Do you feel burnt out and overwhelmed with choices? Here’s how to get your energy back and give your brain a break
You nip to the supermarket on your way home and text your partner.
What do you fancy for dinner?
You choose, he replies.
But 10 minutes later you’re still wandering up and down the aisle with an empty basket, and you’re no closer to picking anything.
You know it should be easy. So why is such a simple choice taking so long?
It’s likely that you’re experiencing decision fatigue.
This phenomenon, which most of us experience daily, happens when our mental energy gets so drained that by the end of the day we often end up making rash decisions — or no decisions at all.
Dr Amy Rose Grubb, chartered psychologist and senior lecturer at the University of Worcester, explains: ‘Research tells us that the quality of the decisions we make deteriorates after a long session of decision-making
‘Much in the same way that our muscles fatigue after a heavy workout, our brain tires after making lots of decisions.’
The average adult makes a staggering 35,000 decisions a day, so it’s no wonder that at home time we can barely decide what we want to eat.
So what can we do to give our poor brains a helping hand?
Make big decisions in the morning
‘This is when our willpower is at its strongest,’ Dr Grubb says. ‘Preserve your cognitive resources to tackle big, important issues instead of waking up and spending time wondering what to wear or pack for your lunch.’
Keep a routine
‘By doing things at the same time or on the same day each week, you don’t have to keep grappling with the same daily decisions,’ Dr Grubb argues.
If you’ve had a tough day, you might struggle to find the willpower to decide to exercise. But if you know that Tuesday is your regular gym day, you’re more likely to go because the decision has been made for you.
Use the power of three
Dr Grubb says: ‘We are fortunate to have so much choice, but sometimes too much choice can leave us struggling to make any decisions at all. This is called decision paralysis and it happens when we spend too much time comparing options, evaluating information and then over-thinking choices.’
She recommends using the power of three. For example, choose three clothes shops that you really like and just buy clothes from there.
Trust your choices
‘If you consistently analyse your decisions, you will further deplete your decision-making power,’ Dr Grubb says.
‘Second-guessing yourself and questioning the accuracy of your decision only leads to you having to make more decisions. Stop worrying about making the perfect choice and just make one which is “good enough”.’
This ensures that you come to a decision and helps you to prioritise your workload, allowing you to ‘park’ those decisions that do not need your current attention, and focus on those more pressing concerns.
Lean on others
Dr Grubb says: ‘Being around others who are efficient and effective at making decisions is a great way to enhance your own decision-making skills by observing and learning.’
Edited by Stephanie May