How to avoid decision fatigue

What is decision fatigue? 

When we have a lot going on in our lives, and we have a lot of options available to us, we can find ourselves being overwhelmed by choice. When we are anxious, which routinely happen in life, we can find that making choices can become very difficult. We struggle to make decisions because we are in sympathetic nervous system mode. This is our threat alert system, where we are not able to access the decision-making part of our brain with much success. When we are stressed and anxious, we are shockingly bad at making decisions, we are foggy in our thoughts and we can’t focus. We can find ourselves going in circles. Our difficulties with decision making can then snowball out further because the process of making decisions makes our anxiety even worse. 

A clever way to help avoid decision fatigue is through streamlining our life choices. 

Highly effective people have routines, they don’t decide what to do in the morning with their breakfast, their exercise routine, their chores, their clothes, they just follow the pattern that has proved effective for them. They have worked out their best approach, and then they just cut and paste it to each day. With their work clothes, for example they have somewhat of a ‘go to’ uniform, their clear work clothes that they have found what works for them. 

It is definitely a smart life skill to streamline our small decisions and reserve our mental energy. We have so many important decisions to make in our day, we don’t want to use our attention, or time, or our effort on small, silly decisions. We need to streamline the mundane, small stuff. Many have a version of a work uniform, an exercise routine, a healthy food routine, and catch up routine with loved ones. These are small details that we can pare down and ritualize in order to streamline our decision-making effort and attention. We can also then experience the relief of decisions having been made, rather than the fog of indecision. We can then focus on what matters, our loved ones, more enjoyment, areas of growth and creativity. We can avoid decision fatigue. 

So be smart, save your headwork each day. By streamlining daily decisions and routines you can skip the frustration and pressure of indecision and vagueness and using your brain power for the important decisions.


Dr Kirsten Hunter

Dr Kirsten Hunter is a Clinical Psychologist of 22 years. She works with children, teenagers, adults and couples.

Kirsten has written 6 DIY psychology books (Signposts for Living) and 4 Child Psychology picture books (SQUISH Series).

Kirsten is the mother to 5 beautiful boys. Alongside her husband Jon, she loves scuba diving and getting lost in nature.

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