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It’s estimated the average person makes about 35,000 decision a day. And about 227 of those decisions are just on food. Most of these decisions are trivial at best, but cumulatively, it can be death by 1,000 cuts.
You could be expecting an easy-going morning when you get up. But then you realize you forgot to set out your clothes for the next day, didn’t make your lunch the night before, your train is late so you have to figure out another way to get into work, etc., etc.
All of these decisions so early in the morning make you susceptible to ego depletion. You go through the motions, forced to make tens if not hundreds of decisions just from what’s on your desk alone and you’ve realized you forgot to even eat lunch.
Your energy levels are low, and when it comes to your biggest meeting of the day, your mind is in another dimension. You’re incapable of making the best decision because you’ve been forced to make so many decisions beforehand and your glucose levels are down from not eating.
It might seem like there’s something wrong with you and you need to toughen up. But the reality is, you’ve been pummeled with hundreds of things that required your attention forcing you to make decision after decision. Even small things like choosing a font out of 10 different ones, or selecting the best background color out of 20 will exhaust you.
Most people don’t take the time to figure out strategies to mitigate the unrelenting forces coming at us, pressing us to make a decision on the spot. It’s not healthy and can lead us to make terrible decisions, especially on the job. Once you’re mentally depleted, you’re reluctant to make trade-offs, which is an advanced and complex form of decision making.
You need to figure out ways to minimize the decisions you’ll face throughout the day.
- How to Escape the 9-5 Grind and Find Inner Happiness
- Why Burnout Happens and How to Take Preventative Measures
- 20 Things You Can do to Improve Your Life
- How to Take Back Control of Your Life by Getting Some Extra Zzz’s
Here are 9 ways to fight decision fatigue
Make the first hour of your day routine
This is the most crucial step you can make to improve your day. Making the first hour a routine sets the tone for the rest of the day. It gets you in a rhythm. You’re basically on autopilot going through the motions without thinking about what you’re doing.
It gets the juices flowing without having to make decisions. Instead, you have a system. Your clothes are laid out from the night before. Every morning you have the flow of taking a shower, brushing your teeth, getting dressed, either driving, taking the bus/train, whatever. Get to work, get settled, get coffee and breakfast and you’re ready for the day.
It saves you so much brain-power when you get everything on autopilot for the beginning of the day. Pay attention and compare days when you don’t have a system and days you do and notice how much more energy you have for the rest of the morning.
Set rules to automate as much decision-making as possible
This piggybacks off the first item, but it pertains to the entire day. Create rules and boundaries for yourself for your workday. For example, if you don’t have one already, create a folder in your email that sends all emails you’re copied on into that folder.
Instead of reading every single email you’re copied on, you put them in a different folder and most likely end up ignoring them. Because let’s face it, 99% of emails you’re copied on don’t need to be read. If they were meant for you, you would be the main recipient, not carbon copied. Don’t get caught in the trap of reading every single email you ever receive. Create a rule for yourself.
Do the most important thing first in the morning
The most important things that need to be done tend to be the most difficult and tedious. However, if you leave those items for the end of the day, as referenced before, you’re most likely going to make the choice of least resistance and choose the default option whether it’s in your best interest or not.
It might feel good to get the ball rolling and check your email, but that’s probably the worst thing you can do. Before you know it you’re being dragged into a million different things that aren’t the least bit a priority. Know what’s most important, take care of it first thing. The rest you can leave for the afternoon after you’ve eaten and your glucose levels are higher.
Get a good night’s sleep
This should be obvious, but you really do need a good night’s sleep. There are a lot of consequences of not getting enough shut-eye. Without it, you’ll be unfocused and stressed out. A lack of sleep raises your cortisol levels and can have the same negative effects as getting drunk does. You can’t concentrate, you forget things, it’s not a badge of honor.
If you have a big meeting the next day and you end up only sleeping 4 hours the night before because you were getting a presentation ready, you may as well call in sick. If you go, you’ll end up being forced to make decisions and answer questions on an exhausted mind. Don’t put yourself in that situation.
Set reminders to create the habits you want
Before anything becomes a habit it can be helpful to set reminders for when you want to do things. For example, if you want to start exercising after work, set reminders on your phone or your watch. It’s difficult, almost impossible, to expect yourself to start doing something on a regular basis if it’s completely foreign and you’ve hardly ever done it.
You can’t start remembering something that never was. Set reminders for yourself. If you want to remind yourself to get up and walk throughout the day after sitting for so long, set reminders or even buy an Apple Watch. This way you don’t have to spend the mental effort trying to remember all day when it is you wanted to get up from your desk or use a mindfulness app to remember to breathe.
People don’t realize all of the distractions they’re confronted with especially at work. One of the biggest and best examples of this is push-notifications for your email. If you have a Microsoft Outlook email account, you’ll know exactly what I mean. The little box in the bottom right corner pops up every time you get an email. Every. Single. Time.
Get rid of it. You don’t need that. It’s completely insane to think you’re going to effectively get anything done with a pop-up shoved in your face every few minutes. Would you be able to get anything done at your desk if someone kept poking you in the face? That’s the digital equivalent.
And I’m telling you it’s the best thing I ever did. I check my email on my own time. Nobody’s ever died because I didn’t read their super important emergency email that couldn’t wait for anybody. It’s just an email. It can wait. Focus on what really needs to get done and check it when you have a few minutes of downtime.
Don’t seek variation, simplify
This can be applied to even choosing what you want for breakfast. Don’t go through the whole process of starting all over with what you want to eat. Know ahead of time. Save yourself the decision making for something that really matters. Bring in a Costco size box of cereal and put it in your desk, get the same yogurt or oatmeal or coffee or whatever it is and stick with it. There’s no sense in depleting your energy on something so meaningless.
Say no to almost everything
This is also a key component you need to do for yourself. Especially as a younger person when you’re just starting a job, it’s hard to say no to things. You want to prove you’re indispensable and you’re capable of taking on more responsibility.
But sometimes that can backfire and before you know it, you’re in over your head and it’s impossible to keep up. It’s the number one habit that separates successful people from everyone else. If you’re not focusing your attention on the most important things that need to get done, you won’t get anywhere.
Saying no and focusing is the way to success. Saying no is basically the same as simplifying your decisions. You’re preventing yourself from having your ego depleted allowing you to focus your mental energy on what needs to get done.
Create a list of things to accomplish the next day
Before you leave for the day, put aside the last fifteen minutes to make a list of the top 3 things you want to get done the next day. You may not even be able to accomplish the first thing on the list, but it at least puts you on autopilot if you can. Right away you don’t even have to think about what it is that you need to get started on, it’s laid out in front of you.
This can save you a lot of mental exhaustion in the long run. Instead of wasting part of the morning deciding what you should work on, you dive right into whatever it is you need to get done. It prevents you from stopping and going and switching from doing one thing to another. Instead without thinking, you know what needs to get done.
Are there any other suggestions you can think of?
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