Decision Fatigue

Are you tired of making decisions?

Do you procrastinate over making a decision so much that you just end up giving up and not doing anything?

This topic came up in the habits workshop I led last weekend.  A lot of the participants felt procrastination was a bad habit that they wanted to change.

Procrastination can take over for a few reasons.

  • We’re presented with too many choices, which increases our stress levels
  • Our minds are like magpies they like new and shiny and don’t necessarily value routine
  • We have a limited amount of energy to make decisions each day.

We can get exhausted and overwhelmed from all the decisions we make every day – psychologists have described this as decision fatigue. 

An average adult 226 decisions a day on just food alone according to researchers at Cornell University (Wansink and Sobal, 2007).

We can get decision fatigue due to the amount we take on:-

  • number of decisions
  • weight of the decisions
  • need to make decisions for others

All of which can deplete our energy reserves and increase our stress levels.

Is this something you recognise?

Do you feel overwhelmed when making simple decisions?
Is it harder to make decisions later in the day?
Do you sometimes feel like you just can’t think clearly?

Often, we end up making impulsive decisions that aren’t based on our values, or we might avoid making a decision because it feels impossible to choose (procrastination).

Why am I, as a yoga teacher, talking about this?

Yoga supports us to make lifestyle changes beyond our mat.

In the Yoga Sutra, Patañjali describes Avidyā as a lack of clarity, a state of misconception. Through consistent yoga practice Avidyā begins to dissolve, we improve our ability to see things as they are.  Our ability to discern (Viveka) is no longer clouded by illusion (Avidyā).  With this clarity, we become more aware of how we act, think and feel.  With this increased awareness we can recognise areas of our life that are within our capacity to change.

In Ayurveda, they suggest tackling one lifestyle change at a time.

 Try to build in a change in your routine which leads to one less decision a day.  For example:- I eat porridge for breakfast every day. I like the fact that I can start my day without the need for making a decision.  Is there one meal a day or week that you can make the same?

ACT - Action Changes Things
During the past year, we’ve had our choices limited

like where we can go to exercise.  Even with reduced choices, sometimes when I reach my front gate, the decision of whether to turn to left or right feels too much.

Subconsciously I may have a fear of missing out, or a desire to mix things up a bit.

It’s often that desire to want the new and shiny that can take us away from routine.  But when we realise how much energy that takes, we may be able to be more accepting of the mundane routine.

Here are a few tips on how you can reduce decision fatigue

 

  • Make decisions when you have energy, (note it down for later).
  • Question how important it is? Is it worth the energy expenditure?
  • Simplify decisions to limit choices e.g. what to eat & wear.
  • Take regular breaks to re-charge your energy levels.
  • Can you remove distractions to help you to conserve your energy?
Is there one simple choice you can make a routine? 

Try starting with a small decision and once you have that routine established, then think of another choice you can make an automatic routine.  Or if that feels a bit too restrictive, perhaps giving yourself a choice from 3 things.

If we can start building in a few ways to conserve some of our energy we can spend it on the things which nourish us most.

Young woman - yoga warrior pose

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