Having trouble making a choice? You might have decision fatigue

Do I want to train today? Should I go to the gym? Should I take a course? Do I have time to train?

More than a year ago, what seemed like a simple decision for Renée Fishman turned into a series of overwhelming questions.

“All these questions came up. Then before I knew it, I had no time to train,” said Fishman, a New York resident.

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Whether you’re cooking breakfast or deciding what to wear in the morning, your brain makes more than 35,000 decisions every day, according to Eva Krockow, a senior lecturer at the University of Leicester in the UK.

When the evening comes, you are exhausted, but you don’t really know why.

Chances are you are experiencing decision fatigue.

Decision fatigue occurs when it feels overwhelming to be faced with decisions, whether big or small, said Lynn Bufka, the American Psychological Association’s associate executive director for practice research and policy.

“I don’t think many of us have necessarily thought about the effort behind thinking and being in the world, but the pandemic may have prompted us to do so because we had to integrate a lot of new evolving information,” she said. mentioned.

In the past two years people have been told they don’t need to wear masks, they should wear masks, and later what kinds of masks are best, which is a lot to follow, Bufka said.

“Trying to juggle all of that takes a lot of effort, which makes it harder to manage other kinds of decisions,” she said.

When you experience decision fatigue, it can impair your judgment and encourage you to rush to a decision or avoid making a decision altogether, said Grant Pignatiello, KL2 instructor and clinical researcher at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. .

“What people worry about is that they’re going to make decisions that they’ll end up regretting just because they didn’t think through all the options enough and chose impulsively, or they chose the default option,” he said.

If you are exhausted for no apparent reason, you may be experiencing decision fatigue. Credit: firecrackers/Getty Images/iStockphoto

Do you have decision fatigue?

Decision fatigue can be hard to spot because it builds up over time, but there are some warning signs, Bufka said.

If you find you’re more irritable and find it difficult to deal with certain situations you normally wouldn’t have trouble dealing with, you might be experiencing decision fatigue, she said.

Plus, you might struggle to process incoming information like phone notifications or the latest news updates, Bufka said.

You can also lament picks you wouldn’t think twice about, Pignatiello said.

“If you feel more emotionally overwhelmed or overwhelmed by life, it could be a sign that your inner resources are depleted, and you may be at greater risk (of decision fatigue) as a result,” he said.

Automation is the answer

One of the best ways to reduce the decision fatigue you feel is to automate the number of choices you make each day, Pignatiello said.

There’s a reason some tech CEOs wear the same kind of clothes every day, he said.

“When you make many decisions every day that impact many people, you want to make sure you have all the resources available to make those choices,” Pignatiello said.

That’s how Fishman eliminated his morning Q&A session.

Rather than worrying about whether or not she’s going to work out, she already knows that she’ll hit the gym after she wakes up in the morning.

“I’ve been doing this now for over a year, and I haven’t missed a workout,” Fishman said.

This strategy can be applied to other areas of your life such as meals, Bufka said.

“If you have a breakfast that you like, that it’s nutritious and meets your basic needs, stick to it,” she said.

divide and conquer

Another strategy is to try to anticipate periods of high emotional and cognitive load to reduce the number of decisions you need to make during that time, Bufka said.

Make whatever decisions you can in advance or assign them to someone else, she explained.

If you live with someone else, divide some of the decision-making responsibilities so you don’t have to think about certain tasks, which reduces the load on your brain, Bufka said.

And remember to take it slow – take these steps gradually to reduce decision fatigue, one step at a time.

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