Decision Making Fatigue: What It Is and How to Manage

April 27, 2022


woman thinking about decisions to make

Navigating life as a working professional is not easy. With our work responsibilities coupled with our social lives, family obligations, and making sure we get the most of our leisure time, sometimes it might suddenly feel like every decision you make is the most crucial decision.

Yes, this has to do with stress and being overwhelmed, but there is an actual word for this feeling.

Decision fatigue.

And it’s not only for the hard decisions with life-altering consequences. For example, even deciding what type of coffee to get in the morning can feel monumental when our brains are fatigued. 

Even if we usually can make our decisions confidently, this fatigue can have us questioning ourselves. Check out ASAP’s article on Decisiveness here to learn more!

So when and why does Decision Fatigue hit? Is there any way to manage it?

How Does Decision Fatigue Affect Decisiveness?

According to Medical News Today, Decision Fatigue, also known as “ego depletion,” is a psychological phenomenon where a person’s ability to make decisions becomes worse after making lots of decisions.

This doesn’t just mean having trouble being decisive at the moment. It might mean you go out of your way to avoid making decisions or thinking of the consequences. Things like impulse buying are an example of that.

It’s hard to gather empirical evidence for the existence of decision fatigue. Some journals find insufficient evidence for such a thing. In contrast, a study in Health Psychology found that nurses tend to make less efficient and more expensive clinical decisions the longer they go without a break. 

In the end, though, decision fatigue and its severity likely vary from person to person. 

Is There Decisive Evidence About What Causes Decision Fatigue?

Decision fatigue largely depends on the person’s stress levels and how many decisions they have to make each day. More complex choices deplete that energy faster. 

If you feel tired, have brain fog, or feel physically or mentally fatigued, watch out! Decision fatigue might not be far behind. 

How Can I Manage Decision Fatigue?

There are a couple of ways to manage decision fatigue, whether treating the feeling when it appears or preventing it in the future. 

Some find that it helps to think of Decisiveness as a finite resource, like a battery. The more decisions you have to make, the more depleted that energy is.

However, life often requires much decision-making, and you can’t avoid being decisive because you might get fatigued.  

Another recommendation is to make essential decisions sooner rather than later when you still have that energy. Whether tackling a tough judgment call, making an important phone call, or making plans, doing them earlier in the day rips off the band-aid, you’ll have the right state of mind to make the hard choices and be happier as a result. 

Other Managements

Taking frequent, short breaks throughout the day, planning your meals, and even what you wear ahead of time can also take some of the stress out of the small stuff.

Lastly, consider removing distractions. Look away from cell phones and social media when you have many tasks. Keeping your mind free of things that might drain its energy is a great way to reduce fatigue. 

Don’t ignore the important stuff just because a decision might be looming. Instead, take a deep breath, weigh your options, and confront the problem head-on. You’ll be glad you did. 

About the Author: Kaitlin P. Hughes is the Digital Content Coordinator at ASAP. She has a background in both written and verbal communication. She previously worked as an office coordinator managing a staff of 15 undergraduate students. She has experience in public relations, marketing, scientific research, and prides herself in becoming a subject matter expert in whatever her current topic is.  Kaitlin is dedicated to professional development and educating her peers on anything and everything they can do to become a better version of themselves.

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