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STRONGER TOGETHER: conquering decision fatigue in a sea of choices

Last updated: 10/07/2023

"STRONGER TOGETHER" is a weekly column where Tanya explores key issues. This week Tanya discusses decision fatigue.

By IMPACT Community Services Managing Director Tanya O'Shea

Tanya O'Shea, IMPACT Community Services Managing Director

Life is filled with countless choices. From the moment we wake up until we lay our heads on the pillow at night, we are confronted with decisions—some trivial, others life-altering. According to University of Leicester lecturer Eva Krockow, we make upwards of 35,000 decisions each day. It's no wonder that decision fatigue, that overwhelming feeling when faced with choices, can leave us feeling mentally drained and emotionally exhausted!

But how do you know if you're suffering from decision fatigue, and more importantly, what can you do about it?

Signs of decision fatigue are often subtle but pervasive. Feeling overwhelmed when faced with too many choices, avoiding decision-making tasks and an inability to think clearly or focus are telltale signs that decision fatigue has taken hold. Frequent procrastination, a sense of ‘stuckness’, overthinking, and physical symptoms such as fatigue, poor sleep, and headaches are also common indicators. If you find yourself acting impulsively or without thorough consideration, wasting time unnecessarily or if you're unsatisfied with the choices you ultimately make, decision fatigue may be at play.

So, what are two things in your day that you could automate so that you don’t have to make a decision about them? For me, the two things are always what to eat and what to wear.

Let’s start with food. Tip 1 is to work out what meals you wish to eat throughout the week and repeat. Once you set the menu up, prepare your grocery list and choose your preferred supermarket, the hard work is complete. My breakfast and lunch are prepared on a Sunday and can get me through the week, therefore I only need to prepare dinner. The mental load associated with deciding what to cook, mindless wandering in the supermarket aisles or trying to decide what to pick up for dinner - gone.

Personally, it leaves me feeling way less frazzled and able to turn up better when I arrive home to my family. When we get tired of the routine or are feeling less overwhelmed, we change it up. Until then, this simple act of planning ahead and repeating the same plan each week is guaranteed to not only bring a sense of structure and organisation, it will also free up valuable mental energy so that it can be redirected to more important things.

So, let’s move onto clothes. What to wear is such a mind numbing, yet complex task for the majority of us. So, tip 2 is all about how we can simplify this important, yet mundane task of dressing ourselves.

If you work or volunteer, perhaps choose a ‘work uniform’ if you don’t have a standard uniform. On weekends, keep things simple. I often find myself wearing the same things and here’s the thing - no one cares what I wear. We sometimes get sucked into this vortex of having too many choices – trying to mix this, or match with that. Very nice for a special event, however, for many of us, those special events are the exception rather than the rule.

My strategy is always to automate decisions wherever possible, and I therefore promise that these two simple, well-tested strategies will save you hours of planning and reduce potentially hundreds of unnecessary, energy draining decisions from your day.

Decision fatigue is a common challenge we all face from time to time, therefore decluttering our physical and mental spaces can work wonders. Taking control by streamlining and automating simple daily practices will not only reduce the number of decisions you make each day, it will also support you to ‘turn up’ in a more positive way, whilst developing a greater sense of peace of mind and clarity.

Please note: This website may contain references to, or feature images, videos, and voices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples who have passed away.

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