Unless you’re some kind of superhuman, you probably know what it’s like to make an impulsive decision that’s not in your best long-term interests. After a long day, it’s easy to impulse buy, skip the gym and never get around to the things we said we’d do tomorrow.
The average person today spends the majority of their day making decisions — whether they realize it or not. And though people like to think of themselves as rational thinkers, that isn’t always the case. In fact, whether or not you make a good decision could depend on something as arbitrary as the time of day you decide.
Decision fatigue affects peoples’ ability to make thoughtful decisions. Everyone is susceptible to it, and it might even be ruining your productivity and happiness.
Let’s take a look at decision fatigue and how fighting it — or not — might influence your life.
What Is Decision Fatigue?
Decision fatigue is a depletion of your decision-making ability after making a lot of choices. Whether you realize it or not, you make tons of choices every day, from what cereal to eat for breakfast to how to spend your evening. As the day wears on, your brain gets tired of making so many decisions, and you become less capable of choosing wisely.
Decision fatigue can result in poor choices or even inaction. For example, after a long day of wedding planning, you’re more likely to impulse-buy candy at the store or delay grocery shopping altogether to avoid the hundreds of choices displayed before you when you shop.
The complex thought processes that decision-making requires is just too much for the brain to handle over and over with no break, especially if you tend to overthink things before you make a choice.
Don’t be confused by the name though. Decision fatigue doesn’t necessarily cause you to feel tired. Instead, it acts as a depletion of willpower. You may feel fine but act outside your best interests.
How Does Decision Fatigue Impact Productivity?
Though you might notice the effects of decision fatigue most when shopping or trying to motivate yourself to work out, it also impacts productivity at work or school. The world is rife with distractions, and whether or not you fall for them, you’re exercising control and draining your decision-making power.
The longer you try to force yourself to focus, the more difficult it becomes. What’s worse, you’re more likely to make a choice you regret when making important work-related decisions if you’ve already made several other big decisions that day.
Bad choices are bad for business, and it becomes difficult to progress your career and personal goals if you’re not performing at your best. If your job involves helping other people, decision fatigue could even impact individuals besides yourself.
Though anyone is susceptible to decision fatigue, people in jobs that require them to make important choices may be at a higher risk. For example, emergency room doctors and judges become more prone to mistakes the more decisions they make, which could end up negatively impacting the people they serve.
Just as it’s important to prevent burnout, then, it’s also essential to manage decision fatigue in high-stakes, decision-heavy jobs.
How Can You Stop Decision Fatigue?
Decision fatigue can drain your productivity and keep you from meeting your goals. Luckily, however, you can take steps to stop decision fatigue from interfering with your life.
One way to counter decision fatigue is to monitor your energy levels. Researchers found that glucose actually restored willpower that had been lost to a long session of decision-making. In other words, a snack every once in a while could help you get your energy back and make better decisions. Try to eat healthy meals and snacks frequently throughout the day to maintain energy levels.
You can also limit the number of choices you make in your day by choosing ahead of time. For example, you could plan your week’s meals on Sundays or wear the same type of outfit every day so that you’re not wasting precious energy on things that don’t need your attention.
Other research has found that your attitude could also contribute to the effects of decision fatigue. If you believe that your willpower remains regardless of fatigue, you’ll make all of your decisions at the best of your ability.
To take advantage of this fact, try to retrain your brain to understand willpower as a muscle that you exercise rather than a finite resource.
Grow Your Willpower
Everyone makes bad decisions once in a while. That’s okay, but remember that you can grow your willpower and make thoughtful decisions for your life and career regardless of other choices.
When you understand decision fatigue, it can’t stop you, so don’t let it ruin your life!
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