What is Decision Fatigue?

Every morning you wake up to a mountain of decisions to be made — what to wear, what to eat for breakfast, whether or not to go to the gym like you planned.

Minute by minute, decisions like these set the tone for a productive day. And the pace never slows. But by the time you’re settling in for the evening, you’ll have made around 35,000 decisions. It’s no wonder you’re exhausted!

Deciding everything from which pack of socks to buy to managing complex trade-offs at work can take its toll. As the weight of it all piles up, eventually we start experiencing what experts call decision fatigue: a distinct lack of energy and focus that leads to poor decision making. (Check out how this plays out in something as heavy as parole hearings.)

In other words, the more decisions you need to make on a daily basis to lead a productive, happy, secure life, the worse you’re going to be at weighing the options and making thoughtful choices. No matter how sensible you are, you simply can’t make decision after decision without paying the cognitive price.

Sound familiar? Here’s how you can halt decision fatigue in its tracks before it’s too late.

Unrecognizable woman marvels at grocery bread selection

Simplify.

There’s a reason some of the world’s most successful individuals wear the same thing every day. The rationale is simple: with so many important decisions to be made throughout the day, why over-complicate something as simple as getting dressed in the morning?

Can’t bear the thought of wearing a variation on the same suit and tie combo every day? Simplify somewhere else instead. Follow a set weekly meal plan for lunch or work from the same coffee shop every day.

Prioritize.

Whether it’s tackling a personal project or dealing with something you’ve been putting off, schedule your most important tasks for the first part of the day.

Limit your to-do list to no more than five items and stick to the system. Prioritizing like this helps limit which issues get your attention. Mindless tasks don’t need to use up all that decision-making energy early in the day; they can fill the rest of your afternoon, once you’ve tackled your top five.

Reset.

Everyone needs a reset once in a while (if not every day). Get in the habit of taking a short walk mid-afternoon or stepping away from your desk for a short cat nap.

Self-care like this helps your brain “prune away” the mental clutter that piles up throughout the day and encourages better focus. Take notice of when your energy drops and respond accordingly.

Have you ever experienced decision fatigue? How did you react?

41 comments

Michael Friedmann
Michael F2 hours ago

Thank You for Sharing This !!!

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Past Member
Past Member 3 days ago

Following your gut is what allows you to balance the needs of the mind and heart. If the idea energizes your body, then according to psychology, your unconscious ideas are trying to tell you something.

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Leo C
Leo C4 days ago

thank you for sharing!

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Anne F
Anne F4 days ago

Resets are so necessary for me - thanks for the reminder

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Colin C
Colin C7 days ago

Thanks

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Dennis Hall
Dennis Hall9 days ago

Thanks

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Barbara S
Barbara S12 days ago

Thank you

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Leo C
Leo C12 days ago

Thank you for sharing!

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Leo C
Leo C13 days ago

Thank you for sharing!

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Dennis Hall
Dennis Hall14 days ago

Thanks.

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