Five ways to avoid decision fatigue

An easy-to-follow decision making framework to avoid decision fatigue and enhance your impact in the workplace.

Learning how to avoid decision fatigue starts with focus and ends with balance. 

Why should you spend 3 minutes reading this blog?

  • The human brain is inundated with hundreds of decisions daily, learning how to prioritise them will set you apart.
  • It’s written by someone with 20+ years’ experience in employee performance and neuroscience-based resilience strategies. 
  • Deciding not to would be a waste of precious mental energy. 

Decision fatigue impacts our productivity and general energy levels more than many of us realise. Should you go to the gym tomorrow before work, or after? What will you wear today? What do you want for breakfast? When do you want to set that important meeting for? Will you call your friend at lunch, or wait until the weekend? The list is endless - and most of our mental calculations are subconscious, though the toll on our energy level is very much felt. 

Your brain finds decision-making particularly difficult when it doesn’t have all of the information it needs. It’s always trying to protect you from threats, and having any level of uncertainty will make this process more stressful for your brain - as it feels even more out of control. 

It’s difficult to weigh up the pros and cons of a decision without all the facts, as we make decisions based on learned experiences. The brain likes black and white. It wants to make accurate predictions. It doesn’t like a world of ambiguity and gray zones. Can you blame it? So is it any wonder that making consistent decisions throughout the day leaves it exhausted?

The best thing you can do to avoid decision fatigue is be aware of it - and reduce the number of decisions you have to make. It may sound obvious - but it can be very hard to do! Here are five strategies that can help:

1. Focus your mental efforts on more important decisions:

At the start of each day (or before you go to bed, if it helps) make a list of the tasks you need to complete. Prioritise the most urgent and important tasks - deciding what Netflix series to watch on the weekend can wait! 

2. Delegate decisions to others:

Delegating doesn’t just apply to tasks - you can reallocate decision-making too. Empower your employees to make productive choices with resilience training and spend your precious time and mental energy where it counts most. 

3. Give yourself permission to make less ‘informed’ choices: 

While it’s important to make educated decisions, be sure not to fall victim to analysis paralysis by attempting to know every last detail. In some cases, action is better than inaction.

4. Rest your brain so it can recharge faster 

Adopt a microlearning approach and work in short, sharp intervals to free more space for effective mental activity. This will be great for decision fatigue - and general fatigue, too.

5. Balance ‘routine’ tasks with ‘harder decision’ tasks 

When your brain is familiar with a certain activity, it becomes habitual - and requires less mental energy. If you choose between the bus or the tram every day, for example, you’re likely to be familiar with exactly what time each mode of transport will pick you up and how long the journey will take. Your brain doesn’t have to go scanning for information every day - so it requires less energy. Conversely, devising a strategy for a brand new client in an unfamiliar industry will require more complex thinking. Ensure you have the right balance of column a and column b in your daily routine.  

The human brain is faced with countless decisions every day. Implementing these simple techniques can have an impact on the effectiveness of those decisions, and the mental capacity they require. A resilient mind knows how to avoid decision fatigue, and perform at its best. 

Our Resilient Inspired Leader program is full of learning tips and insights to improve decision making and optimise workplace performance.

Start your journey to better business today. 

About the author

Wendy Jenkins OAM

Wendy Jenkins is no stranger to change and adversity. As a newlywed looking forward to her next chapter, Wendy was diagnosed with a life-threatening lung condition and given two years to live without a rare and risky transplant procedure. While lucky enough to match with a donor, the transplant left Wendy with ongoing complex health issues, which prevented her from having children, shortened her life expectancy, and led to severe depression and PTSD. 

More than 16 years later, Wendy is a certified resilience coach and instructor, successful entrepreneur, sought-after speaker and a strong advocate for advancing forward - not just bouncing back. A highly experienced human resources practitioner and applied science graduate with honours, Wendy is dedicated to empowering forward-thinking businesses and individuals to be their best through neuroscience-based resilience training.

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