It’s a Friday night and Kaushik decides to treat himself by ordering food online. He opens his favorite food delivery app and is completely thrown off by the number of choices that every restaurant presents. Not only is he confused about the choice of cuisine, but he is also confused about the restaurant.

We have all been in Kaushik’s shoes at some point. When presented with multiple choices, it’s difficult to select one single option. This phenomenon is also known as decision fatigue. As harmless as it may sound, it has massive consequences. Read on to learn more about the phenomenon and effective ways of challenging it.

  1. The Meaning Of Decision Fatigue

  2. Examples Of Decision Fatigue In The Workplace

  3. Outsmart Decision Fatigue At Work

The Meaning Of Decision Fatigue

More often than not, making decisions—even the smallest ones—can be overbearing. We spend every waking minute deciding what to do, what to wear, where to eat and whom to meet. Making choices and solving problems requires making decisions that involve our physical and emotional well-being. You may not realize it but every decision uses time and energy.

Being overly stressed about the endless decisions and choices you make in a day leads to decision fatigue. As the name suggests, decision fatigue is a psychological phenomenon that affects your ability to make decisions after you’ve made a few decisions already. Think of your decision-making capacity as a finite source that gets affected every time you make a choice. The more choices you make, the more your brain gets encouraged to take mental shortcuts. It may lead to impulsive behavior and reckless decision-making. It’s especially harmful in the long-run as it may create bigger problems.

Dr. Roy F. Baumeister, a social psychologist, coined the word and proposed the definition of decision fatigue. He borrows heavily from the concept of ‘ego depletion’, which states that willpower and self-control are limited mental resources that get exhausted. Decision fatigue is the result of emotional and mental strain that comes from the burden of multiple choices.  

Examples Of Decision Fatigue In The Workplace

Suffering from decision fatigue in the workplace is quite common. This is why you feel exhausted, even though you’re working from home. As a result, some important decisions fall through because the accuracy of making the right choices reduces. Let’s look at a few examples of decision fatigue and understand how it can impact our professional lives.

  1. Hiring

As part of the hiring process, hiring managers are required to go through multiple resumes in a day. They also need to pay attention to finer details like academic and professional background, industry experience and skill set. They also need to determine whether the candidate will be a good fit for the organization. This is a lot of work for one person and it's bound to affect the quality of decisions over time.

  1. Investing

Decision fatigue is one of the biggest sources of making poor financial choices. People often make investing mistakes because they have too many choices. Many of us even scour for additional information because we think it will lead to a well-informed decision. However, research and data collection only add to the mental burden and before we know it, we are overwhelmed. Any important decision, especially when it has to do with finances, should be taken after you wake up in the morning.

Outsmart Decision Fatigue At Work

Did you know that Barack Obama, the former President of the United States of America, keeps repeating his outfits? It was Steve Jobs who started this trend of repeating outfits to cut down on decision-making. Many of us stress about the smallest things and it’s time that we take a page from Job’s book and outsmart decision fatigue. Here are several effective strategies that you can deploy at work:

  1. List Your Priorities

A great way to start your day is to make a list of priorities. List down all the activities that need your immediate attention and allocate resources (your time and energy) accordingly. This will help you streamline your choices, allowing you to make fewer decisions.

  1. Less Talking, More Doing

Sometimes, you need to use your bias for action and go for it. Having a bias for action means you’re not afraid to act on something. Instead of waiting around and brainstorming about strategies to make something work, why don’t you just do it? For example, instead of saying "I want to scale my business", establish actionable goals and set milestones to achieve them.

  1. Plan Routine Decisions In Advance

Everyone needs to make decisions on a daily basis but there are some activities that are routine. Always plan for everyday decisions in advance (like the night before). It helps you start your day on a positive and less stressful note. For example, you can fix a time on your calendar when you check and respond to pending emails and messages.

If you want to successfully overcome decision fatigue, you need to process and reflect on multiple perspectives simultaneously. Harappa Education’s Making Decisions course will equip you with the basic tools and frameworks for effective decision-making. Learn how to scrutinize situations before arriving at smart decisions with the Good Decisions Process framework. The Uncertainty Toolkit will help you overcome uncertainty while making decisions. You’ll never doubt your decisions again!

Explore topics such as Decision-MakingTypes of Decision-MakingStrategic Decision-Making, Common Decision-Making Biases & Selection Bias from Harappa Diaries and learn to make decisions without any personal bias.