Counteracting Decision Fatigue with 4 Strategies
When do you make your wisest decisions? In the morning, the afternoon, or at night? Research reveals you’re probably making the best choices in the first hours after waking up—thanks to an effect known as decision fatigue.
Contrary to popular belief, self-control isn’t like a muscle. It doesn’t become stronger the more frequently (or intensely) you flex it. Instead, the greater the number of decisions you make, the less powerful your willpower becomes.
To illustrate: if you’ve avoided the Oreos all day, you’ll probably succumb at 8 p.m.
How should you counteract decision fatigue? Here are a few strategies.
1. Remove temptation
It’s hard to act on temptation when it’s not around. With that in mind, try cutting out everything that you’re prone to being enticed by.
Maybe Facebook always distracts you at work. Download an app like RescueTime or GetFocusd that makes it impossible to visit Facebook while you’re on the clock.
Or perhaps you always end up eating junk food after you get home from the office. Replace the unhealthy foods that you love with more nutritious alternatives, so when you reach in the cupboards you don’t have any junk food options.
2. Make good choices easy
Along similar lines, make healthy choices as effortless as possible. Let’s say you struggle to consistently exercise. Put your sneakers and gym clothes at the foot of your bed so it’s easy to wake up, get dressed, and work out.
Making your good choices easy dramatically increases the chance you’ll follow through. Ask yourself, “What stops me from doing X?” Then try to remove as many of those blockers as possible.
3. Give yourself a deadline
It’s much easier to decide when you’re on a tight deadline—your adrenaline kicks in, your focus narrows, and the best decision becomes clearer. Next time you’re struggling to make a choice, give yourself a time limit.
Perhaps you’re not sure which recommendation to make to your team at tomorrow’s meeting. You have three options. Set an alarm for 20 minutes from now, and commit to choosing by then.
4. Stick to a routine
The more habitual and automatic a choice is, the more mental energy you’ll have for one-off decisions. That’s the reasoning behind Steve Jobs’s “uniform”: Wearing the same thing every day freed up brain space to invent revolutionary products and steer Apple toward an unprecedented place in its customers’ minds. Follow Jobs’s lead and automate what you don’t care about. If you’re not into clothes, wear the same thing every day. If you’re not passionate about food, repeat your meals.
You don’t have to make every single decision by yourself. The most effective leaders delegate decision-making power to the people under them, which frees up time and mental energy and gives their direct reports opportunities to learn and grow.
To give you an idea, perhaps you need to choose a new vendor. Rather than going through the entire evaluation process solo, ask one of your reports to research five suppliers and present the most promising two to you. You’ll still have the final decision—but you’ll expend fewer resources.
About Signature Consultants, LLC
Headquartered in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Signature Consultants was established in 1997 with a singular focus: to provide clients and consultants with superior staffing solutions. For the seventh consecutive year, Signature was voted as one of the “Best Staffing Firms to Work For” and is now the 14th largest IT staffing firm in the United States (source: Staffing Industry Analysts). With 26 locations throughout North America, Signature annually deploys thousands of consultants to support, run, and manage their clients’ technology needs. Signature offers IT staffing, consulting, managed solutions, and direct placement services. For more information on the company, please visit www.sigconsult.com.