Hello busy, busy people. I’m glad you made the decision to come hang out with me on my blog today! I’d like to present you with a hypothetical situation. Let’s pretend that you only have 100 decisions you can make everyday. Once you reach 100, you are unable to accomplish do anything else without it being tiring.
You might think that sounds pretty easy. There’s no way you make that many decisions in a day. But, the truth might surprise you. Here are ten decisions that might come up before you even eat breakfast.
- Should I sleep in?
- What clothes should I wear?
- Which shoes should I wear?
- Do my pajamas need to go in the wash?
- What do I want to watch/listen to as I get ready?
- Is today a flossing sort of day?
- Do I need to make the bed?
- Is today the day the bathroom needs cleaning?
- Should I start a load of laundry?
- Should I check my email?
Anyone feeling a little frantic just reading that list? That, dearest reader, is what we call decision fatigue.
My personal journey with decision fatigue
For me, decision fatigue strikes fast and furious and I can clearly feel when I’ve hit the wall and don’t want to have to think any more. Going to a store or to an event is exhausting because there are so many decisions to be considered. Everything from what to wear, to what to talk about with the people I’m with, to what to buy, to what to order, to where to sit, to which class to attend, all stacks up into a huge decision overload.
And just like a pegged out computer, I start processing slower, start lagging and glitching, start making mistakes, and every so often hit the blue screen of death. At this point I either have to call it quits, or hit the reset button and restart.
Having kids hasn’t helped. Take the normal number of decisions you believe to be healthy. If 100 borders on overload, then I’d say around 80 is a safe number. That breaks down to around five decisions per waking hour. Multiply that hourly rate for each kid plus one and you get the decision rate per hour when you’re taking care of kids. For me that number is four (three kids plus me) so when the kids are home from school, I burn through 20 decisions an hour.
Yeah. If I look a little frazzled at the end of the day, that’s why.
Creative decisions don’t carry the same weight
Now, if you are a creative person, there is a whole different batch of decisions that have to be made. For me, I have to decide what my characters are doing, how they are doing it, how they feel about it, where they are, what that looks like, and if there is any external influences, like weather to consider.
Luckily, not all decisions carry the same weight. I enjoy creative decision making so I can run through hundreds of these micro decisions and not feel the strain for hours. But, eventually those story decisions start taking their toll and I hit the wall. Working past that point usually results in bad decision making and it’s best to call it for the day.
Strategies for reducing decision fatigue
Never fear! There is hope out there. There are a few things you can do to reduce the amount of decisions that need to be made on a daily basis. This will free up space for all those creative decisions that you want to be making on whatever project you are working on.
Steve Jobs is famous for always wearing the same outfit. He never has to stop and think what he wants to wear and that frees up head space for the things he wants to think about. There are hundreds of professionals who do the same thing, for the same reason.
Some people eat the same breakfast and lunch everyday. Some create routines around the mundane stuff in their life so they can put it on auto pilot and not have to think about it. Some people buy the same brands for everything they use on a daily basis. Once you realize how much energy you spend on things that don’t really matter, you might want to consider automating the boring stuff in your life as well.
For me, I tend to wear the same thing when I don’t have anywhere to go. It’s usually a t-shirt and leggings. I do like choosing my t-shirts because it brings me joy. I have the same breakfast and same general morning routine. When I’m in the zone, I can whip through my to do list fairly quickly and leave time for all the things I want to do.