by Geraud Staton
Decision fatigue has been something of a fascination of mine for a few years now. This fascination was reinforced with President Obama told Vanity Fair, "You'll see I wear only gray or blue suits...I'm trying to pare down decisions. I don't want to make decisions about what I'm eating or wearing. Because I have too many other decisions to make."
Decision fatigue makes us order ridiculous items from late-night television, allows us to eat that bag of cookies when we're on our diet, or worse, lets us ignore danger signals that would normally shine bright to our normally sane minds. As John Tierney explains it, "It's different from ordinary physical fatigue - you're not consciously aware of being tired - but you're low on mental energy. The more choices you make throughout the day, the harder each one becomes for your brain, and eventually it will look for shortcuts."
Those shortcuts tend to follow two choices. We either act erratically, such as snapping at friends or family members, or spending money that we know we shouldn't. Or we do nothing at all, which is the ultimate energy-saving strategy. We don't exercise, or we don't cook dinner, or we don't make that important business call.
|Call the client now, call later, or just watch Netflix?|
Researchers have proven the effects of decision fatigue time and time again. In fact, if you're interested in how it works, you should read Tierney's article. As for how to manage it, we can give you three pieces of advice.
1. Make decisions early in the day
If you have some important decisions to make, or a large number of decisions, do it as early as you can. I do most of my writing in the morning, as well as getting the bulk of my work done first thing (I like to start at 6am). My afternoons are when I hold most of my meetings and the like.
2. Get plenty of rest
Sleep makes a huge difference in decision fatigue. If you're already tired, you're starting with a lower gas tank anyway. Avoid that with a good night's sleep. And if you have to make decisions later in the day, consider a nap.
3. Set up rules that are etched in stone
When you have to decide what to wear, it takes a toll. I've watched my wife change clothes three time before work. Already, she's starting a few steps down in her day. If you have the same breakfast every day, you don't have to decide what to eat. And you don't have to decide what to purchase when you do your grocery shopping. I eat the same breakfast and lunch every day. I wake up at the same time on weekdays and weekends alike. Many professionals, like the President, have adopted a uniform to alleviate decision-making.
By eliminated the decisions you have to make, especially when you have to make the same ones over and over again, you can give yourself more bandwidth. You can leave the simple things and deal with the larger ones, rather than the other way around.
Want to learn more? Check out John Tierney's article at
And be sure to tell us how you avoid decision exhaustion!