People make lots of decisions. Some experts even estimate we make a whopping 35,000 of them on a daily basis. Of course, many of these decisions are miniscule - like which colour coffee cup to use, or what fruit to eat for breakfast. But the truth is, that added up, they do take a real toll on our energy levels.
You’ve probably felt tired and indifferent after a long day’s work. And you can blame that on something called decision fatigue.
Decision fatigue is a term coined by social psychologist Roy F. Baumeister - and it happens when we’ve made too many decisions in our day. When our brain gets tired, it looks for timesaving routes - which leads us to making poor and impulsive choices. It’s why we decide to order take-out at 8 p.m. when there’s a fridge full of groceries, or just can’t seem to resist those cookies in the cupboard.
There’s no doubt that decision fatigue is a downer. So what’s the best way to fight it, in order to increase productivity and stick to our goals?
Complete your biggest task first
Your ability to make good decisions gets eroded as the day goes on. So why leave the more important tasks for later, when you’re at risk for decision fatigue? Get the biggest - or most difficult - task checked off your to-do list first.
This will not only give you a feel-good confidence boost, but it will mean you’re less likely to make poor choices when it really counts. Trying to close a sale? Do it in the morning, so your email isn’t flurried with spelling mistakes. Or need to discuss an important matter with your child’s teacher? Call them when you’re most alert, so you don’t get unnecessarily upset over the phone.
Narrow down your choices
It’s a simple one, but it works. Minimize the amount of smaller, but taxing, decisions you need to make during the day. For example, make list of shows you’d like to watch each month, so you don’t waste 30 minutes contemplating Netflix series each night. Or, consider decluttering your closet. Imagine how much easier getting dressed would be if you only had a few items to choose from each season! I’m a fan of Project 333, which challenges people to wear just 33 items for 3 months.
When all is said and done, simplifying the little decisions you need to make each day leaves you with more energy to make the choices that really matter. And to a greater extent, make them better.
Stick to a routine
You might be surprised to read that we make more than 220 decisions a day just about food. It’s possible to cut this down significantly by sticking to a routine. This could mean prepping your meals at the beginning of the week, or simply sticking to a weekly schedule. Taco Tuesdays, anyone?
The same could go for the gym. Plan your workouts a week in advance, so you don’t have to make any quick decisions about which machine to use, which class to take - or well, whether or not to go in the first place.
Routines not only help us to minimize the number of decisions we make, but they also help us to add structure to our days. There’s no need to tire yourself out - and thus, waste more mental energy - thinking about whether you’re up for going to the gym that day. When you successfully etch tasks into your routine, you programme yourself to complete them - and that’s never a bad thing.
Delegate - it’s fun!
Making decisions for ourselves is depleting, but the same can’t be said about making decisions for others. In fact, one study showed that we actually enjoy making decisions for other people. So since giving advice tends to be pretty fun, why not switch some ‘lighter’ choices with a friend or co-worker when decision fatigue hits hard?
Asking someone someone for their opinion can offer you a fresh perspective, but also means you’ll likely be presented with dicier choices. If you tend to play on the safe side, this can definitely be a good thing, because there’s nothing like a break from the norm to reinvigorate you. And who knows: the risk might be worth the reward.
In today’s world, we’re faced with more choices than ever. And sometimes at the end of the day, decision fatigue can be downright hard to avoid. However, by adding more structure to your day, making sure to declutter, biting the bullet to complete the hardest task first, and making decisions more ‘fun’ by getting friends involved, you can reduce the amount of choices you have. And most importantly, you can increase your productivity.---
So why not give these tips a try? If you do, we’d love to hear how they helped you get more done! Let us know in the comments below.