What helps us make all our decisions? Willpower. The same one we use to be polite, to wait our turn, or to get out of bed every morning. Psychologist Roy F. Baumeister says, “Your ability to make the right investment or hiring decision may be reduced simply because you expended some of your willpower earlier when you exerted yourself to get to the meeting on time.”
Given that the average adult makes thousands of decisions each day, how can we save some of our willpower for the more important ones? And prevent decision fatigue, where we shut down due to lack of mental energy? Here are some proven answers:
- Limit your choices. As exciting as it is to have a range of options to choose from, it often causes an information overload. Too many choices cause analysis paralysis, where we spend hours comparing options, evaluating information, and testing all choices. Eventually, we lose our perspective, and make a choice we are likely to regret.
Eliminating options increases the possibility of making better decisions. Mark Zuckerberg and Barack Obama both simplified their wardrobes, to save their decision-making power. The same applies when you research online – don’t go beyond three websites! And, if you are looking for more creativity, constraints are the way to go. Renowned designer Damien Correll believes, “Constraints make the process more enjoyable and the final output is something I’m proud of.”
- Save the mornings for important decisions. As your day moves on, your willpower becomes weaker. A study on doctors found that they were more likely to prescribe unnecessary antibiotics for respiratory infections as their workday wore on.
In other words, make your important decisions soon after waking up! This is when your cognitive resources are sharp. You’ll be better able to sort through complex information and avoid making hasty decisions. Need a little push? Apple CEO Tim Cook wakes up at 3:45 am. PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi is up by 4:00 am, in the office by 7:00 am!
- Eat something. Yep, you read that right! It’s not always that we know we are hungry. Which means, low blood glucose levels. Just like the rest of our body, our brain gets its energy from glucose. And when low on glucose, it responds strongly to immediate rewards and pays less attention to long-term benefits.
So, if you snack, your tired brain will recover in no time. In fact, when asked to make financial decisions after drinking lemonade, participants in a study resisted quick payoffs and made rational choices!
Be it your meeting schedule, or your meal choices, all your decisions have an impact. Why not make them the right way? Do you have other recommendations to avoid decision fatigue? Let us know.