Understanding and Minimizing Decision Fatigue

Having difficulty concentrating on tasks is common, but if simple decision-making activities are making you frustrated, you may be experiencing “decision fatigue.”

During this time of a global health crisis, it is easy to feel overwhelmed by everything that is happening. Prolonged chronic stress is affecting everyone, changing sleep, work, and meal patterns. The lack of control over many factors makes it difficult to think, almost like a brain fog on top of anxiety and uncertainty. 

Having difficulty concentrating on tasks is common, but if simple decision-making activities are making you frustrated, you may be experiencing “decision fatigue.” Recognizable signs include impulsivity, procrastination, avoidance, and indecisiveness. It is the feeling that making decisions every day is a heavy burden.

Decision fatigue destroys a person’s productivity because of the pressure to make decisions all the time. Choices take time and energy to make, so it is helpful to know about several strategies that can minimize decision fatigue in your daily life.

Make a routine and stick to it.

A daily routine will help eliminate the decisions you have to make every day. By plotting out the important parts of your day, some decisions are already made on autopilot. You don’t have to plan every minute of the day, but you can form a rough morning and evening routine. By establishing the hard edges, such as the beginning and end of work hours or the scheduled time for creative pursuits, you make it possible to avoid both decision fatigue and burnout.

Remove small decisions from the equation.

Planning what to eat every day is incredibly taxing. According to research, we dramatically underestimate the number of food-related decisions we make every day. You can either cook or buy take-out, but each option branches out to different scenarios. You have to choose which dish to cook depending on the available ingredients, or which restaurant to order from. To combat this stressful decision-making, plan your meals ahead of time. 

Make time on the weekend to make meal plans for the rest of the week. Buy the ingredients necessary for those dishes, and as the days go on, keep adjusting and adding variety to the plan to avoid the monotony. By planning, you have eliminated yet another taxing task.

Limit your options.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed by all the choices and possibilities, especially when it comes to things like choosing what to wear in the morning. Instead of agonizingly looking at your closet, establish some go-to outfits that you can wear on any given day, and then rotate it weekly. You may also divide clothes into categories for easier choosing and better consistency. Having too many options for anything is so exhausting, so limit it to save mental energy.

decision fatigue
Photo by Gift Habeshaw

Stop second-guessing the decisions you already made.

Second-guessing a decision after it has already been made will only continue the cycle of decision fatigue. There is pressure to make the right choice, and dwelling in uncertainty is exhausting. If you see something online that makes you question your decisions, don’t ruin that plan you already made for the day or the week. Instead, list it down and try it for another time. You don’t have to derail the steps you’ve made.

By following these recommendations, you may have fewer decisions to make, therefore making your mental load much lighter. Acknowledge the fact that it takes time to adjust, so take it slowly and see what works for you. If you’re experiencing decision fatigue again, don’t be too hard on yourself. Progress isn’t linear, so give yourself permission to start over and continue changing your lifestyle for the better.

Cover image by Matthew Henry

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