Decision fatigue and how to avoid making poor choices

I had originally written this extremely long-winded article about decision fatigue and the general uselessness of advice on the subject, but I’ve decided to pare it down to the vital points.

What is decision fatigue?

Also known as ego depletion, this is where things that try your willpower damage your ability to make average to difficult decisions. Things that can cause decision fatigue include:

  • Clothes purchasing choices
  • Choosing to wage war on another country
  • Decisions that affect your business
  • Watching a sad film and doing your best not to cry
  • Being tempted by food during a diet and abstaining

It’s clear what can drain your willpower will vary depending on your situation. I imagine somebody that declares war on a country every other day would probably be a lot less depleted by it than someone reading this post who somehow had the task dropped on them. And someone who buys the same few shirts is less likely to be affected by it than someone who needs to find the latest designs or whatever.

Why should I care?

Because you run a business. You’re asked to make many important decisions each day. Imagine if it turned out you were making poor decisions because you hadn’t had an apple or a Boost bar in the afternoon? People literally went to prison because of decision fatigue.

Decision fatigue makes it hard to think about big-picture ideas and causes you to concentrate on maintaining the status quo, refusing to make trade-offs which would be beneficial.

What can you do about it?

Have some glucose. Your willpower is affected by the glucose levels in your brain. This is why dieting is actually very difficult. You need willpower to refrain from eating, and yet this simple sugar is one of the biggest factors affecting your ability to control yourself. Have some fruit, or even just buy some flavourless glucose to cut out as many unnecessary calories and potential temptations.

A dose of glucose has been shown to completely reverse ego depletion, according to the above-linked article.

Rest. Sleep is a great way to get rid of unnecessary brain gunk.

Strategise. This is probably one of the most important ones. Make your tough decisions earlier and don’t make any during the evening. Use some life-hack magic rituals to convince your brain that the things you’re dealing with are much less stressful or willpower-demanding than you would normally think. Understand the habit loop and create routines that avoid willpower-triggering situations. Essentially, remove as many difficult decisions as possible.

To make it simple: your willpower is a precious resource so only use it where absolutely necessary.