004: Avoid • Decision Fatigue

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Avoid • Decision Fatigue

You may be aware of decision fatigue, but most people are unaware of this phenomenon, how it affects them and most importantly how to avoid it.


Have you experienced....

   Being tired at the end of the day.  Probably all of us hav.e

   Making poor decisions later in the day (lack of willpower, bought something you did not plan to)


I definitely have and I'll share why you should pay attention to this as part of your growth and productivity planning?


What's Decision Fatigue?

People make worse decisions after making a lot of decisions.  Yes, it's true research shows the simple act of making decisions degrades the ability to make further decisions


Former President Obama -  "managing your life as a president requires that you cut away the mundane, frustrating decisions"


Think about where you are making decisions:

From the time you wake up - deciding....

  • whether to exercise
  • what to wear
  • what to eat
  • What to do I have to do today
  • Should I speak up at the meeting
  • What to do with that email (all those emails) * this is my biggest pain point
  • Decisions are really non-stop


Let's Break it Down


It differs from the usual physical fatigue and can often go unrecognized, but is being low on mental energy.  Think about it- most of us can feel exhausted at the end of the day, but we probably did not do a lot of physical activity.   I have heard it also called cognitive depletion. It can lead to a feeling of overwhelm and mental exhaustion.


Poor Decisions:

There are many examples of poor decisions caused by lack of willpower due to decision fatigue.  Such as eating the potato chips late at night,  buying the extras at the car dealership


Quality of Decisions - Example for Judge's decisions  - Danzinger looked at parole decisions by judges.  Everything else being equal (crime, sentences, ethnicity), prisoners who appeared early in the day were paroled 70% of the time and those appearing later were paroled <10% of the time.


The tired brain can take two shortcuts -

1 - act impulsively

2 - do nothing - avoid the choice  


Action Plan - Steps to prevent Decision Fatigue:

Overall Goal - reduce  or automate decisions

  1.  Eliminate Decisions
  2. Plan Ahead
  3. Automate
  4. Decision Making Strategy


1. Eliminate Decisions

  • Wardrobe

Many great leaders have practiced removing decisions from their wardrobe and worn a "uniform"

Mark Zuckerberg - grey t-shirt

Steve Jobs - black turtleneck


Former President Obama Quote

“You’ll see I wear only gray or blue suits,”  “I’m trying to pare down decisions. I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing. Because I have too many other decisions to make.”   “You need to focus your decision-making energy. 

Women - do you know anyone who does this. Think of all the extra decisions we tend to make - what goes with the clothing - the handbag, the jewelry, nail color…

Matilda Kahl works for an advertising agency in NYC and became known for choosing  a uniform to wear everyday. She bought 15 white blouses and black pants.

I have not trimmed down that minimal of a choice but I have reduced decisions - I wear black pants every day with a top and blazer.  To reduce decisions even farther, I rotate my clothes such that I take what is next on the rack to wear and after laundry, I put it at the back of the rack.

  •      Meals

2. Plan Ahead

  • Schedule your day in advance - 
    • Plan your day the night or Friday before for the week (Franklin Covey)
    • Morning routine
    • Do/Decide the most important things first (productivity)
  •  Planning meals - plan ahead - day of the week (menu M).
  • Lay your clothes out the night before  

Now, these are all decisions, but they are done at a better time that conserves energy in the mornings


3. Automate - set your life to autopilot

  • Habits/Routines
  • Checklist or algorithm 
  • Optimize technology - to reduce Decisions - bill pay, email filing, knowledge management tools (avoid decision on where to file)
  • Meals - online ordering from your regular list of items, Look at popularity of meal delivery

4. Decision Making Strategy

  • Make small decisions fast
  • Delegate - let someone else make the decision
  • Manage your thoughts - David Allen Getting Things Done 


Extra Tips:

  • Take care of your brain and body - sleep, food, water, breaks
  • Take pressure off your loved ones or your colleagues


"Allow mental recovery, eliminate and automate decisions to prevent decision fatigue."


Great reading on the science of decision fatigue -

Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength, 2012 by Roy F. Baumeister  (Author), John Tierney  (Author)


We covered today…

  • What decision fatigue is
  • The impact of decision fatigue
  • Action Plan 
    • Eliminate Decisions
    • Plan Ahead
    • Automate
    • Decision Making Strategy

One of my favorite quotes on this subject is "Limited choices in your day can lead to limitless freedom in your life" - Marie Forleo

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Now it is your turn:

I want you to have this freedom so reflect on what causes you the most decision fatigue and the one step you will take to prevent.  Share your thoughts in the comments section at


Be bold, be a connector, and excel your life.




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