Did you know that on a daily basis the average person has made 35,000 decisions before bedtime, each requiring some amount of time, energy, and thought? Making decisions can exhaust and wear us down over time because we are simply faced with way too many.
I don’t know about you, but sometimes my brain just freezes when asked something as simple as “What do you want for lunch?” Even if it’s something small and harmless, decisions are not always black and white, and rarely come easily.
I’ve learned that there is an actual name for this affliction, and how paralyzing it can be…
Coined by social psychologist and author of Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength, Roy F. Baumeister, decision fatigue is simply the deterioration of our ability to make good decisions after being faced by having to make too many. Decision fatigue proves that the more decisions you need to make, the worse you’re going to be at making them.
As we approach 1 of the 35,000 decisions that face us on a daily basis, we drain our ability to not only make wise choices but to even have the energy to face them at all.
THE BURNOUT IS REAL
With decision fatigue on my mind, I recently came across a Buzzfeed article in which news reporter, Anne Helen Petersen, explores the “burnout” the Millennial generation is feeling.
The burnout manifests itself in things such as difficulty making decisions and “errand paralysis” – the inability to complete simple tasks such as going to the post office – and is the result of a never-ending to-do list in a world with so many options and such high expectations.
Petersen says, “Burnout and the behaviors and weight that accompany it aren’t, in fact, something we can cure by going on vacation. It’s not limited to workers in acutely high-stress environments. And it’s not a temporary affliction: It’s the millennial condition. It’s our base temperature. It’s our background music. It’s the way things are. It’s our lives…Other tasks become difficult because of too many options.”
NO PAROLE FOR YOU!
Another example illustrating decision fatigue comes from researchers who studied more than 1,100 parole hearing decisions made by U.S. judges. They learned that the most influential factor in whether or not someone was granted parole wasn’t their crime, circumstance or plea, but what time of the day their case was heard.
New York Times reporter John Tierney writes, “Prisoners who appeared early in the morning received parole about 70% of the time, while those who appeared late in the day were paroled less than 10% of the time.”
Tierney continues, “Decision fatigue helps explain why ordinarily sensible people get angry at colleagues and families, splurge on clothes, buy junk food at the supermarket and can’t resist the dealer’s offer to rustproof their new car. No matter how rational and high-minded you try to be, you can’t make decision after decision without paying a biological price…the more choices you make throughout the day, the harder each one becomes for your brain, and eventually, it looks for shortcuts.”
YOU’RE FATIGUED…NOW WHAT?
It has a name.
There’s research behind it.
And…you’re feeling the effects in a big way.
What to do now?
As a culture, we are at a crossroads. Demands are high, time is precious and constant choices in a world of endless options must be made. I encourage you to…
Reevaluate your priorities.
Simplify your base needs, relationships and goals.
In other words, make a decision about how you’ll be making decisions moving forward.
Baumeister’s studies show that people who make decisions more easily, with the best self-control, are the ones who structure their lives in a certain way. He says, “They don’t schedule endless back-to-back meetings. They avoid temptations like all-you-can-eat buffets, and they establish habits that eliminate the mental effort of making choices…the best decision makers are the ones who know when not to trust themselves.”
Former President Barack Obama wore only blue or gray suits for his entire 8-year term in the White House, and Steve Jobs rarely deviated from his famous turtleneck and jeans uniform. They were onto something genius – simplifying certain decisions to make space for more impactful ones.
If this resonates with you, I encourage you to take mindful steps to start identifying and prioritizing what’s key to your happiness and success.
As I’ve helped my clients grow their businesses, I continually ask, “What’s important to you?” as a way of getting them to slow down and focus on what matters most. My zone of genius is helping very successful people prioritize, figure out what they can release in their lives and streamline their options to make space for easier and more decisive decision making.
If you’re suffering from burnout or need help managing decision fatigue, contact me and let’s chat….you might find that reaching out for support is the best decision you’ve made in a long time.