7 Ways to Kick Decision Fatigue to the Curb

You’re standing at your local grocery store and all you want is a box of Ritz crackers.
Problem is that there are 17 varieties of Ritz in front of you on the shelf.
Dang it! All you want is a box of Ritz crackers.
You don’t want football shaped.
You don’t want whole wheat.
You don’t want low fat.
You don’t want hint of salt.
You don’t want bacon flavored (OK maybe you do but not right now).
You don’t want Fresh Packs.
And you don’t want Ritz Bits.
You want to throw your hands up in disgust or pick up the first box that your hand reaches for. Heck, you can work bacon into a dessert recipe, right?
So after reading through countless labels and searching 6 shelves of red boxes,you find the box of Original Ritz on the bottom shelf.
How much brain matter did you exhaust on that little foray into Ritz hell?
Time to eliminate all those decision perhaps?

Kick Decision Fatigue to the Curb

Here are the 7 ways to kick your decision fatigue to the curb:

1. Wake up earlier. You make better decisions in the morning AND you fair better if you get the earliest appointment whether it’s a court hearing (Judges are more lenient in the morning) or a job interview (earlier candidates are selected more often). Everyone has a clearer head in the morning and, apparently, are more charitable.

2. Exercise early in the day. I know it doesn’t seem like it when you are just getting on the treadmill at 5 AM but you will be more energized throughout the day if you exercise early. Research shows that exercise increases mental acuity for up to 10 hours. Why hand over that acuity to the late night news or your pillow?

3. Pick out your clothes the night before. Why make decisions first thing in the morning or, worse yet, while you are trying to sleep? Hmmm. Should I wear the new sweater or the old blouse? If I wear red will it be too overpowering or perfectly enticing? These are not things you want to be thinking about while you toss and turn. Decide the night before and rest easy.

4. Curb your choices. Have the same breakfast every day of the week. Have only one pair of running shoes and one style of socks. Have the same well-oiled routine every morning to get out the door. The more times you have to stop and decide, the more you get depleted. Eliminate as many choices as possible.

5. Simplify your choices. Take that shopping list of yours and go to some place that has like 4,000 different products versus 50,000 different products. Where is that? Trader Joes. They simplify your choices. I can guarantee you they don’t have 17 varieties of Ritz crackers. In-N-Out Burger has burgers and fries. DVR some select TV shows and quit your channel surfing. That’s it. Less decisions means better cognition. Simplify.

6. Know when enough is enough. You know when you are depleted. Long day at work? Just spent 3 hours in a car? The meeting ran long and you still need to buy dinner are the store? These are bad times to make decisions. You have to acknowledge it to do anything about it. My daughter is famous for saying “Mommy you’re getting hangry (re: hungry and angry) aren’t you?”. Perhaps we should go out for dinner. Maybe a frozen pizza will work. Eggs for dinner might be perfect. You need to know so you can head that bad decision off at the pass.

7. Start with one thing. Don’t take this whole list and start working out at 4:30 AM, purchase 7 pairs of black pants and buy a Ninja to make fruit smoothies every morning. Pick one. Maybe two but NO MORE. As Caroline Arnold writes in her book “Small Move, Big Change”, making one or two small changes is much easier to take on and be successful. But start.

I have made a grocery list every Saturday for years. I know what we are having for dinner and plan it all out Saturday morning. So only the weather will impact what we have for dinner, so if there is lightning, I won’t be standing outside by the grill.

Keep that decision fatigue out of the picture so that you can optimize the more important decisions in your life and let the other ones slide into auto pilot.

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