Decision Fatigue

Ever felt unable to decide what to have for dinner after a long day? That’ll be Decision Fatigue at work, the gradual deterioration of decision-making skills over your day meaning a simple and usually pleasurable choice can end up feeling complex and tiring.

The more decisions we make in succession, the weaker our ability to make rational choices becomes. Decisions use brainpower and we have a finite amount available each day. Decisions that involve lots of variables or have significant consequences can be noticeably tiring, but even small decisions chip away at our reserves.

As Decision Fatigue sets in the brain starts to take shortcuts. We fail to think decisions through properly, go with our instinct instead of reasoned consideration, or take the path of least resistance. In short, we become impulsive and lazy.

There are some simple techniques we can use to keep our decision-making powers sharp.

Minimise the number of decisions you need to make by getting into routines, particularly in the morning. Barack Obama, Steve Jobs and Mark Zukerberg and others are known for wearing the same clothes each day so they don’t have to decide what to wear. For the past 50 years Warren Buffet, the world’s most successful investor, has limited his breakfast choice to 1 of 3 items at his local McDonald’s.

Make important decisions early in the day before Decision Fatigue has a chance to creep in.

Avoid making decisions in environments that are full of choices. For example, don’t go into a shop without knowing exactly what you want, and don’t switch on the TV unless you know what you want to watch.

Eat something, and/or have a snooze. Statistics show we make better decisions after a nap and a snack. So, rather splendidly, a mid-afternoon neeb and a Mars Bar is a very productive use of your time.

Published in Shetland Life magazine in October 2019