Have you experienced making a decision only to find
yourself regretting it the very next day?
Sure, if circumstances changed or new information means that you would have made a different decision had you known,
this would be perfectly understandable.
However, if you answered yes and wondered why you
made that decision in the first place,
then it could be that you were experiencing ‘decision fatigue’.
What is Decision Fatigue?
When we are in a mindful, alert state and our mind is operating near its functional best, we tend to ‘care’ more about our decisions and their consequences.
Our choices are both more informed and reasoned. This level of awareness varies, often greatly, throughout the day. While the timing of peak mental acuity differs between individuals, for most people it occurs about an hour or so after waking in the morning. It then diminishes over the course of the day, not in a strict linear fashion, but with peaks and ebbs.
Essentially, decision fatigue is one symptom or sub-set of mental fatigue. Factors which influence both the onset and rate of daily decline can be physiological such as diet and overall health or mental and emotional states, which can be largely influenced by our interactions with others,
or our reactions to others.
Environments, whether work or home, that contribute to feelings of being overwhelmed,
will greatly contribute to making decisions below our ability.
At the other extreme, situations that involve little or no mental stimulus can induce boredom to such a degree that the brain largely switches off, or autopilots. Consuming food or drinks high in sugar content will cause periods of brain fade due to fluctuating blood sugar levels.
All of these factors, when combined with the body’s natural vigor cycle, mean a decline in mental alertness and ability for most people through the day.
Mental Energy Depleted
Those people who have a hectic life and must juggle responsibilities at home and in the workplace are constantly making decisions every day, from rising until retiring. It is hardly surprising to learn that busy people are at higher risk of suffering from decision fatigue.
An individual who has to make decisions continually during the day may find their mental capacities dwindling as a result of unrelenting mental work. This is a common contributing reason to impulsive and potentially disastrous decisions that people can and do make in their lives. Irrational decisions and undesirable managerial behaviors are very real consequences of decision fatigue.
Experiencing decision fatigue does not necessarily make a person feel physically exhausted.
This is why many people do not recognize that they have entered a lower cognitive phase.
The effects of demanding mental exertion, as in needing to make ongoing stressful decisions,
is cumulative. Each decision made leads to a decrease in their mental energy and vitality.
This is when the brain starts to find shortcuts and take soft choices, giving birth to
impulsive or irrational decisions.
Effects of Decision Fatigue
As an individual becomes more fatigued from repeatedly making decisions, they will also become more inclined to either avoid making decisions, or deferring decisions which need to be made. However, when the person is aware of their impaired state and it is possible to defer the decision without compounding the problem, deferring decisions can actually be the wiser choice.
Next time you will be required to make a crucial decision, do it while your brain is still at its peak performing state for the day. To better take control of your life and its outcomes, prioritize your agenda to set aside time for considering, reviewing and implementing decision-making tasks
early in your day. Schedule time for less critical and more methodical work, plus social and recreational events for later in the day.