[image via Ben Stanfield]
What is decision fatigue?
Decision fatigue is the depletion of willpower due to drainage of glucose and energy by exercising willpower and making a series of trade-off choices with insufficient reserves of glucose at the time of fatigue.
Which is fancy speak for the more decisions we make throughout the day, the harder those decisions become.
We have drained ourselves of brain juice from the countless amounts of small decisions we make every second and, all of a sudden, we are only left with our base instincts of anger or avoidance.
In a study conducted by Roy F. Baumeister while at Case Western and then at Florida State, he concluded that people made choices based on anger and avoidance at a much more alarming rate when their mental energy levels were drained than when they were rested and fed.
Think about how many decisions we make before we even get to work in the morning. Hit the snooze or don’t hit the snooze? Get up and brush your teeth first or go to the bathroom first? Coffee or tea? What to have for breakfast? What to wear? What’s the weather like, do you need a scarf?
All these tiny decisions that we assumed took no brain power, actually siphon our brain’s battery power.
When you go grocery shopping you are overwhelmed with choices like what to have for dinner, do you need mustard? Did you remember to get the toilet paper? It all drains our brain battery. This means that when we are in the checkout line, those candy bars and bottles of soda pop start to look extra good because our brains are looking for that sweet hit of glucose to re-up our battery power.
This same scenario applies to all decision-making scenarios like what to wear, how to respond to coworkers, what to spend money on, saying no to pastries.
Every time we resist doing something and use willpower or make a decision, our brain battery depletes a little.
How do we minimize decision fatigue?
Let’s take a page from Steve Jobs’ book! He has a uniform. Have you ever seen him in anything other than those jeans and a black turtleneck?
No. No, you haven’t.
Because he doesn’t wear anything other than those jeans and that turtleneck.
“Deciding what NOT to do is as important as deciding what to do.”
– Steve Jobs
He streamlines his choices so that he only has to think about what he wants to think about and spend his precious brain battery on.
It’s so genius!
I’ve implemented this myself and I feel liberated.
Even on my best of days, I don’t do “stylish.” Fashion has never been my forte so I have a work uniform which consists of two black yoga pants and five black v-neck t-shirts and five pairs of Saucony socks and one black headband. Now I don’t have to worry about what I wear to work because I know that is my only option. I don’t think about it, I just do it and preserve my brain power. Check out the links below and you can have a uniform too!
You can use this in so many other ways as well. If you didn’t want to make decisions at all in the morning before you go to work, you could streamline your entire morning!
Make a morning routine where you do the same thing in the same order, every day. Get up, shower, brush your teeth, put on deodorant, put your uniform on, eat breakfast (which is also the same thing every morning or one of a couple of standby options), make coffee, etc, etc. Put your brain on autopilot.
The first real battery power you would be using would be while driving (if that’s what you do) or when you arrive at work! You will have a full battery for a more productive day!
How to use decision fatigue to your advantage.
We know that decision fatigue is real and it affects everyone. Now, we can put that knowledge to use by structuring our day and our big decisions around it.
- Make all the big decisions early in the morning. Your brain will have full power. Schedule the meeting to redo the company budget, tackle the biggest project you have going, or overhaul your company website first thing, so you don’t tire out and make less-than-great choices.
- Make requests for big things in the morning. If you are asking your boss or someone with authority for something, morning hours or right after lunch is the best hours to do it. They have full brain power in the morning and after lunch, they have recharged their brain battery and you are more likely to get a favorable outcome.
- The same thing applies to court hearings. Based on the study conducted by Baumeister and his team, you should also schedule any court hearings earlier in the day as well. Favorable outcomes sink to 10% before lunch and then rebound to 65% after their lunch break.
Knowledge is power. Steve Jobs is a genius. We all need uniforms.