Stressing over little decisions in life is something that many people do. Whether it’s picking out an outfit, choosing where you want to eat for lunch or what dessert you want, we all experience moments like these. Overall, this isn’t something to be concerned about unless these trivial decisions are taking up too much time and thought, and leaving less mental energy for more important things.
In his article, “How To Minimize Decision Fatigue In Your Day“, Jones Loflin explains what decision fatigue is and how to conserve your mental energy.
How To Minimize Decision Fatigue In Your Day
By Jones Loflin
Innovative Yet Practical Solutions
It all seemed so harmless. The cashier at the coffee shop handed me the receipt and said, “The coffee mugs are to your right. Once you have picked your mug, just choose your favorite coffee. Enjoy!” “How cool,” I thought. “I get to choose my cup.” And that’s when things got ugly.
I spent the next five minutes trying to determine which coffee cup felt the best in my hand. I examined the thickness of the cup rims to imagine which one would feel best on my lips. And size, of course, was a factor as well. I made a choice, but couldn’t help but feel if I had taken longer, I could have made a better selection. And we won’t talk about the three minutes I took trying to decide which coffee I should put in that chosen vessel.
My comical journey to get a cup of coffee mirrors a more serious challenge we face today. We have so much information (coffee cups) and freedom of choice (pick any one you like) that we are depleting our mental energy on trivial things, leaving us precious few resources to make good decisions on items of greater significance. The condition is most commonly called “Decision Fatigue.”
Wikipedia defines decision fatigue as “referring to the deteriorating quality of decisions made by an individual, after a long session of decision-making.”
If decision fatigue is a common occurrence in your day, here are seven steps you can take to conserve (and/or replenish) your mental energy so the decisions you make are more likely to bring the outcome you most want:
Schedule tasks requiring a significant decision to be made to the morning hours. Remember that the act of making decisions is as draining on your mental energy as running is to your physical energy. Mornings are typically those times when your decision-making skills are at their best. There’s a reason you frequently hear people struggling with a big decision say, “I’m going to sleep on it.”
Choose one important factor on which to make your decision-and make it. Remind yourself that it is rare for any decision to be perfect. As you move forward you can make smaller decisions about how to address other factors. The key is to get moving. Remember that in many situations, done is better than perfect.
Limit your choices. Numerous studies have shown that too many choices invoke mental paralysis when it comes to decision making. Having less choices gives us less data from which to dissect (and get lost) and moves us toward a solution more quickly. When possible, quickly narrow your choices to three, and evaluate only those three from which to arrive at a decision.
Use a timer to improve (and streamline) your decision-making process. With all the information at our fingertips, we can research almost anything indefinitely and still not come up with the perfect solution. To force yourself to prioritize what information and resources you will use to come to a conclusion, set a timer and start working through the process. When the timer rings, make a decision and stick to it. An effective tool for teams to create a healthy sense of urgency to move toward a decision is to use something like a Time Timer.
Make decisions that free you from making more decisions. This idea comes from Brian Bailey. An example he gives is planning meals days in advance instead of trying to make a choice after a mentally exhausting day at work. Another example might be your wardrobe. It’s no secret why people like Mark Zuckerburg and President Barack Obama limit their wardrobe… they know they want their mental energy available for making much bigger decisions.
Leverage the mental energy of others. You’ve seen it happen before. You’re struggling with making a major (or even minor) decision and you present your dilemma to a friend or someone you trust. In just a few minutes (or seconds) they offer a solution that you couldn’t find after struggling for hours. They tend to be more objective and look at the situation with less personal bias, fears, etc. And while we’re on the subject of others, why not let them make more decisions. Stop being the decider of everything.
Be more intentional about restoring your mental energy. After you’ve made several decisions, take a few moments to replenish your mental resources. Take a brief walk. Laugh. Have a positive conversation with someone or offer words of encouragement to others. Reflect on recent successes you’ve experienced at work or with your family. Enjoy a tasty treat (in moderation of course).
In my coffee cup conundrum, I wasted way too much time on the choosing, which left me less time to enjoy the coffee and spend quality time with a friend. It’s the same with making larger decisions. The longer you take to make a decision, the less time you have to experience the benefits (and learn from the consequences) of the choice and move forward with your goals or ideas.
Where is decision fatigue keeping you from making quicker and wiser decisions?
Jones Loflin is a global keynote speaker on innovative yet practical workplace challenges and opportunities specific to the critical needs in today’s marketplace. He is the author of several books, including the award-winning, Juggling Elephants. Jones is a leader in solutions for individuals, groups and businesses dealing with lack of engagement, satisfaction and retention and all the tools to support balanced, productive lives.
For more information on booking a keynote speaker for one of your events, check out www.eaglestalent.com or call our office at 1.800.345.5607.
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