One frustrating aspect of being a functioning adult human is that we always find new ways to be exhausted, whether it’s the all-encompassing strain of burnout, the unending scroll of social-media overload, or decision fatigue. Wait, you’ve heard of decision fatigue, right? If that one doesn’t ring a big old bell, then retrace your steps, because surely the problem has drained you before, whether or not you noticed it.
Decision fatigue is a psychological phenomenon wherein those who are overloaded with choices they need to make tend to make worse and worse ones as time continues. Basically, that’s all of us since we’re all faced with myriad decisions from the moment we wake up: It starts with, “HUH, should I get out of bed?” and then after arguing with your snooze button for 30 minutes, the decisions ramp up. What do I wear? What do I eat? L train or G train? Should I pitch this idea in my morning meeting? Should I pitch that idea? Which article should I write first? What’s the best idea for an introduction? Okay, sure, that’s specific to my every single morning, but you get the idea.
Fast-forward a few hours, and your brain is fried but both your body and the time on the clock are urging you to have dinner. Suddenly you’re all, “I don’t know, Luke, it’s 8 p.m. on a Friday, and I just spent an 9 hours trying to be my smartest self. So, yeah, whatever you want, I guess pineapple pizza sounds fine.”
….Or you know, something like that—I don’t know your life. But I am pretty sure you’ve faced decision fatigue in some capacity, and since the endless stream of choices you have to make on a daily basis probably won’t stop asking for your opinion anytime soon, learning to deal with it is key. Because, if you’re anything like me, and, in addition to loathing pineapple pizza, would like to have the mental wherewithal to make good, healthy, satisfying choices you can stand by after 6 p.m., it’s time to get some help. Below, find four actionable tips to keep you from falling victim to decision fatigue.
1. Repeat, repeat, repeat
“Anything you can do on loop or routine eliminates daily decision-making,” says life coach Susie Moore. “It’s no secret that CEOs and athletes often have very fixed morning routines—to the minute. Variety can sometimes be the pain of life.”
“Anything you can do on loop or routine eliminates daily decision-making.” —Susie Moore, life coach
Simple enough, right? After all, when you stick with a croissant and cold brew, you’re not only doing everyone in the Starbucks line a favor, but you’re also allowing yourself to remove strain of the little things from your morning. “Repetition is about making commitments versus pondering daily decisions,” Moore says.
When I have to pick out an outfit first thing in the morning, I end up wearing some wack-ass look. Really, I’m one acid-wash jean-jacket getup away from going full Clarissa Explains It All. So it’s no shock that Moore recommends preparing in advance however you can to keep yourself from making poor decisions, sartorial or otherwise.
“Anything you can do the night before a busy day to set you up for more ease and flow, you’ll end up appreciating,” Moore says. “On your commute home, can you plan in your mind your outfit for the next day? Can you pack your bag and even select the podcast for your commute the night before?”
3. Make sure you sleep and eat
Speaking of being prepared, this guideline is precisely why I’ve started stashing Kind Bars in my purse. Because if I’m hangry, there’s no way I can think straight, and that’s no good for making good choices or anything else at all (like communicating, existing, etc.).
“When you’re tired or hungry, you’re less likely to make good decisions,” Moore says. “Rest! Have snacks handy! It sounds simple, but it goes a long way in making sound choices.”
If you’re really stuck on a particular decision at hand, ask someone to help. Obviously there are a few choices you simply have to make for yourself. Like, you know, if your fiancé proposes, and you’re a bit on the fence about it, don’t let your co-workers vote on it in a group Slack channel. Generally speaking, other opinions can help you parse how you feel.
“Do you need to make all the decisions yourself?” Moore asks. “Can someone else choose the movie, or dinner or whether to Uber or subway? In the age of maximum conveniences, we still seem to have less time and energy than ever. So don’t be afraid to hand off some of the decision-making over to a friend.”
Sure thing—but that’s still a hard no on pineapple pizza this weekend, Luke.
If you’re have too much indecisiveness, maybe it’s time to meet the Eisenhower Matrix. On the flip side, if you’re “down for whatever” for dinner, heads up: Having too much chill can be really bad in a relationship.
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