How to Overcome Ego Depletion
Brigid is a digital content creator who helps Turbo create helpful and compelling stories worth sharing. She has a background in digital marketing and creative writing and focuses on advice for navigating your career and professional life. In her spare time, she enjoys traveling, reading, and learning to cook.
Each day you make over 35,000 decisions. Some you may not even notice, like choosing a bagel instead of cereal. Others, like choosing between putting in another hour at work or heading home early, take more consideration. It’s not uncommon after a long day of dedicated work to feel like our willpower is gone. This is a phenomenon known as ego depletion.
What is Ego Depletion?
The first part of the term, “Ego” refers to the part of yourself that is responsible for making wise decisions. This concept was created by Sigmund Freud to describe how each person must mediate between their impulses and what they know is right. This can be as simple as avoiding sweets on a diet. The ego is similar to willpower.
Depletion refers to the concept that we all have a limited amount of willpower to use each day. So when you’ve spent a long time on a difficult task, had to avoid eating treats all day long, or made too many difficult decisions, you may experience ego depletion.
Making too many decisions can also lead to ego depletion.
Causes of Ego Depletion
Before you can successfully combat ego depletion, it’s important to recognize the main causes of it. There are many ways that you may experience willpower fatigue.
For most professionals, stress can be a part of the job. However, when stress becomes excessive, this can lead to a form of ego depletion known as burnout. Experiencing too much prolonged stress can deplete your ability to deal with difficult situations leading to the apathy commonly associated with burnout.
Making too many decisions can also lead to ego depletion. This is because decision making often requires both prolonged focus and self-control. This results in a form of ego depletion known as decision fatigue.
Ego depletion can also be caused by difficult tasks that take prolonged focused attention. After staring at a screen or editing reports all day, you’re bound to feel especially tired and unable to focus. This is a form of ego depletion known as directed attention fatigue.
6 Ways to Combat Ego Depletion
While it’s natural to feel burnt out and fatigued from time to time, learning to combat the causes of ego depletion can help you be more productive in your career. Here are several strategies for overcoming ego depletion:
- Use Implementation Intentions
Use if-then statements to take the mental work out of tasks and establish a routine. This helps eliminate the work of making a decision or judgment call when presented with a difficult choice.
- Taste Something Sugary
Some studies suggest that there may be a link between blood glucose and willpower. So if you’re struggling to focus on a big report, or simply can’t seem to resist the donuts in the breakroom, consider a drink with some real or artificial sweetener.
- Take a Positivity Break
Good mood mitigates the effects of ego depletion, so take 5 and watch a funny video. Not only does this put in a better mood, but taking a brief break can help you perform better once you return to your task.
- Catch Up On Sleep
Being well-rested is linked to both improved mood and better mental performance. It’s hard to find the willpower when we have hardly any energy at all, so set a reminder to get to bed, and work on improving your sleep schedule.
- Eat The Frog
Prioritize doing the most important (and formidable) task before your willpower is depleted. Some days it’s inevitable you’ll experience ego depletion, so completing your most important tasks before then ensures you still meet important goals.
- Limit Your Exposure
Make it as hard as you can to be in a situation that requires you to exert willpower. If you’re avoiding distraction during work or are trying to eat healthy, make it so you don’t even think about your triggers. Try blocking sites that distract you at work.