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Decision Fatigue - What is it, Pro Tips to Overcome it

Updated: Jan 12, 2021

From simply choosing what to eat to make investments, our brain is involved twenty-four-seven for regular decision making. And sometimes, in the literal sense our brain sleeps over a decision, that is, we can't think properly to reach a decision after a point. And that is when we say we are going through Decision Fatigue at that time.

Decision fatigue- A situation where there is deterioration in a person’s ability to make decisions wisely and timely after that person is involved in decision making for a long period of time.

A simple example of Decision Fatigue can be illustrated by drawing an analogy: Imagine yourself running for a long period of time. After some time, your body exhausts because of which you cannot run at the same speed. The energy in you must have at least temporarily drained and thus not able to generate enough energy to run at the same speed. Still, if you keep running, your body breaks down.

The same analogy applies to decision making. Decision making is also an exercise for our brain. Exhaustion of which causes Decision Fatigue and the process gets hampered.

A few people who have been taking a lot of decisions day in and day out can manage the stress caused, but an average person, who starts taking too many decisions in a single day gets affected. If pushed, the quality of your decisions gets hampered severely.

If you have any doubt on that, recollect the instances you must have given up on thinking properly and taken some random decision after a very long meeting or at the late end of an exhaustive day.

Effect of Decision Fatigue

Initially, decision fatigue may affect you temporarily, but there could be a long term effect too if you are getting affected frequently.

Effect on Our Mind and Body

  • Procrastination

  • Laziness

  • Irritation

  • Restlessness

Health will definitely be affected by one major thing, which is stress. And that is an inducer to many other problems, which not only include our physical health but also mood, anxiety, lack of focus, and whatnot.

Another effect, which is Avoidance is also seen in many cases, where we don't try to face the situation. It may or may not come with procrastination.

Thus, we must recognize the effects, which should make us recognize the situation we are in and think about the ways to tackle it.

Effect on Our Professional Life

Lack of stamina to think more on even simple decisions might become difficult in certain cases.

  • We might become subjective in our decisions, where an objective perspective is required;

  • An example of which could be seen in a teacher grading the exam or a manager doing employee assessment;

  • This might even cause us to become partial towards employees/ tasks/ strategies

Here are a few tips which help you during decision fatigue situations

  • Make sure you and your team take breaks intermittently if the discussion is going on for a long time. This break helps everyone recuperate energy. Also, it helps in coming up with new points

  • If the stress levels increase during the decision-making process, esp. due to arguments and heated discussions, first take measures to calm everyone. Otherwise, decision fatigue creeps in.

  • If possible, think about all the possibilities but don’t make the final decision. Leave it for the next day, where you can take the final decision with fresh minds

  • Have some drinks, eat something you like, have some small talk, or watch a comic piece.

  • Allow others to be a part of decision making and cross-check if the final decision is actually correct.


Leaders like Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs prioritize their decisions making tasks very much.

They wear only a few types of clothes such as the same color shirt/ tee-shirt daily. This way they believe they are not wasting decision-making energy on silly things (at least for them) like clothes to be worn.

This is How You can Avoid Decision Fatigue

After you have recognized your complication, a few changes in your habits can help in avoiding decision fatigue or let you develop decision making effectively for a longer period of time.

  • First and foremost point - decision making to the brain is like exercise to the body. After regular practice, you can make more decisions on a particular day. So, practice regularly.

  • Plan properly. Note down all the decisions related tasks to be taken in a day. Make sure you make key decisions when you are fresh.

  • If possible, delegate low stake decisions to your juniors. At least, let them do the brainstorming and come up with 2-3 possibilities, out of which you can take the final decision.

  • Train your team members in decision making by involving them in the initial decisions. Slowly they can take decisions on your behalf. Also, it empowers and motivates them

  • If multilevel decisions are required, break the entire tasks into sub-tasks and assign a person or a team to take decisions on sub-tasks. Once they come up with decisions, take a brief and conclude that. In the end, the final decision can be taken based on decisions on each sub-task.

  • Apart from that, energize yourself well before starting meetings. In this case, a relaxing exercise or meditation might help.

Overall, decision making becomes very important as you move up the ladder. So, it becomes a differentiating factor to become an effective leader and manager. After a point, you cannot reduce the number of decisions to be taken every day, wherein some roles involve only decision making and nothing much. So, you have to increase your capability to take more wise decisions every day. In fact, here delegation of responsibilities also plays an important role.

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