Dealing with Decision Fatigue

Mental exhaustion is part of a person’s life. Most of our exhaustion is felt when we’re overwhelmed with decisions. We wake up in the morning thinking about our daily tasks, “What should I do first?” or “Should I do x or y?”. Decisions increase tension and eventually create stress. Making a choice like what to wear to impress your clients, organizing a birthday party, working at home while babysitting your kids, or even juggling two jobs can be frustrating.

The best thing you can do when you’re tired making decisions is to change the way you see it. Modifying the way of thinking about willpower can change the outlook on decision-making. Dozens of decisions should be made, and it is very tiresome. That is where burnout or brain fog takes place. This article will help you deal with decision fatigue.

What is Decision Fatigue?

Decision fatigue is the exhaustion of the mind after a long process of decision-making. Our decision gets worse after overthinking ideas. It is also called ego depletion, which Roy F. Baumeister coined.

Professor Roy F. Baumeister is a social psychologist from the University of Queensland. He developed studies to obtain authentic happiness. Professor Baumeister stated in his study that making too many decisions can lead to poor decision making, and such may lead to negative consequences. 

For example, health care workers pull an all-nighter. Decision fatigue causes them to be less efficient, make poor decisions, and the quality of care they deliver may not be at par with the standards. 

Causes of Decision Fatigue

What causes decision fatigue? The main cause is making too many decisions over a length of time. There’s no time to think and to reflect on the consequences because there is limited time. Each day we are bombarded to make crucial decisions from what to eat, where to go, or what shoes to wear.

At the end of the day, we are still capable of these choices, even when we are tired. However, add that small tasks to more complex problems that need a solution and the strain to decide depletes us.

Signs and Symptoms

What does decision fatigue look like? A person may feel tired, stressed, and cannot focus. These are typical signs of fatigue. Physical fatigue may have also affected a person’s mental energy.

Here is a list of common symptoms that can arise as a person feels it:

  • Procrastinate: Bad decisions are a product of procrastination. “I’ll do this tomorrow”
  • Impulsiveness: People tend to be careless and select poor choices
  • Comfort zone: Resistance from change can lead to decision avoidance. “I’m not used to this.” It means you are stuck in your bubble, avoiding opportunities.
  • Overthinking: “What if this happens?” or “But what if it does?”. You overthink that you might fail and this stops you from making further decisions. 
  • Too many choices: Wasting time on unnecessary options is draining. Stick to the ones that apply to you and focus on your decisions.
  • Emotions: Emotions can overpower what the brain is thinking. You will realize some important decisions affect your feelings.

Effects of Decision Fatigue

In making decisions, willpower will help these circumstances. The effects of decision fatigue vary from person to person. Important decisions also decline over time. Willpower is connected to our mental energy which diminishes when decision fatigue occurs. We lose ourselves and can be impulsive. Some possible effects are listed below:


Trade-offs are small decisions we need to make that come with a cost. If we don’t have self-control in decision-making, it will be a loss of time and energy. It’s like bartering something negative hoping for a positive outcome. It is a product of compromise. When a person has decision fatigue, they probably can’t make wise decisions. They are reluctant to choose what is right and wrong. 

Avoiding Decisions

“I can’t do this anymore” and “I don’t want to deal with this today.” These are typical phrases when a person is experiencing decision fatigue. They can’t come up with better decisions because they are exhausted in a way that there is rejection.

One example of decision avoidance is procrastination which is briefly discussed above. Avoiding decisions on a personal matter greatly affects the brain. These can hinder very significant tasks.

How to Deal With Decision Fatigue?

Overcoming decision fatigue is easy once you have the knowledge and assistance. Jot down decisions that may or may not be applicable in your life. If you have a job that requires constant decisions, like designing and marketing, you will feel burnout. This will affect decision-making and lean towards bad trade-offs.

How do you combat it? Have you already given up? This mindset is negative. Instead, think about ways to combat it. Learn from your mistakes. Once you have a framework on what to do, just trust the process and commit to making it. Listed below are tips to get started:


Having self-control can eliminate the negative side of decision-making. For example, doing work as early as possible, controlling yourself by not saying bad words, or avoiding temptations. You need to learn how to stay calm when these situations arise. 

Every morning internalize your day, eat healthy meals, or listen to happy songs to boost your energy for better decision making throughout the day. Once a week make it a habit of engaging in physical activities. Also, having enough sleep at night could make a difference.

Taking control of our decision-making is essential. You will be given tasks and decisions throughout the day, these significant choices will impact your lives. Make sure that the product of those choices will not be in vain.

Simplify Choices Throughout the Day

Dress as simply as possible, this could take away excess stress on decision making. Being simple has benefits in your personal lifestyle. This will have effects on the ability to make decisions.

Follow the steps of Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs. As you have seen them on television, they have both individualized their wardrobe. They don’t wear loud colors and designs. Mark Zuckerberg, for example, only wears gray clothes for presentations every day. He chooses simple clothing which enables him to spend his energy on more important tasks. Simplify choices that deserve your energy and leave the rest as secondary.

List Down and Prioritize Tasks for The Day

List down on a piece of paper the things you want to be done on that day. For example, jot down your errands in a week, like going to the grocery, washing the car, and gardening. Prioritize what is important. Making decisions is hard and can lead to decision fatigue. Take control of these and avoid making decisions that you will regret in the end.

If you have resources like books and published research, take time to read on prioritizing decisions. There is what we call a prioritization matrix in which you write a task, its difficulty, and overall score. From this data, you can follow it according to prioritization.

Learn How to Breathe Once in a While

Take a break and have a snack. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Don’t waste your time on things that are not worth it. At the end of the day, you are responsible for your own decisions.

Jonathan Levav studies behavioral decision theory at Stanford University. He researched parole decisions in judicial decision-making. Judges were placed on several decisions in a day. It involves a long session with 1,000 parole decisions made by eight judges in months.

It shows that taking a break with a meal helps judges to have faster parole decisions. They ate a full meal with glucose content. Decision fatigue can be eliminated once a person is well-rested and with energy.

You can breathe once in a while by taking time to yourself. A good bath can help release stress and fatigue. Try to enroll in yoga exercises and hobbies you love. Having a healthy mind and soul keeps you focused throughout the day. 

Be Grateful on Good Decisions

Decision fatigue takes a toll on our self-control and willpower. It drains our brain energy, making it hard for us to focus. Stress is the number one side effect of decision fatigue. Poor choices are the product.

Celebrating good decisions in a day could make better results and have a clear mind. For example, you had an excellent presentation at work. Treat yourself by having a glass of wine or watching a good movie. Congratulate yourself on these milestones; you deserve it.

Monitor Your Mental and Physical Health

Planning ahead of time can be a trick to make a number of decisions easy. It is a daily struggle, but you have to be on track to reach your goals. “Am I still doing a good job? Can this affect my mental health over time?” Ask yourself if you are still okay. If this doesn’t positively suit you, learn to stop. Rejecting a decision is not bad.

Keep track of your emotions. Level it to your criteria and list down ways to improve yourself. Try to monitor your sleep pattern, appetite, and mood. These can help you organize your mental health. 


Decision-making is a daily event and a task. You make options every second or minute. Joggling them from left and right is laborious. In conclusion, taking a rest, eating healthy foods, and organizing tasks can eliminate decision fatigue.

Do you suffer decision fatigue? You can visit the website of the Kentucky Counseling Center (KCC) here.