When we put off making decisions, we are working harder than we need to.  

Today I want to tell you three things. 

  1. First, the simple definition of decision. 
  2. Second, I’ll discuss the concept of decision fatigue, and 
  3. Third, I’ll blow your mind and tell you that decision fatigue doesn’t come from making decisions, but instead comes from not making them. 

Ready? 

OK, so what is a decision?  

Mirriam webster:  Definition of decision

a: the act or process of deciding
b: a determination arrived at after consideration: CONCLUSION

As you can see it is an act or process.  It is something to consider.  

So in order to make a decision, we use up some energy.  And, using up energy over and over again causes…. You guessed it.  

Decision Fatigue

Decision Fatigue is the idea that your ability to make decisions becomes worse over time as you are making many decisions.  This concept was first documented by the social psychologist, Roy F. Baumeister. and it is well studied and accepted.  

So now you know that it takes energy to make a decision. And that when you make many decisions you get tired and the quality of your decisions goes down.

Many of us assume that this means the more decisions we make, the more tired we will get from making decisions.  While this is true, there is actually a little more to it than that.  Which brings me to the final point of today’s article.  

Making decisions will reduce your decision fatigue. 

“Wait.  What?  I’m confused.”

OK, let me explain.

Decision making uses up energy right? But what’s using the energy?  Is it the decision, or the process of deciding?  Mental energy is being used up by all of the activity right up to the point of the decision.  Once made, it requires no more decision energy. 

Let’s use an example of deciding what to wear for the day.  You stand in your closet looking at your clothing and you are trying to choose a shirt to wear.  Which of these two scenarios uses more energy?

  1. You see five shirts.  You consider which one you like for today.  You weigh the options of how the shirt feels on you.  You check the weather.  You pick a shirt.  
  2. You see five shirts.  You consider which one you like for today.  You weigh the options of how the shirt feels on you.  You check the weather.  You can’t decide what to wear.  You say you decide later.  You make your breakfast and coffee.  In the back of your mind, you are thinking about that shirt.  You use up a slight bit of energy deciding what you will eat.  All the while carrying the decision about the “what to wear” along with you.  You go back upstairs and you pick a shirt. 

“Oh my gosh!  Not deciding about which shirt to wear actually used up more energy than simply deciding in the first place!”

Yup.  you’re absolutely right about that.  Now you’ve got it. 

Look at decisions from the perspective of how much energy it takes to  CONSIDER.  You are going to want to make decisions much more quickly.  Every time you put off making a decision, you are carrying the decision with you and it’s taking up mental energy.  

I will go as far as to say that I think the energy you use up NOT making decisions is actually greater than the energy you use to make one.  And the more decisions you don’t make during the day, the greater your decision fatigue will be.  

“But what If I make the wrong decision?”

OK, lets go there with the shirt.  You picked out a shirt.  Decision made.  Your dressed and making coffee.  Now, you are second guessing your decision about your shirt.  “Should I have picked the green one today?”  “I hope I don’t regret wearing this shirt today” “Maybe I should change my shirt”.

What’s happening is that you are working on a NEW decision, “should you keep the shirt you already decided, or change to a different one?”  You are using mental energy making THAT decision, and will continue to use mental energy until that decision is made. 

Do you see what’s happening?

By not making decisions quickly, AND by second guessing decisions we have already made, we are significantly increasing the amount of “decision work” we are doing.  Both increase our decision fatigue.

And all of this energy not making decisions still feels like work.  

So I challenge you today.  Go forth!  Make your decisions. 

Then be kind to yourself and do not second guess them.  You will end up making far more decisions, with less decision fatigue. 

  • Decide if you will attend that meeting as soon as you get the invitation.  Don’t wait.
  • Be proud of the mis-matched socks you decided to wear this morning.
  • Decide that you will go to the gym at 5PM after work, and don’t second guess it at 4:45.  
  • Decide that you will get in bed at 10:30PM to get a good night sleep.  Do not re-decide when the time comes around.

Decisions made! Now use your extra energy to go and do.

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