Researchers at Cornell University estimate we make 226.7 decisions each day on food alone. And as your level of responsibility increases, so does the multitude of choices you have to make. It’s estimated that the average adult makes about 35,000 remotely conscious decisions each day. Each decision, of course, carries certain consequences with it that are both good and bad.
Even though we'd like to think they are all grounded in logic, there is a lot going on in our subconscious that results in irrational decisions or inaccurate assumptions. Decision fatigue refers to the deteriorating quality of decisions the more decisions that are made. It is now understood as one of the causes of irrational trade-offs in decision making. For example, we know the number of options we have can make a big difference in whether we purchase a product or not. If you missed that one, check it out here:
But it’s not just how many decisions or how many choices we have. Our decision-making process is also influenced by when we make decisions.
There is a wealth of literature about the very real effects of decision fatigue. Unfortunately, it happens to all of us and even small decisions add up and drain your mental resources. But, there are some simple ways to prevent it from zapping rational thought or your motivation.
Make important decisions in the morning.Save the mundane decisions for the end of the day and save the simple things for the evening. Selecting your outfit the night before, making a shopping list and sticking to it, or putting your gym bag by the door so you don’t even have to think about whether you’ll go to the gym the next day can make a big difference.
Commit to scheduled routines. Don’t decide whether you’ll pick up dinner on the way home or warm up left-overs. Structure those things that you have to do – laundry, grocery shopping, paying bills, etc. – in a predictable schedule that takes no decision-making and commit to it.
Keep your blood sugar steady. A studythat examined the parole decisions of a group of judges showed that they were more likely to grant parole at the start of the day . As time went on and they got more mentally fatigued, they were more likely to deny parole, which was the default decision. In the time right after their meal, their likelihood of granting parole jumped back up to morning levels and then steadily decreased throughout the afternoon.Avoid impulse decisions. Don’t listen to the instant gratification seeker who doesn't always consider the consequences.
The bottom line: the best decision-makers are those who know when not to make important decisions.