Episode 38: How To Avoid Decision Fatigue With This Simple Strategy

Did you know that we make an average of 35,000 decisions per day?

Seriously; 35,000 decisions.

No wonder we feel exhausted by the end of the day!

Fortunately, there is a way that we can manage our decision making and focus our energy on the things that matter the most. 

Yep, we can eliminate the dreaded decision fatigue and keep moving forward on our goals.

How, you ask?

Well, that’s exactly what we explore in this week’s podcast episode.

Simply stream it below or listen to episode 38 in your favorite podcasting app!

Then, start tackling your day with confidence and energy.

(Prefer to read? No problem! Keep scrolling for the episode transcript.)

LISTEN TO THE PODCAST HERE!

IN THIS EPISODE, YOU WILL DISCOVER…

  • What decision fatigue is and where it impacts your life
  • The power of constraint
  • How to eliminate decision fatigue and keep moving forward on your goals

LINKS FROM THE PODCAST

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QUESTION:

Do you ever deal with decision fatigue? What is your favorite way to eliminate overwhelm? How do you make decisions easily? Let me know below!

Transcript: How To Avoid Decision Fatigue With This Simple Strategy

Hey, everybody! How’s it going? Thanks for joining me today. I hope your week is off to a great start.

Today on the podcast we are talking about the concept of decision fatigue and practicing constraint. 

So, there is this crazy statistic that always blows me away, which was that most of us make somewhere around 35,000 decisions each day. 

Now I don’t know about you, but to me, that sounds like a ridiculous amount of decisions. 

And for many of us, we’re spending all day long making big decisions and small decisions. We worry about making the right decision or avoiding the wrong decision. And for many of us, as the day progresses, our ability to make clear confident decisions gets a little less consistent.

What is Decision Fatigue?

In fact, that’s exactly what decision fatigue is. It’s basically the decline in your ability to make good decisions after a long period of decision making. And the more decisions that you need to make, the easier it is to start feeling overwhelmed and either:

A: just start making decisions without thinking much about them

Or B: simply stop making decisions entirely.

And chances are, you’ve been in both situations. 

Maybe you have looked at a big project that you want to tackle for the end of the day, and because there are several different components involved in the project, you start thinking something like: “I don’t know where to start.” or “There are so many things to do.” So you start feeling overwhelmed. And then you don’t do anything. Or you turn to email or social media or some other form of distraction.

On the other hand, maybe you have been making decisions all day, and you finally finish your workday and you’re ready to have dinner with your family. But since you’ve been deciding things all day, you’re simply not interested in deciding on a healthy meal to cook for yoruself. So instead you just graze on the food you made for your kids and mindlessly snack all night. 

So again, chances are you have experienced this kind of decision fatigue at some period in your life. And in fact, I’m guessing that you experience this kind of decision fatigue more often than you would like.

When Decision Fatigue Happens

So where does decision fatigue happen? Where do we most struggle with this problem most often?

Well, the thing is, it comes up pretty much everywhere. 

Because again, if we’re making something like 35,000 decisions a day, this challenge is going to come up often. But over the last couple years, I’ve noticed that for both me and my clients it seems to manifest itself most strongly in areas where we already struggle.

So if you are prone to get overwhelmed by tasks on your to-do list, you may find yourself dealing with decision fatigue when you sit down to work on your projects.

Or if you find yourself struggling to stick to a workout routine, you may face decision fatigue when it comes to choosing what days you’ll workout or what workouts you’ll do or at what time of day you’ll exercise.

If you get overwhelmed about what to make for dinner for your family at night, your decision fatigue might come up when you are trying to plan meals or grocery shop.

Maybe you are a person who has a lot of different goals that you want to work on. And so you have a hard time deciding which goal you should work on first. So you find yourself spinning out in indecision OR you try to do all of them at once, and you don’t see the progress that you want.

So again, there’s not one specific place where decision fatigue tends to challenge everybody. Instead, it usually shows up in an area where you find yourself often getting overwhelmed.

Decision Fatigue and Focus

So why is this important? Why should we even spend time identifying what decision fatigue is and where it shows up in our life?

Well, at its most basic, when we have a lot of different things going on, and we find ourselves getting easily overwhelmed and unable to make decisions, we struggle to focus. 

And again, when we struggle to focus and to make good decisions for ourselves, we either A: end up overwhelmed and we don’t make any decisions. We find ourselves stuck. Or B, we start making decisions that we don’t fully think through. Or we make decisions that feel good at the moment but that don’t have the positive long-term effect.

Decision Fatigue and Small Decisions

Another reason why it’s important to step back and think about decision fatigue is that many of us waste our brainpower on making small inconsequential decisions each day. 

We spend our time deliberating over what we want to wear that day and whether or not we should go to the gym. We debate over what task to start on first on the to-do list or what to make for dinner. 

And when we use up all of our energy to make these smaller decisions, we have nothing left in the tank for the big decisions that will move us forward in our long-term goals. 

So by spending time identifying where we experience decision fatigue, we can recognize how it’s impacting us. And we can start taking steps to constrain our focus, to limit unnecessary decision making, and to maintain our energy so we can focus on the decisions that we want to focus on.

Practicing Constraint

And that brings me to my next concept, which is practicing constraint.

Now, I mentioned this concept briefly way back in episode 14 when we talked about dealing with overwhelm. And I want to spend a bit more time today talking about what constraint actually is. We will talk about how you can use it to reduce decision fatigue. And we’ll explore how it can help you not only getting you focused, but also get you moving forward on the goals and projects that are actually important to you.

What is Constraint?

So first, let’s talk about what constraint actually is. So at its most basic, constraint is simply a practice of placing a limit or a restriction on yourself that helps to simplify your life. And the main reason why we practice constraint is to help minimize feelings of overwhelm so that you can think clearly, make decisions easily, and keep moving forward on the big goals that actually matter to you.

Because when you constrain your focus, you help to reduce those feelings of overwhelm that can so easily creep up when you’re looking at a long list of options. It helps you make decisions so much easier, and it helps you stay completely focused on what’s most important to you.

Because if you choose ahead of time what meals you are going to eat throughout the week, or what outfit you’re going to wear the next day, or what going to want to focus on in your business first, you already reduce so much demand on your much energy. 

You no longer have to debate between several different options, because you’ve already chosen ahead of time, right? Now you simply need to show up and do exactly what you already decided to do.

Why People Don’t Like Constraint

Now, when I talk about constraining focus with my clients, I sometimes get a bit of pushback. My clients will tell me, I don’t want to make a decision or have such limited options, because I’m worried I might miss out on something. I’m worried that if I decide to constrain my focus to only this project or I limit my involvement to only these activities, then I will miss out. I’m worried that I’ll miss out on something important or that I’ll feel super disappointed that I wasn’t open to different options.

Or alternatively, they will say they don’t want to make the wrong choice. They want to keep their options open just in case something better comes along or something more interesting pops up that they’d rather do you instead.

But here’s the problem with both of these arguments. When you keep your options open to everything, you can’t go all-in on anything. 

You basically become the Jack of all trades master of none. When you try to please everyone, you please no one. When you try to do everything, it’s hard to do anything with the level of intention and commitment that you probably want.

So although it might feel scary and unfamiliar to start practicing constraint, I’m telling you, in the long run, it pays off in dividends. And what’s more, you’re actually able to do more with the time you have. You’re able to move more quickly from one goal or idea or task to the next because you’re not trying to do everything at once.

How to Practice Constraint

So how do we do this? How do we put constraint into practice?

Well, you can do this in several different ways. And I’m going to share with you lots of different areas where you might practice constraint, and can you can decide which ones sound like a good fit for you.

And in fact, I encourage you to constrain your focus here, too. Start with one or two options, see how they work for you, and then continue building out from there. 

Don’t try and take on everything at once, because you’ll probably get overwhelmed with where to start and what to focus on. So while this is a little bit meta – try to practice constraint as you learn how to practice constraint.

The most important overarching idea is to free up some space in your brain by reducing decision-making, so you can save energy for the projects or the bigger goals that you want to think carefully about.

Small Ways to Practice Constraint

So let’s start by talking about some small ways to practice constraint.

Clothing Choices

One of my favorite ways to minimize decision making is on my clothing choices. And again, there are many different levels of intensity on how you might choose to approach this. 

Uniform

On one extreme, you have people like Steve Jobs who wore the same style of jeans and black turtleneck every day to ensure that he could spend all of his brain energy creating incredible experiences for his customers at Apple. He’s not wasting an ounce of energy on deciding what to wear. And since we now have the iPhone, I’m pretty darn happy that he decided to practice this constraint.

Capsule Wardrobe 

In a slightly less restrictive approach, you could maybe you take a leaf out of the capsule wardrobe book. Perhaps you have a handful of pants and skirts, a handful of tops, a few pairs of shoes, and everything mixes and matches together. So no matter what you grab out of your closet, it matches. 

And what’s more – and this goes for ANY  kind of restraint you might practice with your clothing – make sure that you love every single piece of clothing in your closet. So you never have to deal with the question: “does this actually look good on me?” “Do I like this?” “Does this fit?” Because you love every single piece.

Constrain Your Stores

Or maybe you have one or two clothing stores and you know their clothes know fit you perfectly. So rather than shopping at tons of different stores, you always go to that same store anytime you need something new. You know your size. You know the length of your pants. And you know that whatever you try will fit you well. 

This is how I approach any of my pants. I know exactly what size and inseam I wear from The Gap. I know their pants fit me perfectly. And so I don’t even bother trying different places. I know what works for me, and I save my brain energy for something more important.

Meal Choices

Another area where a lot of people spend energy is deciding what to make for meals. And I think I may have mentioned this topic back in episode 14, so I won’t go too in-depth here. But just like the clothing example, you can be as strict or as flexible as you want to be.

Limit Choices

There are some people on one extreme – myself included – who have a regular rotation of foods that they just eat over and over. We know what we like. We know what fuels us and makes us feel good. And we know it tastes good and it’s easy to prepare. So when we always have those options in the fridge or pantry, and it really reduces the need for decision making. 

Meal Themes

Now, I am well aware that many people have no interest in eating similar meals over and over again. So there are definitely other options as well. Maybe you create a theme night. So it’s spaghetti on Monday, Tacos on Tuesday, soup on Wednesday, slow cooker roast on Thursday, Pizza on Friday, Saturday is leftovers, and Sunday is breakfast for dinner.

Picky Eaters

Or if you have picky eaters in the house, you could have each person choose what they want to eat on one-two days of the week. That eliminates all of your decisions on what to prepare, and if the kids are old enough, they could even help you prepare that meal in the kitchen at night.

So again, you can get really creative here. But the important idea is eliminating some of the excess decision-making. Because when the decisions are made ahead of time, and you constrain your focus, you open up more space for you to think about the bigger goals you have in front of you.

Business Tasks

Another great area to practice constraint focuses on your daily tasks for work. Rather than spending every day trying to do a little bit of each project on your to-do list, what if you constrained your days to specific tasks with some form of batch working?

So for example, Mondays are dedicated to creating content. Tuesdays are dedicated to client and customer work. Wednesday’s are dedicated to the main project you’re working on right now. Thursdays are dedicated to following up with customers and clients. And Fridays are dedicated to catching up on anything that came up throughout the week. 

And you could have this be an entire day’s worth of work so all of Monday focuses on content creation. Or maybe in the morning is when you have your themed work, and then in the afternoon, you have your daily tasks.

Schedule

And that brings me to reducing decision fatigue in terms of your schedule more specifically. And this is in terms of planning ahead of time what you’re going to work on each day. 

Now, I’ve talked about this in earlier episodes, so again, I won’t go into it in depth here. But I do want to remind you about the value of planning your day ahead of time. 

What are the most important tasks that you want to focus on? When do you want to work on those projects? How much time are you going to spend on each one? What are you going to do first? What are you going to do second? 

By getting really clear about how you’re going to spend the day ahead, and simply sticking to that schedule as closely as possible, you reduce that decision fatigue of, “okay, what should I work on today?” Or “what should I work on next?”

Unpredictable Schedules

And if you are in a situation where you have an unpredictable schedule, that’s okay too. 

You can still plan out your schedule ahead of time, and as we talked about in other episodes, you can create backup plans as well. 

So if you had planned to work on one of your projects from 1-2:30 but your daughter decided not to nap at all, then that’s okay. You have a back-up plan and you know exactly when you’ll be able to finish the task instead. No sweat. No stress. And no wasted energy in scrambling to make a new plan.

Goal Setting

And one final area I want to discuss in terms of practicing constraint and avoiding decision fatigue focuses on your big picture goals. So, if you have been listening to this podcast for a while, you know that I am all about setting goals. 

I think there is so much value in having goals for ourselves. That being said, I also think that setting multiple big goals at once can create decision fatigue, overwhelm, and frustration, when you don’t make the progress that you want.

Generally, this happens when you find yourself stretched too thin. If you set several big business goals for yourself, chances are, you’re going to find yourself spinning out in indecision. And believe me, I’m speaking from experience on this one. 

When I’ve tried to tackle more than one major goal at once, I find myself struggling to figure out how much time to dedicate to each goal. I get frustrated when I think about how long it’s taking me to make progress on each one. And I’m unable to go all-in with total focus in order to create the results I want.

But when I do narrow my focus, and I work toward one primary goal at a time, I’m able to dedicate all of my energy to that area. And when I’m able to go all-in like that, I can see measurable results much more quickly. 

And when I see those measurable results, it’s even easier for me to keep working and staying focused. I’m thinking to myself: “This is working! Look at how far I’ve come! This is so fun!” And I keep generating that motivation and excitement, because I’m not stretched thin between tons of different important projects.

And most importantly, in the long run, I’m able to get more done. Because I finish that one big project quicker, which allows me to dive headfirst into the next project and go all-in on that one.

Give it a Try!

So I’m telling you, when you find little ways to reduce your decision making throughout the day, it has such a positive impact. Whether you decide what you want to wear each day ahead of time, or you have themed meals each week, or you decide exactly what your schedule looks like the day before, these small changes have big results. And when you combine that with total and absolute dedication to one primary goal, you not only reduce the decision fatigue, but you also see incredible results so much faster.

And that, my friends, it’s super fun.

Alright my friends, that’s gonna do it for us this week. So tell me, are you busy being awesome? How are you practicing constraint this week? Be sure to snap a picture, share it up on your Instagram stories, and tag me @imbusybeingawesome. 

Also, if you want to keep getting more great strategies to increase your productivity, manage your time, and start living your best life, then be sure to hit the subscribe button on your podcast app now. And while you’re there, would you leave me a quick review? It helps me get the word out to more people.

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Until next time, keep being awesome. I’ll talk to you soon.

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