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Do You Suffer From Decision Fatigue?

DECISION FATIGUE: The emotional or mental strain that comes from having to make too many decisions over a fixed period OF time. It will generally result in either avoiding future decisions or making risky decisions. Neither of these outcomes are ideal because frankly, life is a series of decisions. Even when we aren’t consciously making a decision on something, that’s a decision in-and-of-itself and we live out the consequences of it.

It’s not as if decision fatigue is a new concept. In fact, it’s been observed in a myriad of ways for decades. In a study that looked at thousands of parole hearings, for those prisoners who had their parole hearing first thing in the morning, 70% of them were likely to be granted parole; however,

if their case was heard late in the day, only 10% of prisoners were granted parole.  The more decisions the parole panel had to make, the more they experienced decision fatigue and defaulted to avoiding the decision of granting parole. 


THE REASON? Making decisions takes a toll on our biology and if we are required to make multiple decisions in a short period of time, we are apt to avoid the decision – and thus, the prisoner stays in prison despite the details of their case.


Decision fatigue can cause mental impairment and it will often show up as reduced willpower, impulsive choices, avoidance of decisions (“you choose for me”) or defaulting to engrained habits. For example, eating the same foods for meals over and over again, walking the same route for your evening walk, doing the exact yoga class sequence every time  or having a schedule that is considered ‘clockwork’. 


Some people might not believe this is a problem for them specifically (and it may not be having a huge impact); however, when you are forced to

make (or consider) hard decisions day-after-day it will often result in not only biological (mental, emotional, physical) ramifications, but result in the deterioration of the quality of the decisions you do make. I notice that it begins to ignite a belief that we can’t trust our decisions or that it is inherently better to pass the decision making onto someone else. This might be okay if that ‘someone else’ has your best interest at heart, but ultimately, we are the very best person to make decisions for our own well being and our own life.  


Generally we aren’t consciously aware that we are treading water in the dangerous current of decision fatigue. We might only recognize

that we have the experience of brain fog or feel chronically depleted, anxious and stressed. In my estimation, life will continue to offer us hundreds and hundreds of decisions so to avoid decisions isn’t a worthwhile option. I advocate for increasing our resiliency to decision making and there are multiple ways to do so.


Strategies to improve your resilience & lessen decision fatigue:


          • Create an empowering routine: If we default to engrained habits when we are faced with decision fatigue, do your best to create new empowering routines so that your default becomes something that enriches your life and health. For example, a routine that incorporates nourishing food and movement right from the onset of your day will reduce negative biological effects. 



          • Make your most important decisions in the morning when your mental acuity is higher. If you and your partner, team or family need to talk through important information, meet for breakfast (instead of dinner) or plan your meeting as soon as the day begins. Your mental game will be more en pointe at the onset of your day. 


          • Minimize the need to make less important decisions. Can you simplify your wardrobe choices, automate your grocery or supply shopping or minimize the daily cooking by 50% by bulk grilling/baking/cooking?  Yes, you will still need to make food, choose your pants or decide if you need more TP, but if you can minimize the steps, effort and decisions, it will leave you with more bandwidth. 


          • Plan breaks throughout your day, week and month to refuel your reserves. Examples of important breaks include social media and technology breaks, nature breaks, stretching breaks and 1-2 day get-aways. 


          • Abandon the idea of multitasking. Research is conclusive that multitasking is a waste of our brain power. Determine when your hour of power is and prioritize your most important tasks to this time (it’s often, but not always, first thing in the morning – earlier than you want to admit). Turn off notifications, silence your phone and clearly communicate to those around you that you’re not to be disturbed in this important window. You’ll find you can power through exceptionally important work in a super efficient way and leave the rest of your day to projects, conversations and activities that don’t require your peak performance.


          • Create an oasis where and when you can. Is your bedroom a distraction free zone? Remove the TV and put away the technology in your bedroom. It might seem like a break to binge watch tv from bed but your brain is having a different experience. Is your house free of clutter? Clutter affects your focus (thereby requiring more energy expenditure), sleep and anxiety levels. Is your sleep zone conducive to restorative sleep? Again, resilience is key and sleep is the gold standard. Create a dark, cool bedroom free of EMF’s, light and distraction. Invest in great quality sheets, comfortable mattress and a nurturing sleep environment.


          • Be exceptionally clear with yourself and others as to when your work day begins and ends (and this goes for parents who take care of the family from home). Put notifications and autoresponders on your phone and email letting others know when they can expect you to respond. Turn off your phone and put away your laptop at a designated time and discipline yourself to create an intentional work-free zone of time. As a parent there is no time clock to punch in and out of but you can be very cognizant of when you will do laundry, do household chores, respond to tasky items and take on home-based projects’. As the effects of chronic decision-making (or even the feeling of having to make a lot more important decisions these days) increases, my weekends have become clear work-free zones. By 4 pm on Friday I push back the to-do list and shift into to-be mode.
              1. To be relaxed.
              2. To be more mindful.
              3. To be less scheduled.
              4. To be free to do whatever I feel called to do in the moment. 


          • Consciously work on knowing thyself. The other day my partner asked me if I was available to join him to meet for drinks with an important client on a Tuesday evening. My answer was a solid NO. We were already involved in a short social engagement for Monday evening and I know that my bandwidth isn’t operating the way it was 6-8 months ago. I could go … but I can’t go because I’m clear with myself about what my brain, body & soul are capable of right now. There is no upside to digging myself into a bigger hole just so that I can say yes to the people around me. You truly know what you are and aren’t capable of doing. When decision fatigue is high, it’s not the time to perfect being a martyr – no matter how good you are at it. 



So how do you feel about taking back some control and putting decision making in its place?



Using these empowering strategies may not eliminate your decision fatigue entirely, but it will help you remove a lot of unnecessary decisions and will help you consciously create more space for what’s most important in your life. As you push back the unnecessary, redundant and unfulfilling aspects of your life, you’ll have more bandwidth for what’s truly calling you forward. And that’s always worth cultivating time for. 



Please share this article with whomever you know needs to hear this message. 




DRF / Soul Inspired Gurl

Hey! I'm Laura.

Our rise is seeded in the strength of our roots. I help women plant and nurture theirs.

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