“What do I want for lunch? Pasta or sushi?”
“When is the right time to have that difficult conversation?”
“Where can I go on vacation? Can I afford it?”
A typical adult makes more than 35,000 decisions per day – usually starting with whether to turn off the alarm or hit the snooze button.
We face hundreds of choices every day – from simple, “What should I wear to work?” to more complicated decisions that involve our emotional, financial, and physical well-being, “Should we pivot the business?”
The number of decisions you have to make in a day can get so overwhelming that by the time you get home, you can barely decide what to eat for dinner.
This is what’s known as decision fatigue – a term coined by social psychologist Roy F. Baumeister, as the emotional and mental strain resulting from a burden of choices.
This type of fatigue leads to one of two outcomes; risky decision-making or decision avoidance.
In other words, when your mental energy begins running low, you’re less able to override basic desires and more likely to go for whatever is easiest.
Fear not! That feeling when you’re overly stressed by the endless amount of decisions you’ve had to make throughout the day can be remedied.
How to Recognize It
Remember decision fatigue isn’t always easy to spot. Here are some tell-tale signs that might suggest you’re heading for burnout.
- Procrastination – “I’ll tackle this later.”
- Impulsivity – “A quick decision will give me relief.”
- Avoidance – “I can’t deal with this right now.”
- Indecision – “When in doubt, I just say no.”
ONE: Focus on self-care
Take time to rest by setting aside 10-minute breaks between tasks throughout the day.
Recovering also means making sure you’re getting enough sleep, making sure you’re eating healthy, and watching your alcohol intake.
TWO: Prioritize your decisions.
Cut down on needless decision-making by jotting down your top priorities for the day and ensuring you tackle those first. This way, your most important decisions get done when your energy is at its highest.
THREE: Save major decisions for when you’re rested and refreshed.
- “How tired am I in the present moment?”
- “Am I making a decision to simply solve the thing and get it off my plate?”
- “How much impact on my life will this decision have?”
If the answer is that it’ll have a high impact, only allow yourself to make those decisions when you have to make them or when you feel refreshed.
That might mean setting aside a block of time each month to evaluate the pros and cons of those major decisions.
FOUR: Minimize low-stake decisions
Reduce decision drain by planning ahead and taking relatively minor decisions out of the equation. For example, take your lunch to work to avoid having to decide which restaurant to order from. Or, lay out your clothes the night before.
Yes, you are still making the decision but you are doing it at a time when you’re not rushed and stressed.
We don’t realize that things that have very little impact on our lives can actually take a lot of decision energy.
FIVE: Create routines that will stick
Set up your day so that you have to make the fewest decisions possible. Have a morning and evening routine. Put as many things on auto-pilot as possible.
This means having strict and clear rules about certain things, such as;
- when you’ll go to sleep
- specific days you’ll hit the gym
- going grocery shopping
SIX: Allow others to help
Sharing the mental load of decision-making can help prevent overwhelm.
Here are a few examples of what you can delegate:
- If you’re having a hard time meal planning, allow your partner or roommate to come up with a menu. You can help out with the shopping.
- Ask a close friend for a referral for a plumber.
- Let a colleague choose which images to use on your next presentation.
SEVEN: Keep tabs on your mental and physical state
Everyone gets overwhelmed with decisions at times. Pay attention to your emotional and physical responses.
Are you repeatedly making poor choices because you feel overwhelmed? Do you find yourself making a habit of snacking on junk food to avoid making decisions about dinner?
Keeping track of your reactions can help you understand which habits need improvement.
EIGHT: Celebrate your good decisions.
You make so many small decisions during the day without even realizing it. And that’s on top of all the big, noticeable ones.
Celebrating the big and small decisions alike, boosts your confidence and sets you up for more confident decision-making tomorrow.
Mel Robbins created the High-Five Habit so we could all start celebrating ourselves. So, go high-five yourself in the mirror for showing up and making the best decisions you could today.
If you liked this, be sure to grab your free guide: