5 Ways to Overcome Decision Fatigue

WILLPOWER isn’t something you have or something you lack. It rises and falls every moment of every day. Why do people make unhealthy and unproductive choices — even when they know they should do better? If you ask most people, they will say those poor choices are a result of a “lack of willpower,” which is not really the case.

A research from Columbia University reveals that small daily decisions can impact your willpower for important choices. And it turns out, there are simple choices you can make that to help you master your willpower and make better decisions on a more consistent basis, according to an article by James Clear published in entrepreneur.com.

For example, psychologists did a study on judicial rulings over a 10-month period which shows the choices made by judges are impacted by all types of things, including the time of day.

The research shows, at the beginning of the day, a judge was likely to give a favorable ruling about 65 percent of the time. However, as the morning wore on,  the judge becomes drained from making more decisions, and the likelihood of a criminal getting a favorable ruling steadily dropped to zero.

After a lunch break, however, a favorable ruling immediately jumps back to 65 percent. And then, as the hours moved on, the percentage of favorable rulings would fall back again to zero by the end of the day.

This trend held true for more than 1,100 cases. It didn’t matter what the crime was — murder, rape, theft, embezzlement — if their parole hearing was scheduled in the morning (or immediately after a food break) a criminal was more likely to get a favorable response, than if it was scheduled near the end of a long session.

Similarly, your willpower is like a muscle in your body, which can get fatigued when you use it over and over again.  This is often referred to as decision fatigue. It makes sense, as your willpower is fading, and your brain is tired of making decisions, it’s easier just to say no and keep everyone locked up.

Decision fatigue happens every day in life.  For example, you may want to go to the gym, but your brain would default to sit on the couch. The same thing is true if you find it hard to muster your willpower to work on your side business at night, or to cook a healthy meal for dinner.

Here are 5 ways to overcome decision fatigue, by organizing your life better.

  1. Plan daily decisions the night before.

There are always decisions that pop up each day that you can’t plan for. That’s fine. It’s just part of life. But for most people, the decisions that drain us are the ones we make over and over and over again. Wasting precious willpower, which could be automated or planned in advance.  For example, what am I going to wear to work? What should I eat for breakfast? Should I go to the dry cleaner before or after work? And so on. This is one reason why many people feel so drained at the end of the day. Taking time to plan out, simplify, and design the repeated daily decisions will give you more mental space to make the important choices each day.

  1. Do the most important thing first.

The same thing goes for your work and life. What’s the most important thing for you right now? Is it getting in shape? Is it building your business? Is it writing that book you have inside of you? Is it learning to eliminate stress and relax? Whatever it is, put your best energy toward it. Start your day by working on the most important thing in your life first. If you have to wake up 30 minutes earlier, then do that.

  1. Stop making decisions. Start making commitments.

We have things that are important to us, but more importantly, we need to schedule them into our life. Unfortunately, most people simply hope that they’ll have the willpower and motivation to make the right decisions each day. If you sit back and hope that you’ll be able to make the right decisions each day, you will fall victim to decision fatigue and a lack of willpower. Instead, you can schedule your success with things that are important to you.

  1. Eat something first.

Taking a break to feed your brain is a wonderful way to boost willpower. When you want to get better decisions from your mind, put better food into your body. This is especially important because although it’s great to do the most important thing first, it’s not always possible to organize your day like that.

  1. Simplify.

Whether you are trying to reach the highest level of performance or just want to start eating a healthy diet, the biggest challenge is finding the willpower to do that on an hourly basis.

Simplify your life. If something isn’t important to you, eliminate it. Willpower is one area of life where you can most certainly improve your output by reducing the number of inputs. Making decisions about unimportant things, even if you have the time to do so, isn’t a benign task, as it pulls precious energy and willpower from the things that matter.

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