If you're someone who multitasks a lot or a creator who works the side hustle after your day job on evenings and weekends, you may be experiencing decision fatigue regularly. It’s estimated the average adult makes about 35,000 decisions per day. An American Psychological Association survey conducted in 2021 found that:
Nearly one-third of adults—and nearly half of millennials—are struggling with basic decisions, like what to eat or wear. About half say planning for the future feels impossible, thanks to the pandemic. Almost half (47%) of parents report feeling “so stressed” during the pandemic and struggled to make basic decisions. Hispanic, Black and Asian adults report that decision making became harder and that they fared worse in the past two years compared with non-Hispanic White adults.
Decision fatigue is a psychological condition, where a person’s decisions degrade due to mental exhaustion after a long session of decision-making. In their book, Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength, Roy F. Baumeister, and John Tierney, write that:
"Every decision – no matter how big or small – zaps a part of your mental energy and willpower. Decision fatigue results in poor choices because you've used up what is a finite amount of willpower in a given day."
Here are 6 strategies to overcome decision fatigue.
1. Conserve energy by automating trivial decisions. Automate decisions like bill payments, what to wear or eat on certain days. Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, and former President Obama wore the same outfits to work every day to improve productivity.
2. Simplify choices and ask for help. Ask a few people who don’t have anything at stake in the outcome to help make the decision. This can reduce bias and anxiety. Also, look for reduced options since having too many choices often leads to inaction.
3. Eat during breaks. Willpower is like a muscle in the body and gets tired when it is overworked without breaks. Eating 3 meals a day and during breaks rejuvenates willpower and helps us make better choices. Specifically, a low-glycemic diet prevents big spikes in glucose levels and takes longer for the body to absorb. When glucose levels are replenished after a food break, decision-making improves.
4. Make To-Do lists realistic are actionable. Most lists have two shortcomings. The bigger your list, the more conflicting goals you have. Goals that conflict lead to unhappiness and inaction. Minimize conflicting goals. The second shortcoming is To-Do items are often vague and fuzzy. For example, “Do taxes” is complicated while “Call accountant” is clear and actionable.
5. Do small willpower workouts. Baumeister and Tierney suggest doing small workouts to practice self-control and strengthen your willpower. Simple exercises include using your weaker hand when performing certain tasks, finding a workout buddy to go to the gym with, and improving your speech by cutting the number of filler words used like ‘eh’, ‘yeah, ‘yup’, ‘nah’, ‘nope’ and ‘like'. To improve your speaking, consider joining Toastmasters International.
6. Use Self-self regulation technology. With the popularity of smartphone apps and wearable technology, its easier to monitor your behavior and improve decision-making. By electronically monitoring how you spend time, your decision-making and habits can improve in areas like budgeting, spending, weight, sleep, exercise, Internet, computer, and phone time.