Do you get tired of making decisions? The dirty little secret is we all do.
And more and more science is looking at “decision fatigue” as being a real issue.
Many of those that have accomplished a lot in life and in business have strategies in place for dealing with decision fatigue. Barack Obama and Mark Zuckerberg have strategies for decision fatigue including that they each largely use the same outfits over and over again.
That’s one less decision for each of these men to make. Really its multiple decisions eliminate such as matching shirts and ties too.
But why do they care? Why not do what most people do and take a few minutes and pick out an outfit every morning?
Because it’s a decision. It requires thought and effort.
And every decision we make tires us out. At some point we just can’t keep doing it. Our minds shut down.
Such is the reality of decision fatigue. We will tire of making decisions and when we do we will not make decisions or make bad decisions. Neither is good for our future or our business.
More Decisions is Not Better
It would seem that more decisions would be better. Who doesn’t like to have options. And lots of options – seems even better!
But, actually, scientific research shows this is not the case. Actually having too many choices leads to indecision. Having a lot of choices often leads to individuals not making a choice.
Analysis requires thought. And it’s pretty simple to understand that more choices means more analysis and more thought.
And in our modern world it seems that we have more and more options. Careers are getting less structured. Families are often structured differently than before giving us choices. We have entire cable networks dedicated to niches like golf or motorsports opening up even more choice.
Choice is everywhere. And it’s tiring for those of us that have to choose.
We Do Have an Upper Limit on the Number of Decisions
It is believed that there is some upper limit on the number of decisions our brain will make before we just say “nevermind”. Some researchers believe we, as adults, are making 35,000 decisions a day.
All decisions require weighing tradeoffs and the theory is at some point our brain is done with all of that work. Much like a computer that is overworked leading to overheating leading to a shut down (those of us that are older can remember this happening more frequently than today) at some point our brain says “enough already.”
I know I feel this way after a long day of work. I just feel like I can’t focus anymore.
And I see it at offices and events. After long intense days the refrain “let’s go get a drink” is often heard. Are people really seeking the drink or just to end the mental pressure of making decisions at the office? Probably both in many cases.
While the often repeated number of 35,000 decisions a day cited in so many online articles seems shockling high it does seem there are a lot of decisions each day. And the growing body of evidence is too many decisions is not a good thing.
When We Get Tired We Are Sloppy
Much like a muscle at some point, if overused, the brain gets tired and less effective. And just like an overused muscle it loses effectiveness.
I tend to do a lot of work on cars and in the outdoors. When I am fresh I can often lift things, move objects or loosen tight bolts that I can’t when I am tired. At some point our bodies are tired from exertion and need time to recover.
Our muscles actually regenerate and repair themselves while we sleep. And many believe the same happens to our decision making capacity. With rest it resets.
But if we attempt to make decisions before the reset are making those decisions with tired brain muscles. Ones that cannot fully process things.
Doctors order less tests and judges are less likely to offer parole when they are tired. How random is it that your medical care and your how the legal system works, for you, can vary depending on the time of day of your appointment or hearing? Even when the judges break time is can determine you chances of certain outcomes.
We need to protect our tiredness to get to good decisions.
How Can We Improve?
So all of this might seem somewhat hopeless. We are bombarded with 35,000 decisions a day. Should we just give up and throw in the towel?
No. The key is to ration our decisions. We need to think about the decisions that matter and focus on those. Put more time and energy into high priority decisions and less time and energy into low priority decisions.
In other words we need to make decisions about our decisions.
We can also order and prioritize our decisions to make important decisions when we are fresh and make less critical decisions when we are tired.
Those of us that want to excel need to remember that decisions are something to be protected and rationed. Don’t just start your days trying to make every decision. Use a structure so you are making important decisions and eliminating unimportant ones.
With a little intentional effort we can all make better decisions. And making better decisions is never a bad decision.
By: The Our Shawn McBride who is constantly studying the Future of Business as the host of The Future Done Right(TM) Show. If you want regular content on the future of business subscribe to get new blog posts from us here.
One of my recurring themes on Medium.com is looking at what words mean. Here are some prior articles on the subject:
And for some completely different topic from me check out Why I’ve Given Up On Work-Life Balance.
NOTE: This article may have affiliate links where we get a small commission if you purchase an item mentioned.
Do you really want to make plans that work?
Future Done Right™ YouTube Channel – Check out this YouTube Channel for interviews and discussions about the future of business.
FREE preview copy of Business Blunders! – This is my first book and it looks at common business mistakes that I’ve seen in my years of working with business owners. This will allow you to avoid those issues in your business!
And a Little Thank You?
If you like this article can you leave a clap for it on Medium.com?