The modern world is full of choices. Some are trivial, such as what to listen to at the gym or what to watch on Netflix. Others are more serious, such as the important decisions made at work.
Even if you feel in control, facing too many decisions is probably causing some degree of decision fatigue. This is bad news. Decision fatigue impacts negatively on cognitive function and general well-being, especially in a high-pressure workspace.
The good news? Some simple steps can prevent it and keep your body and mind at their best. This guide will explore six helpful tips to tackle decision fatigue at work head-on.
What Is Decision Fatigue?
In a nutshell, decision fatigue is the exhaustion the brain experiences after repeatedly making decisions. After each choice, the next one becomes harder and less reliable.
Professor Roy F. Baumeister used the term ‘ego depletion’ to refer to the way the brain’s energy cells are depleted after each decision we make. This causes a drain in will-power, which Baumeister argued needs to be regenerated before good decision-making can resume.
The modern human is faced with dozens of energy-zapping decisions daily. Factor in a stressful day at work, and it becomes a recipe for disaster.
You may have an upcoming meeting, new systems to implement, or staff that need training. All require time and clarity of mind. Then you have other decisions, such as what to wear or what lunch to have. All of these form a cloud over you and cause decision fatigue.
Part of the solution involves giving your mind a break so you can continue to make good decisions at work. So how exactly can decision fatigue be beaten?
1. Limit Less Important Decisions
It may seem obvious, but limiting less important decisions can reduce decision fatigue. Ever been overwhelmed buying a pizza from your local takeaway? There are 40 toppings to choose from. You finally come up with your unique masterpiece and excitedly wait for it to arrive. You take a bite. Hmm. “Why didn’t I just order the pepperoni?” you think. “I know I like it.”
This feeling of frustration stems from being overwhelmed. Keeping things simple is often more rewarding. Have you ever noticed that Barack Obama and Mark Zuckerberg frequently wear the same clothes to work? For Obama, it’s a grey or blue suit. For Zuckerberg, a plain grey t-shirt.
Why? Obama told Vanity Fair in 2012, “I’m trying to limit decisions. I don’t want to decide what I am wearing or eating because I have too many other decisions to make.” Here, less really is more. So, limit those less important decisions to stay on top of your game.
2. Aim for Automation
Having too many decisions at work can be exhausting, so let technology help you. Utilizing automated systems and processes, such as RPA technology, takes the strain off human decision-making. Time and brainpower are freed up for other important decisions.
Automated systems can be used across many aspects of business and are great for preventing decision fatigue. Maybe you’re stressed and wondering how to manage email overload. Maybe there’s a pile of data that needs sorting. Aiming for automation lets machines take over mundane tasks, so you stay focused and energized for others.
3. Set a Dedicated Time for Decision-Making
In the digital era, the need to make decisions bombards us. Email notifications, instant messages, and online video conferencing platforms mean there isn’t a minute’s rest to be had.
The problem? The brain becomes depleted and fatigued. Each update interrupts workflow and decreases productivity and the ability to make good choices.
To avoid this, set aside a specific time for making decisions. Use this to prioritize upcoming tasks that require focus and concentration. You’ll thank yourself later.
4. Have Experts on Call
A successful leader seldom makes decisions alone. Having a reliable team of experts can reduce stress by providing support in areas you aren’t as knowledgeable in.
Make a list of critical decisions and assign someone with knowledge of that topic. Experts are likely to make decisions quicker and with less stress. It works both ways, so make sure you’re available to return the favor when needed.
This is a great way to reduce decision fatigue and build relationships at work. Result!
5. Reward Good Decisions
Enjoy the good moments too. Tap into the brain’s psychological reward system by celebrating decisions that bring results. Whether you nailed that presentation or managed to set up a new email segmentation process, celebrating key decisions is the trick to happiness and productivity.
Next time you feel overwhelmed, remembering the rewards can help you focus on your goals. It’s also a great way to promote a positive company culture where everyone feels celebrated and valued.
Next time you make a good call at work, take a moment to appreciate the results of your hard work.
6. Monitor Your Physical and Mental Health
Taking on too much can damage your physical and mental health. Keep an eye out for the signs. Perhaps you’re constantly making bad choices or eating the wrong foods during the day. Maybe you’re going to bed too late. Don’t expect to be at your best if you deny your body the rest and nutrients.
Imagine filling a petrol car with diesel – it’s going to break down. The human body is similar, so pay attention to what yours is saying. At-work gym memberships and healthy-eating schemes can go a long way toward creating a happy and healthy team.
Remember, a healthy employee is a productive one.
Recent statistics from Trafft show an office worker checks their emails 50 times a day and their social media 77 times.
Sound familiar? Then it’s time to change those bad habits and follow good routines. By avoiding overstimulation, decision fatigue can be kept at bay and energy preserved for the choices that matter most.
Hopefully, this guide can help you along the way.