Decision fatigue and its daily battle

In today’s society we are forced to make so many decisions; what to wear, which app to use, what to make for dinner, coffee or tea, the list goes on and on.

Decisions need to be made from the moment we wake up, “do I get up now or hit snooze?”. The day just progresses from there where we are barraged with decisions all day long (most of them being unnecessary). It’s no wonder that we are mentally exhausted at the end of the day.

Think of your decision-making ability as a glass of water. It starts off the day full and each time a decision is made, a sip is taken out of the glass. Depending on the decision, these sips can vary between drips to gulps. So, as you can imagine, the more decisions you make the faster your water depletes.

There are ways we can alleviate the number of decisions we make. A couple of tips I’ve picked up are:

  • Limit your options by keeping things simple.
  • Make today’s decisions yesterday.

Not a comprehensive list, but these really help if you apply them. Note: Don’t worry if you can’t get it right consistently. It’s taken me ages to implement these consistently and I still have to consciously remind myself.

The struggle is real. The constant battle between my inherently human short-stop thinking and long-term mental capacity.

Limit your options

The fewer options there are, the less mental energy it takes to make a decision. As an example, every morning we need to pick what to wear. We have wardrobes full of different combinations that can be worn for almost every occasion. This is already a massive gulp from your decision-making glass!

The easiest way around this is to just have multiple sets of the same outfit. But let’s be real, who wants to wear the same thing every day (other than Mark Zuckerberg). Wait. Actually, I wouldn’t mind as my clothing decision would be so much easier!

The alternative is to limit your wardrobe. Get rid of clothes you haven’t worn for ages. Have a few items of clothes that will make a combination no matter what you put on. In this way, you can pull anything out and you will have an outfit for the day. Very small decision required.

The same thing applies in other areas of life:

  • Limit the number of folders you use in email (so you don’t have to decide where to file your email).
  • Limit the number of notifications you get on your phone (so you don’t have to decide whether to respond now or later).
  • Limit the number of apps you have installed on your devices (so you don’t have to decide to use them or not).
  • Limit the amount of projects you’re busy with (to reduce the mental energy used in remembering everything).

Make today’s decisions yesterday

In other words, plan.

Prepare what you can beforehand in order to ease the decision-making energy when the time comes.

In the real world this looks like:

  • Decide what you want to wear the night before so you don’t have to make the decision in the morning.
  • Plan out your meals for the week or fortnight (monthly, if you’re brave). By doing this, you can then plan your grocery list – double-win!!
  • Plan out your day before it gets going so you don’t have to decide what to do once you’ve finished a task.

What are you going to do?

You get the drift of what I’m saying here. Limit your options and plan where you can.

But also, don’t stress! Most decisions are not going to ruin your life. For those that will drastically impact you, be sure to have enough mental energy in the glass to make that decision by easing the menial decisions elsewhere in your life.

Now, start planning for tomorrow. Repeat after me: “I won’t hit snooze on my alarm, and I will wear ‘this’ and ‘that’ tomorrow”.

Good luck!

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