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Definition of decision

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

As part of the definition, you can see that making decisions is an act or process. That means it is an action. And actions take our 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 worsens over time as you make many decisions.  This concept was first documented by the social psychologist Roy F. Baumeister and is a widely accepted phenomenon.

So it takes energy to make a decision, and 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. 

Believe it or not, but making decisions can actually 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.  But you see, once a decision is made, it requires no more decision energy. 

If you are deciding what to wear for the day.  You stand in your closet, looking at your clothing and 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 and so you say you’ll decide later.  You make your breakfast and coffee.  In the back of your mind, you are thinking about what shirt to wear.  You use up a slight bit of energy to decide what you will eat.  All the while carrying the effort of deciding “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.  Now you’ve got it. 

So now that you see that, I want you to look at decisions from the perspective of how much energy it takes to CONSIDER.  Every time you put off making a decision, you are carrying it with you, taking up mental energy.  

I will go as far as to say that I think the energy you use up, NOT making decisions, is 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, let’s go there with the shirt.  You picked out a shirt.  Decision made.  You are 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 second-guessing decisions we have already made, we are significantly increasing the amount of “decision work” we do.  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 once you have decided, 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 mismatched socks you decided to wear this morning.
  • Decide that you will go to the gym at 5 PM after work, and don’t second guess it at 4:45.  
  • Decide that you will get in bed at 10:30 PM for a good night’s 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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