Here our productivity editor Michelle Broadbent helps you get more out of your day by explaining how to put an end to Decision Fatigue.
Right now our brains are so full it’s hurting. We may have had our environment reduced to the four walls around us but the disruption of life as we know it has meant many of us are now suffering from decision fatigue. We are so overwhelmed we are losing our ability to make good decisions – or any decision at all for that matter!
So how can we battle decision fatigue when our motivation and energy is at an all time low?
Limit Your Options
Start by making life easy for yourself and limit the options available to you. Have you considered why shopping in Aldi is so quick and easy compared to Woolworths (ignoring that centre aisle full of camping gear you are never going to use!)? It’s because there is generally only one type of each product rather than an entire shelf full. You are only deciding whether to buy a product or not, instead of which brand or size.
If you apply this “one choice” principle to other aspects of your life, you will automatically reduce the number of decisions you have to make each day. Consider the clothes you wear – you could create a uniform like Steve Jobs did with his black skivvies. Or the meals you eat. Jennifer Aniston ate the same salad every single day when she was filming ‘Friends’ (very important when she had bigger things to worry about like whether or not Angelina Jolie was sleeping with her husband!).
The Power of Daily Routine
Regular routine means you naturally have fewer decisions to make. You get up at the same time, you brush your teeth after you eat, you leave for the office at the same time each day, kids school starts and ends at a set time, etc. You don’t think twice about any of those things do you? The problem for most people right now is that our regular routines have gone out the window meaning we now have more decisions to make… ugh! Now is the time to embed routines into your life so that there are things you just do without thinking. Reducing the number of decisions for the mundane aspects of life frees up brain space for the fun stuff.
Schedule Your Decision Making
When we have decisions to make, we tend to circle back to it over and over until we have taken action – taking up valuable real estate in our heads. Instead of allowing these thoughts to infiltrate your entire day or week (or worse still, precious sleeping time), schedule time to contemplate and resolve your decisions. You can use reminders on your phone or your email folders to “park” these decisions until you get to the allotted time to work through them. And for insomniacs like me, I find having a notebook and pen beside my bed to write down my 3am musings helps enormously.
Give Yourself a Decision Making Deadline
The longer we have to make decisions, the longer we will take. So if a deadline has not been given to you (“buy today before I close the doors on this offer until next year”) then a great strategy is to give yourself a deadline. This sense of urgency will prevent you spending any more time than is absolutely necessary to make your decision.
We tend to ask for input from our nearest and dearest when we have a big decision to make. The trouble is, the more people you ask, the more opinions and recommendations you get and that creates overwhelm. You need to be selective about who you ask to support your decision making. Would you ask someone who wasn’t a dentist to start pulling your teeth out? The best person to ask is an expert – someone who has been there, done that and is qualified to help you make that decision.
This is the ultimate move in alleviating your decision fatigue – relinquish control and outsource your decision making. Executives do this all day long. They do not have the time or the inclination to involve themselves in everything that goes on in their organisation, they outsource to others. You can apply this to your life too. What decisions are you involving yourself in that you can hand over to someone else and free up some headspace for yourself? Start with the decisions that shouldn’t even involve you in the first place. This is going to be a stretch for the control-freaks of the group (I am terribly guilty of this) but I can not tell you how liberating it is to let go and make the decision someone else’s to make.
Applying these tips will give your brain a much needed rest. Good luck!