Combatting Decision Fatigue

I’ve become increasingly fascinated with the concept of decision fatigue, of which I am certain I have a severe case.

Have you heard of this?

It is the idea that constantly making small decisions wears us down to the point that we are hindered in our ability to make larger decisions. There are remarkable studies on How Willpower Works and shocking statistics of how the time of day, the number of decisions made, and our nourishment works for or against us!

My first introduction to decision fatigue was in this article about how Mark Zuckerburg wears a gray t-shirt and jeans as his ‘uniform’ (and noting that this is not entirely abnormal among go-getters and creative types: Einstein, Steve Jobs, presidents, and surprisingly, clothing designers like Michael Kors, Vera Wang, and so on…) and then it started popping up everywhere.

At this time in history, we are taking in more new information and making more decisions in a day than people had combatingaccess to in months, years, or a lifetime!

The phrase ‘Decision Fatigue’ resonates so deeply because, man, I am fatigued. Especially in regards to the endearing but perpetual requests of children; I am literally asked questions while still in the process of answering the previous one (and I’m sure you can relate). As a Stay at Home Mom, I find I am making arbitrary decisions…CONSTANTLY:

Can I have sprinkles on my oatmeal? Can we watch a show? (not now) Did I change his diaper? Should I change it again before nap time? Can we watch a show? (still no). What should I make for breakfast/snack/lunch/snack/dinner/snack (and repeat)…I don’t want that, can I have this instead? Can I have juice? Can I watch a show later? (NO) Is it my turn? Can I crack the eggs? (I’m realizing there are a lot of questions surrounding TV and food). Sounds frantic, right? You’re stressed reading it, aren’t you? You’re welcome.

We are so inundated with this being the norm, we don’t pay it much mind, but my goodness, when I do…it is shocking (and exhausting). I can easily count 50 questions and their respective need for answers in as little as 15 minutes! The effect of this is most notable in two areas: 1.) how my patience diminishes and 2.) when I am afforded the opportunity to process my thoughts, my brain is so fried from being in constant overload that I can barely muster the strength to stare at a wall (or instagram :).

However, I do love the notion that it is possible to minimize decision fatigue. By implementing personal rules or making decisions about little things in advance, we’re able to open up mental space for other more important decisions later.

Just a couple of examples of things I’m streamlining by pre-making decisions (I’d LOVE to hear ways you’re lessening decision fatigue):

  • Brands I shop – I know I love ONE specific v-neck tee, therefore I don’t need to try them on at every store or pay varying amounts of money – stick with what I know I love! In certain areas I’m working to discover said product so I can stop trying new ones (a.k.a. making decisions).
  • Color & styles of clothing
  • Hobbies & Activities – My husband and I were part of a certain social group, every month when the event came up we’d discuss whether or not we’d go, often not going and then feeling guilty about it. We finally decided, we love the group, but it isn’t the priority right now. We no longer have to make that decision each month, so it not only saves time and conversation but also negative emotional energy. The decision is already made!

For the Kids: 

  • When they can watch TV (and what they can watch…short “educational” shows during the week, movies over the weekend)
  • When they can have certain treats.
  • Activities we attend.

These personal rules are not to be rigid – those who know me can attest, I am not a structured, routine-oriented person – instead, they bring a measure of freedom to know that certain questions already have answers!

Have you heard of this? Would you ever wear a self-imposed uniform or try to minimize decision fatigue by making decisions in advance or implementing personal rules? 


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