7 Essential Tips To Avoid Decision Fatigue

decision fatigue illustration person in laptop head down
Reading Time: 6 minutes

A study by Cornell University found that the average person makes 226 decisions about food each day.

If this seems right to you, perhaps it’s because you’ve spent hours scrolling through restaurant profiles on Grubhub, Seamless and Doordash only to choose the same “go-to” spot for dinner.

And if food choices weren’t enough, you also have to decide other things, like what to wear, what to write, what to watch on TV, and so forth.

Your brain must be tired, dear reader, to the point where your decisions begin to suck the more you make them.

This is called “decision fatigue”: when making so many decisions leads to poorer or more impulsive ones.1

When your decisions atrophy this way, you risk making erroneous or split-second decisions that could carry grave consequences.

You say things like “I don’t care” or “Whatever” when tasked with yet another decision to make.

Take it from judges in an Israeli courtroom that handed out parole sentences to prisoners.

In this study, the judges dealt better parole deals to prisoners whose cases were heard in the morning.

By the afternoon, the judges grew tired and issued longer paroles, or none whatsoever, even when the prisoners’ cases were identical.

So, how do you avoid this tragedy?

How do you side-step decision fatigue and choose wisely?

ENGAGING THE AUTOPILOT

decision fatigue unmanned cockpit in the clouds

Combating decision fatigue is rather intuitive: if making more decisions can lead to poor decision-making, then you should strive to make fewer decisions each day.

You can do this by automating certain decisions — especially ones that are relatively trivial compared to others — and by delegating them to people you trust.

This way, you can conserve more of that precious “decision juice” in your brain and keep enough willpower to make monumental decisions when the time comes, such as “Should I adopt a pet?” or “Should I go through with my wedding?” (Gulp!)

As you’ll see below, there are several habits you can learn by rote to run your decisions on autopilot mode, so to speak.

Additionally, you can let others decide, too, relieving the weight of decision fatigue from your shoulders.

7 essential tips decision fatigue infographic

#1. Streamline your wardrobe.

woman sorting through clothes closet

To overcome decision fatigue in the fashion department, create sections in your closet devoted strictly to job wear, casual attire and special occasions.

By doing so, you’ll know exactly which part of the closet to peruse before dressing for work or heading out to a gala.

Also, try mixing bright and neutral colors in your wardrobe that you can easily coordinate.

Keep an array of belts, shoes, bags and other accessories that’ll complement your choices.

Better yet, style certain outfits in advance and anchor them to one clothes hanger.

This way, when you pull the hanger from your closet, your outfit is ready to be thrown on, saving you much aggravation over what to wear.

#2. Have the same thing for breakfast.

flat lay cereal bowl w/milk yellow bckground

To drop-kick decision fatigue harder than a WWE wrestler, consider having the same thing for breakfast each morning.

This will strike through one more item on your morning to-do list so that you could focus on slaying the rest.

Alternatively, you can keep your breakfast items, such as your pancake mix, cereal, and oatmeal, in the same cabinet or pantry.

Organizing these items in one place will make it easier for you to scan what you’d like to have for breakfast.

And if you’re noticing an organizational pattern to beating decision fatigue (ie. sectioning off your work clothes and grouping your breakfast items) it’s because there’s an organizational pattern to beating decision fatigue.

#3. Spend less than 30 minutes shopping online.

laptop screen basket icon hand holding credit card

Don’t spend more than 30 minutes at a time shopping online for a particular item.

Google’s whole raison d’être is to make your life a whole lot easier by optimizing your SERPs (search engine result pages.)

So, to optimize your search, get granular, dear reader.

In other words, instead of the simple keyword “hiking boots” that could generate hundreds of thousands of search results, try a long-tail keyword like “breathable hiking boots for warm weather.”

Long-tail keywords will zero in on precisely what you’re looking for and show you the most relevant search results based on your query.

Once you’ve generated optimal search results, scroll through the different headlines over the first few pages, pick a few of them to review and then set a 30-minute timer.

Commit to completing your order within this 30-minute time frame and voilà, the days of spending 2+ hours making an innocuous shopping decision will no longer plague you.

#4. Limit your choices.

stocked refrigerators man can't choose

Limiting your choices can save you from an unfortunate case of decision atrophy.

Whereas the previous tips touched on limiting choices around common daily habits, this fourth approach to fighting decision fatigue can prevent decision burnout in other areas of your life.

For instance, in-person shopping at a smaller boutique for a brand that you love can spare you the overwhelming feeling of shopping at a huge department store packed with hundreds of clothing racks.

Similarly, browsing dozens of flavors at the gelato store and tasting more than the maximum three allowed (while the person behind the counter rolls their eyes at you) is no way to combat decision fatigue.

You know what your allergies are (hopefully.) You know which flavors you like and which ones you don’t.

Therefore, ask the person behind the counter which two flavors they recommend based on your likes and dislikes. Taste those. Make a choice. Easy peasy. Goodbye.

#5. Delegate your decisions.

three people pointing at laptop screen

To avoid the throes of decision fatigue, delegate some of your decisions to others.

And by others, we mean people. Not AI.

In other words, saying, “Alexa, please decide the rest of my life!” to your Amazon Echo device doesn’t count.

Instead, delegate any responsibilities or decisions to others that won’t cause the apocalypse should things go haywire.

Maybe Person A can choose where to go for brunch this weekend. And Person B can help plan that upcoming trip to Japan.

Trusting in others to get things done won’t only keep decision fatigue at bay.

It can also score you some brownie points with others who may feel empowered by your trust in them to make the best decisions on your behalf.

#6. Stall the decision.

hands holding up red clock blue background

If you can postpone the decision, by all means: save it for a future date and time. 

After all, you might find yourself in a place that isn’t conducive to making decisions like an amusement park where people are screaming on high-thrill rides (maybe even peeing themselves a little bit!)

When you’re suddenly taxed with an important decision to make in this place of all places, you might think to yourself, “I can’t think with all of this sh*t happening around me!”

Okay. So don’t.

Excuse yourself. Find a quiet place. Go back to the car at the parking lot or venture beyond the amusement park’s perimeter. Take a beat.

Stall the decision as much as you can — to the very last minute if it means that you’ll make a better decision, thereby overcoming decision fatigue like a champ!

#7. Get some sleep.

blonde woman on white bedding

Getting enough sleep is one of the best ways to overcome decision fatigue.

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine agrees that sleep deprivation can adversely affect a person’s ability to make sound decisions.

You know this intuitively. Perhaps you’ve tried to function the day after a restless night in bed.

You lurch through your kitchen the next morning, tired to kingdom come, and decide to concoct a carrot, ginger and kale juice on your Ninja blender to help invigorate you.

But you spit it out at the first sip, aghast that you used collard greens instead of kale.

If only you had enough rest to guide you through this decision…

At QWERTYdelight, our Sleep Collection is carefully curated to help you catch some well-deserved ZZZs and avoid this catastrophe.

Check it out and let us know in the comments which tips and tricks are your faves for kicking decision fatigue to the curb!

  1. Tierny, J. (2011, Aug 21.) Do You Suffer From Decision Fatigue? New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/21/magazine/do-you-suffer-from-decision-fatigue.html
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