry less about menial tasks and focus on more important things. Make fewer decisions in the future by automating them now.

Streamlining processes can help you feel more productive and stress-free. Outsmarting decision fatigue is all about finding a routine that works for you and not being so hard on yourself when things don’t go as planned.

When it comes to making complex decisions, rely on your best judgment, talk to trusted advisors, and list out the pros and cons to help make your decision easier. Always having a Plan B in mind can put less pressure on the success of your Plan A.

As a leader, you’ve already proven why you deserve to be in your position. Stay on top of things by making healthy choices for your mind and body, and even your finances. Decision fatigue isn’t entirely avoidable, but lifestyle changes can lessen the impacts it plays in your life.

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