What is Decision Fatigue?
You just finished a grueling workout in the gym. Your muscles are fatigued, and you are ready to give up. It seems like your energy has been depleted. Have you ever thought that this same concept can be applied to your mental abilities? There’s actually a theory in psychology that says it can be and that your ability to make good decisions is actually finite!
Ego depletion is really the root of decision fatigue. This is the idea that the decision-making process in your brain, particularly when you are going against your preferences, has limited strength. Psychologists refer to your 'ego' as the cognitive (conscious) part of your brain. Ego depletion theories, promote the idea that you only have so much conscious willpower and if it runs out, your ability to make good decisions is seriously impaired. Your mind acts like a muscle, eventually tiring and weakening if it is used for too long without rest. Once this energy starts to get low, self-control becomes impaired, leading to decision fatigue.
Understanding the psychological principle of decision fatigue can help you make positive changes to your lifestyle so you can save your mental energy and willpower for making the most important decisions.
Now that you know what decision fatigue is, let’s take a look at how to prevent it!
1. Make your most important decisions in the morning.
Your mind is the clearest during the morning hours because you haven’t made many decisions yet. This allows you to pause and clearly think about your situation. Consider this when you are planning your most important tasks.
2. Choose the simple option for less important decisions.
For lower priority decisions, go simple. Opt to choose whichever option makes you feel less overwhelmed so that you can save some of that decision making energy for more important ones.
3. Plan daily decisions the night before.
We make certain decisions every day without fail. Decisions like what you’ll be wearing, what you’ll be eating for lunch, or whether you’ll be working out are easy to make. So, rather than wait for the morning, try to make these easier decisions the night before.
4. Don’t make decisions when you’re hungry.
Research suggests that you should not make big decisions on an empty stomach. Just think about the last time you went grocery shopping while hungry! When you are hungry, your stomach produces a hormone called Ghrelin, which can negatively impact decision making abilities.
5. Limit your choices when possible.
If you are faced with too many decisions, narrow them down to three choices at a time. This will help prevent you from becoming overwhelmed with too many choices. For example, if you are looking through a menu at a restaurant, narrow your pick down to 3 choices at a time.
6. Become more of a minimalist.
Minimalism is a lifestyle movement that aims to cut down on possessions so you only have the essential items. In the process, you eliminate everything that is distracting you from living your best life. By eliminating the unnecessary, you eliminate the need to make unnecessary decisions.
7. Don’t make decisions in places that are full of distractions.
When you are making big decisions, you should be 100% focused on thinking them through. Busy places with many distractions can derail your ability to make the best decision.
8. Focus on making decisions for items on your to-do list only.
While we all have some sense of fear of missing out, when it comes to finishing your most important tasks, you will have to turn down some things. If you put too much on your plate, it is likely to get in the way of accomplishing your main priorities.