How to Beat Decision Fatigue
Being aware of the problem is a good first step, say experts. When we know there’s the potential for trouble, we can take steps to help. For instance:
- Make important decisions early on. Think it’s a good idea to save the toughest decisions for last. Wrong, warn researchers. It’s a good idea to make the most important — and mostly costly — decisions first when you have the most mental resources. However, be warned that people who make the big choices first can experience decision fatigue faster than people who start small. Some people make a few small decisions first — rather like a warm-up — before diving into the difficult ones.
- Get smart with your schedule. Making an after work appointment do see your financial advisor? Bad idea, say experts. Time of day can also be crucial, and it’s better to think earlier rather than late. Avoid meetings or big decisions at the end of the day, or when you’re typically tired or hungry. First thing in the morning and right after a snack or meal are good times. Another no-no: back-to-back meetings without a break.
- Take breaks. When we get tired and frustrated, we often try to plough on through. However, there’s something to be said for taking a walk or “sleeping on it”. Breaks offer some respite to help recharge your abilities — and experts say we should take a break whether we think we need it or not. We may not realize how fatigued we are — there aren’t any obvious warning signs or alarms. When in doubt, say you’ll think it about it first. You don’t have to make major decisions like investments or mortgages right on the spot — a smart advisor should remind you “you don’t have to make this decision right now.”
- Have a snack. Grocery shopping isn’t the only thing you should avoid when you’re hungry. Studies have shown that the energy boost we get from a snack can help restore our decision making abilities — temporarily, at least. That’s no excuse to indulge in a sweet treat, however. The benefit comes from a quick shot of glucose, not how tasty the food is. Experts advise to keep some healthy snacks like fruit on hand.