Decision fatigue: what is it, and how does it impact our life?

decision fatigue

Decision fatigue: what is it, and how does it impact our life

Nowadays, there is more and more talk about decision fatigue and how it impacts our lives. I came across this term recently while researching multitasking, burnout and stress, and I was intrigued.

Decision fatigue is a psychological phenomenon where our ability to make more informed decisions deteriorates throughout the day. The average person makes around 180 decisions per minute… when driving only. One can easily imagine then that our day consists of thousands of decisions, which severely impact our capacity to make the right, or at least the least harmful, decisions as the day progresses.

Decision fatigue is caused by endless options. The more options available, the greater the difficulty of deciding on something without becoming mentally exhausted, severely frustrated and unproductive.

Former US President Obama consciously chose to wear only grey or blue suits during his presidency to eliminate the stress of daily outfit selection while saving time and energy for important presidential tasks. Steve Jobs is known for his black turtleneck and jean trousers, while the Minimalists‘ wardrobe mainly consists of black garments.

Are the above dress codes random lifestyle choices? No. On the contrary, they are the product of a well-thought-through process that aims to place value on the essentials by removing the trivia, such as wasting time in front of a wardrobe. Decision fatigue is a real condition affecting us more than we imagine.

But choosing clothes is not the only decision that has the potential to wear us out and stress us. How many times have we tried to make a meal decision while starving, only to end up feeling frustrated, angry and unsatisfied by our choice to eventually resort to a sandwich? Standing in front of the fridge is yet another fatigue-generator situation. 

Or, how often do we start our day hoping to tackle most of the jobs on our to-do list, only to end up feeling utterly tired by 10 am? Not to mention disoriented and with a feeling of uselessness. And around 11 am, we begin questioning our life choices and professional goals while pondering the meaning of life.

Not to mention the devastating impact of endless choices on children. When faced with numerous options, children become restless, irritated, whiny, indecisive and insecure. Therefore, they need boundaries when it comes to selecting. Children need adults to guide them and set healthy boundaries within which children feel confident and sure about their choices. 

Decision fatigue affects everyone, especially those suffering from trauma, brain injury or developmental disorders. Endless choices create chaos. 


Nevertheless, there are viable and practical solutions to battle decision fatigue. These solutions do not come in the form of a magic pill but require hard but smart work and lifestyle reshaping.

  1. Establish healthy habits, such as a good sleep routine, a healthy but nutritious diet, exercise, hydration, good body posture etc. 

2. Define your personal values that will allow you to find purpose in daily actions and behaviours. These values guide your micro and macro choices, from what you eat to the people surrounding you or your professional goals.

3. Set up routines that will make decision-making effortless but still intentional. Reduce the daily breakfast options to two, choose your work outfit from the previous night, prepare your snacks/lunch for work the night before, plan your day, etc.

4. Prioritise tasks to reflect your values and style of life. Remember that you simply cannot do everything every day; instead, focus on specific tasks that can be fulfilled in a realistic period and serve a particular purpose that aligns with your needs and wants. Steer clear from cramming every single day of your life by starting today to say more nos. And keep away from the illusion of pleasing everyone, for you simply cannot and should not!

5. Minimise your wardrobe, deskkitchen cabinets and generally your home in order to lessen the number of daily choices that create decision fatigue. Keeping only what you regard as intentional and essential in your life saves time and energy for the important things.

6. Self-care is an antidote to stress, therefore, a solution to decision fatigue. Tend to your personal physical, emotional and psychological needs to boost self-confidence and substantial perspectives on how you want your life to look.

7. Realise and accept your personal boundaries. Acknowledge that personal limitations exist to protect us from overwhelming external opinions, behaviours and actions. A person without limits is exposed to everything and everyone that enters their life unfiltered, which is too much for anyone to tolerate. Build a safe space to make informed decisions that serve your goals and purposes.

A decluttered wardrobe, a minimal desk set-up or a particular outfit alone will not make us stronger, more decisive and more confident. Unintentional minimising will not suddenly reveal the meaning of life. Nevertheless, hard but purposeful work, clearly defined life values and principles, dedication, and determination can indicate the right direction, one with less stress and more fulfilment stemming from our preferences.

Tomorrow is too late to start working on what makes you unhappy. Begin today to create a life worth living.

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