Lately I have had a ton of decisions to make. None that are difficult in the sense of bad. But some are important to me and to others. And the quantity has definitely increased over the past eighteen months.
From anniversary trips abroad to graduation trips to engagement parties to weddings to cars to conference breakout sessions….
I am constantly deciding where, what time, which one, what color, who is coming….
I realize as we have passed the year mark when all of this began, that my decisions are coming slower. As a matter of fact, I postpone them. My procrastination creates a cumulative burden of outstanding decisions to be made.
The weight of the decisions and the procrastination combine into my first real experience with decision fatigue.
I am sure you have read about people (Steve Jobs, Obama) wearing the same outfit everyday or having the same breakfast everyday to reduce their number of decisions. I never really got that. Those decisions don’t bother me. As a matter of fact, I have never had a problem making decisions.
Until they get continuous and bigger.
Okay so maybe Obama had this happen more often than I did!
So I guess these people who are proactively battling decision fatigue decided to go first after the low lying fruit of daily stuff in order to save their brain power for the weightier issues in front of them.
I am not deciding on when to launch the next iPhone or whether to approve a budget for a whole country, nevertheless, I need to move things forward.
Have you ever procrastinated so long that the lack of decision-making actually created problems? This is a place none of us want to be.
So I did some research on tips to help avoid the repercussions of bad decisions because of decision fatigue.
What is Decision Fatigue Exactly?
A psychologist named Roy F. Baumeister coined the term “decision fatigue” in reference to the decline in the quality of decisions that are made by a person after many decisions have been made in a row.
One example I read in several articles was a study of 1,100 decisions by judges to grant parole to prisoners. The biggest factor influencing the ruling was time of day. A prisoner who was on the docket early in the day was much more likely to get parole. By the end of the day the judge was tired. Rather than agonizing over the decisions, the judges would ease their mental strain and stay with the status quo. They basically would punt, and keep the person locked up.
The judge’s version on procrastinating.
What Can We Do To Reduce Making Poor Decisions due to Decision Fatigue?
After reading several articles with tips to reduce this problem, I will share with you what I feel will help reserve energy for the meatier decisions in life:
- Plan a time to work on big decisions. I woke up in the middle of the night worrying about menus for my son’s upcoming rehearsal dinner and what car I need to get as my lease is up. The middle of the night is not the best time. I have opened menus many, many times during my work day. And I have visited car place several times now. I keep pushing the decision away. This time in the middle of the night I just made a to do list for my weekend. I went on line and chose the car options I wanted and walked into the dealership and handed them the exact car. So much easier.
- Determine and gather the appropriate information required for big decisions. Most decisions become pretty easy with the right information and the right amount of information. Too much data to sort through or too many choices can make it harder to decide and wear you out even more. For example, there are two full pages of entrée options from the rehearsal dinner venue for my son’s wedding. How can I narrow it down first? What are the costs? I wish I only had 4 or 5 choices in my price range.
- Decisions that have minimal risk – just decide. If something has minimal risk to it, I try to just decide. Procrastinating over what I am going to make for dinner just leads to bad, and usually unhealthier, decisions. I also try to schedule things like working out. If I wait to decide that day, you know what the decision will be. Reserve your brain power for meatier choices to be made.
- Plan to make decisions at certain times a day. Honestly, I wouldn’t have thought about this. But several articles I read said that if you are hungry, have low blood sugar, or are tired, you will make worse decisions. Like really poor ones! So, if one of your children come and ask you about something at night when you are tired, give them the famous “If I have to decide now, the answer is no” response. That will get them to wait until you are not tired.
- Try to make time to pray about decisions first. Obviously, I pray about big decisions mostly, but God is certainly big enough to handle our small ones too. I have known people to pray about what they wear or if they should buy something or not. I do know that my husband and I have definitely prayed over moving, taking certain jobs, quitting jobs, school situations for kids, etc. I actually get mad at myself if I am in impulse mode and don’t bring important things to the Lord.
I try to prioritize and reserve my energy for the more important choices that I face. With all of the options online for shopping, the multitude of food options that surround us, and the general speed of our society has us rapid cycling one decision after another.
The best long-term option I see on the horizon is to continue to simplify my life and slow things down purposefully. This will allow enough time and energy to focus on the important things in our life that need energy and attention.
How about you, do you feel overwhelmed right now with all of the decisions that you have to conquer each day? Have you found tips to reduce decision fatigue and continue making wise decisions on the important things in your life? We would love to hear your tips and hacks in the comments!