Throughout each day, people are presented with many choices and make multiple successive decisions, both big and small. While it may not be physically exhausting, mental energy may be depleted. Deciding where to go for dinner can become an “I can’t even” moment.
“The more choices a person faces throughout the day, the harder it becomes to make a decision,” says Dr. Roxanne Smith, a family medicine physician with Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, Ill.
There is a term for this. It’s called “decision fatigue.” This label worked its way into the mainstream in 2011 with the release of a study that showed judges in Israel were more likely to parole prisoners at the beginning of each court session.
Dr. Smith explains that as a person’s mental energy wanes he or she will start looking for quicker or easier ways to get things done, which could include avoiding making decisions, losing the ability to make compromises, or making impulsive or reckless choices.
Dr. Smith offers the following advice to lessen decision fatigue:
- Make small daily decisions, such as what to wear and what to pack for lunch, at the end of each day to save your mental energy for more important choices during the day.
- Make your most important decisions and have your crucial meetings early in the day so you are dealing with them when you are most rested.
- If you sense yourself hitting a wall, make time for a healthy snack. Studies have indicated that increasing blood glucose levels can restore brain power depleted after making difficult decisions.
- Don’t work in a silo; seek advice and input from others.
- Know yourself. If you are struggling to make a decision, take a break and come back to it after a break, a snack or in the morning.
- Don’t spend a lot of time on the majority of decisions. If the decision is not complex or crucial, make a choice and move on.
- Know what your goals and priorities are to reduce or eliminate unnecessary decisions.
- Limit your choices. If you are presented with too many options, narrow it down to 2 or 3 and then make a decision.