What is Decision Fatigue & How Can I Overcome It?

mom suffering from decision fatigue

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Do you know what “decision fatigue” is? Have you heard of it before?

Every day, we have to make a number of choices. Making decisions is a necessary aspect of our lives, from choosing what to wear to work to deciding whether to change careers or relocate. But having to make countless decisions can take its toll, impacting your well-being.

What is Decision Fatigue?

When people are faced with a large number of decisions, they might suffer from a psychological phenomenon known as decision fatigue, sometimes also referred to as ego depletion. This phenomenon illustrates the stress that comes from having to make several decisions, no matter how minor or significant they may be.

Making decisions throughout the day uses up our mental resources, creating a cognitive overload that makes it harder to continue making decisions.

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American social psychologist Roy F. Baumeister coined the term “decision fatigue” to explain the decrease in a person’s decision-making ability resulting from a burden of choices or a long decision-making period.

Psychologists argue that people who are under too much stress tend to disconnect and shut down.

What Does Decision Fatigue Look and Feel Like?

Decision fatigue can manifest in a number of different ways, from an increase in procrastination and impulsivity to a reduction in your capacity to make sensible decisions. This can be especially troublesome if you are a high-performing professional who is required to make many decisions during the course of the day.

Increased Procrastination

Having to make many decisions can cause you to dread your tasks and decisions, so you put them off in favor of less important but more pleasurable activities. This habit of delaying your tasks and duties, even though you know there will be consequences, is known as procrastination.

Procrastination may harm your potential, skills, and chances of success, especially in your career.

Impulsivity

Do you get angry easily and lash out at your family, friends, and coworkers over the smallest things? Decision fatigue might impair your self-control, patience, and composure, leading you to make hasty, rash choices that you might come to regret in the future.

Dwelling on Insignificant Decisions

Ego depletion can lead you to spend an excessive amount of time contemplating insignificant decisions (such as what you are going to have for lunch, where you should go out, or which cheese you should buy), which can cause you to become easily stressed out and anxious when unable to make a decision.

Are Decision Fatigue and Indecisiveness the Same Thing?

No, they aren’t. Decision fatigue is a state of mental and emotional depletion that we might experience either after making many decisions in a short time or being presented with too many choices. As a result, decision fatigue may impact anyone, even the most strong-minded. However, psychologists believe that decision fatigue can be overcome with self-control and willpower.

On the other hand, indecisiveness typically stems from low self-confidence. It may manifest in a person’s persistent inability to make decisions. If you struggle with decision-making, you might fear failure, avoid making decisions, and procrastinate. As such, indecisiveness may require much more effort to overcome.

Indecisive woman at the store

What Causes Us to Have Decision Fatigue?

You can experience decision fatigue for two main reasons:

When you have to make too many decisions in succession: the more you have to make, the more mentally and emotionally exhausted you become, making it harder to make other decisions.

When there are too many alternatives available to choose from: When you have several options available to you, you run the risk of being emotionally and mentally exhausted.

Decision Fatigue is Both Mental and Emotional

Having to make a lot of decisions quickly or feeling overwhelmed by options can have an impact on both your mental and emotional health, resulting in a variety of cognitive and emotional symptoms like:

  • Inability to focus and pay attention
  • Low productivity
  • Feeling irritated
  • Lack of motivation
  • Anxiety and depression
  • An ongoing lack of energy
  • Feeling helpless and hopeless
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How Can I Overcome Decision Fatigue?

There are a few strategies you can try to overcome decision fatigue. However, the first step is learning what is decision fatigue and how it can affect your daily life. After you better understand the situation at hand, overcoming decision fatigue will be much simpler.

1) Plan Ahead and Stick to Your Plans

Planning ahead and actually sticking to it can reduce decision-making pressure, ease stress, and boost your confidence. Make a weekly grocery list, organize your chores, and prepare meals for a week ahead of time, for example, so you don’t have to make such decisions on a daily basis.

2) Prioritize Your Tasks & Do the Most Important Stuff First

If you have a lot of choices to make, begin with the most important ones. This will help you focus your energy on the most critical decisions. Besides that, knowing that you have taken care of the most important things will help relieve stress and anxiety.

3) Try Simplifying Your Choices

Whenever possible, try to simplify the decisions you have to make by reducing the number of options available. For instance, you can simplify your daily routine by deciding what to wear the night before. This could help save time in the morning and reduce stress.

Decision Fatigue Doesn’t Have to Slow You Down

It’s okay to take a break from decision-making when feeling overwhelmed. Do some yoga, exercise, mindfulness, or go for a walk to clear your mind and destress.

If you still feel overwhelmed, consider working with a professional. One-on-one coaching can be an excellent way to target your decision fatigue and develop strategies to overcome it so you feel confident again to make good decisions. Contact me today to set up a free empowering conversation to understand what causes your decision fatigue, how it affects your life, and how to overcome it.

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Kamini Wood

Kamini Wood

Kamini Wood is a Certified Life Coach, and best-selling author. Her mission is to empower high-performing adults and teens to become resilient self-leaders by reducing stress and anxiety, overcoming imposter syndrome, working through trauma, and re-discovering their AuthenticMe®.

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