The brain is a muscle. And like all the other muscles in your body, it drains energy to use it. This is the reason people who make hundreds, if not thousands of decisions every day try to reduce the trivial decisions they have to make.
Tips on reducing decision fatigue:
1. Make your big decisions in the morning. Your mind is clearer and you’re not worn from the the day’s activities yet. You could also include decision making within your Most Important Tasks (MIT’s) and commit to finishing them first. In Zen Habits, Leo Babauta points out that no matter what else you do for the day, those three MIT’s are what you want done.
2. Choose the simpler option. What makes you feel less overwhelmed? What’s the easiest thing to do right now? These questions are more for the lesser priority items on your task list then the bigger items. Depending on the complexity of the issue, big decisions will require more time and will require you to think about long and short term goals. But for something more immediate, the path of least resistance is probably the better choice.
3. Limit your options. If you have too many, narrow it down to three choices.
At McKinsley, the consultants only present three solutions at a time to clients. For instance, instead of providing nine items to choose from, they’ll only present three solutions at a time, then the next three in order to simplify decision making.
So, if you’re at a restaurant and you’re trying to decide what to eat, narrow down to three choices. If you don’t like any of those three move on to the next three, then the next until you decide. Although what I’d do is if I know where we’re eating ahead of time, I’d research the menu choices the night before or during some down time and then mentally bookmark my choices in order to save time.
4. Go minimalist. This is particularly when it comes to clothes. If you think they’re boring then use accessories as the variable depending on your mood or the season.
Look at Steve Jobs, Barack Obama and Mark Zuckerberg - they all wore pretty much the same outfits everyday giving themselves one less decision to think about.
5. Done is better than perfect. Good enough is good enough. If the task is at 80% for the things not at the top of your list, live with it. Otherwise this perfectionism is nothing more than procrastination. You could always revisit the task at later date.
6. Remove yourself from situations or places that distract. Or at least keep your engagement to a minimum. Like with social media, set the timer for five minutes, then stop browsing when the timer goes off. With stores, look at the window displays, but don’t go inside unless you have a specific item on your list. Once you get sucked in, realize you’ve just complicated your life with more decisions. On Facebook for instance, you have to choose whose post to read, who to like, who to comment back to or reply to. At the store it’s what to try on, do they have this in your size, how many more items are in stock?
7. If it’s not on your to do, then the decision is no (at least for the day). Sure there’s the fear of missing out and we don’t want to be out of the loop. But when it comes to getting your most important things done, you’ll need to say “no” to somethings. If you say “yes” to everything, you’re saying “no” to your MIT’s and your big priorities. Remember, you can always schedule to come back to it later.
8. Make your first decision work. Once you make your choice, follow through with it until the end. If it doesn’t work out or there’s an emergency, move on to your second choice or reschedule action on it.
With these eight tips, you’re on your way to making quicker, smarter decisions throughout your busy day.