Do you have Decision Fatigue?

Do You Have Decision Fatigue?

Does Decision Fatigue Affect You?

What is that project or task you are avoiding and putting off? Come on, don’t tell me you don’t have one. We all do. Think about it. What is the item that keeps getting bumped from one list to the next? What thing do you walk by and wish you had dealt with yesterday but can’t seem to actually tackle?

Mine is my laundry room. It’s the “hot spot” in our home, a dumping ground with multiple purposes from laundry and pet feeding to storing shoes, bags, garden gear, workout equipment, crafting supplies, office supplies, and more. Mercifully, the builders of our house designed a large, multi-purpose laundry and mud room. It is also our “catch all” room.

Don’t know where to put something? Put it in the laundry room for now. Where should you put that bag of Christmas ornaments from Grandma (in July)? Put it in the laundry room until I can deal with it. Where does the cat crate go? How about those boxes of old family photographs that I will put into albums some day? In the laundry room! But now it’s time to clean it out, deal with the stuff, and make those decisions of what to keep, what to give away, and what to throw away. I dread it. There are just. Too. Many. Decisions.

What is decision fatigue?

Decision fatigue is a term used in psychology to refer to the deteriorating quality of our decision-making ability after a long string of decisions.

We all know this intuitively. It’s the reason that candy bars and snack foods are placed in the check-out lane of your grocery store. Marketing research is clear that we make more impulsive purchases after being exposed to a deluge of decisions during a slog through the store aisles. I believe decision fatigue is the reason that I can’t decide to avoid the chocolate chip bag at night, even though it’s had no power over me all day long. All day, I’ve decided to eat foods that are nutritious for my body. I’ve made countless other decisions about what to do and what not to do. By 9:00 PM, I just don’t have any decision-making power left. So, my cravings take over, and I reach for the bag.

Does Decision Fatigue Affect Moms?

You bet your coffee pot it does! In fact, I’d say that women struggle with decision fatigue in their roles as moms and home managers more than in other, more defined, roles. I sometimes wish I could hire a boss to make decisions that I can simply carry out, but alas, I am my own boss in this role. So I must act like it. I must take full responsibility for how I spend my time. I must consider the implications of procrastination and decisions.

Whether we work a 9 to 5 job each day, stay at home with our kids full-time, work part-time, or work from home, the choices that stack up each day leave us weary of making decisions and more susceptible to procrastination and distraction-seeking.

Know Thyself.

Once we know this about ourselves and our decision-making, how can we use this knowledge? We can use it as a sign to plan!

We all do this to some degree. We may take a list to the grocery store and have a plan of what to do when our child asks for candy at the checkout. Or, we might use a grocery pick-up service to remove the temptation of impulse purchases. Week-long meal plans are a way that we know reduces decision fatigue. When I make a decision about what to have for dinner at 5:30 PM the day of, the choice is generally not the best.

In addition to planning ahead, we can use this knowledge about decision fatigue to help us tackle those projects we’ve been avoiding. Sometimes we don’t have the decision-making power to plan and execute at the same time.

Planning and Doing Are Separate Skills

In my laundry room example, I just don’t have it in me to plan AND execute after making decisions all day.

The decision of how many knitting needles I actually need is a very different task from putting my excess knitting supplies in a donation box. The decision of how many hours of my life I want to spend moving clutter around is better made in a time of self-examination rather than when I am staring at yet a cabinet full of unused, yet somehow weirdly sentimental cookbooks. If we can determine to stop and only PLAN a dreaded project, we can remove some of the overwhelm that comes from jumping in.

So, when you notice that you sometimes make decisions which which you’re not happy later, or that you are avoiding a decision or a project, here are some ideas on how to separate the planning from the doing:

  • Pray about it.

“Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.” Proverbs 16:3

Where is your heart on this task or project? Why do you want to do it? Are you called to do it at all?
* Journal about it. Sometimes just writing about a problem or a decision can be incredibly enlightening, especially when paired with prayer.
* Make it routine. Think about how you can make this thing that you tend to put off a part of your routine so that you can eliminate the decision of when, where, and how you do it.
* Make a list. Instead of actually purging my laundry room, I first sat down and made a list of all of the areas I wanted to clean out. If there were any particular decisions to make, I added them as list items. Then I could mull them over and come to more logical decisions without the overwhelm of starting at bags full of Grandma’s knitting supplies, shelves of cookbooks, and a cabinet of redundant office supplies.
* Ask for advice from a friend. Sometimes just discussing a decision helps us to talk through it and come to a conclusion about the next logical step.
* Ask for or hire help to get started. I wound up hiring my daughter to help me. It was good for me to know that the time was set aside for us both to work. This kept me from sneaking off to check email or find some other easy thing to do and again avoid all of the decisions.
* Write out a list of tasks and sort them. Make sure they are broken down into short tasks. Then do the first one!
* Schedule it. What gets scheduled gets done. Put it on the calendar and tell someone. Then keep that appointment with yourself.

Do you recognize decision fatigue in your day? What project are you putting off? Do you think understanding decision fatigue could help you to tackle it? Leave me a comment and let me know!