When I worked in an office setting, it seemed inevitable that as the day wore on, my decision-making power would fade. My tired brain led me to say yes when I wanted to say no, or say no to myself by abandoning my own important priorities.
It’s called decision fatigue, and it’s quite common. We’re less able to make quality decisions—or any decisions at all—the more decisions we’ve already made.
Some of our decisions are conscious, and some we make in the background without even noticing, which is how decision fatigue can sneak up on us. Think of all the decisions you make when you’re driving a car, for example, or when you’re reviewing your email. Multiply those by how many times you do them, and you can see how your total number of decisions multiply.
Here are some ways to conserve your decision-making power and make better decisions all day long:
- Pick out your clothes the night before. I remember objecting to this when my parents had us do it, especially as I got older, but they were on to something. It means one less decision—and more brain power for you—in the morning, which is a prime time for some really important decisions.
- Plan your menu the night before or on Sunday for the whole week. This way, you’re not using energy figuring out what you feel like eating at the time. You know what typically works for you. Make a plan with foods you enjoy, are easy enough to prepare, and will sustain you until the next meal or snack. Note: let go of rigidity here. If your food plan is no longer fresh or enjoyable, switch things out.
- Start your day with some screen-free time. Whether it’s for one minute or one hour, allow yourself to think, meditate, take a walk, or do a yoga pose to help center you first thing.
- Maintain a to-do list, so those thoughts don’t take up valuable space in your mind. Always keep a pad nearby (your phone’s note-taking app could lead you back into digital distraction) to list out decisions you need to make, but not at that moment.
- Nourish your brain. Food, rest, hydration, and movement all help nourish the mind.
- Make your decision and move on. Instead of second-guessing yourself, let go of perfectionism and the idea that a decision was either right or wrong.
Are you feeling decision fatigue? What has helped you? Which of these ideas are you willing to try?