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Decision-making fatigue: When the choice becomes a torture

How often do you choose each day? If you are trying to count or skip counting, you can stop right away. Experts assume that there are around 20,000 decisions per day. The vast majority of them are completely unconscious - but at some point you will get tired of making decisions. You simply cannot and will not make another choice. It becomes downright impossible to find and choose the best alternative. That can be a big problem. Sometimes you end up having to commit yourself. We explain what makes decision fatigue, how it occurs and how you can protect yourself from it ...

➠ Content: This is what awaits you

➠ Content: This is what awaits you

Decision fatigue: definition and cause

It is very likely that you have already experienced the phenomenon of decision fatigue yourself. Think back to a particularly busy day where you had to make many decisions. There were traffic jams and train delays already in the morning, so you had to choose between two evils. Things didn't get any better in the job and one important decision after another followed.

Even a simple question can be too much. After work, your partner asks, for example: “What should we eat today?” Because you are tired of making decisions, you simply have no answer. Pasta or rice? Salad or meat? You are mentally and physically exhausted from making decisions. Even if you try, you just won't get any results. You don't care, you give up the decision and accept what your significant other thinks is right.

In a nutshell: the more decisions you make, the less you are able to make further decisions. This decision fatigue has already been thoroughly researched scientifically. The psychologist Kathleen Vohs came to an astonishing result: Decisions actually make you tired - just as intense physical exertion would do.

Every decision costs part of your energy reserves. It doesn't matter if the choices are easy, difficult, positive, negative, large or small. The mental effort that you have to put into weighing up and filtering alternatives makes you tired in the long run. To make matters worse, it also takes strength to decide against all the alternatives that have not been chosen.

Consequences of decision fatigue

Decision fatigue is often underestimated or completely ignored. Motto: The indecision is not that bad. However, it is precisely this assumption that is often wrong. Of course, there are many small decisions that can be waited until the next day without any problems. But it also has some negative consequences when you are tired of making decisions.

You just hand over decisionswhen you are tired of making decisions. Sometimes a decision has to be made promptly. If you don't, someone else will do it for you. You then have to come to terms with the result, even if you later realize that it is not what you actually wanted.

The same danger threatens if you are forced to make a choice despite being tired of making decisions and then make the wrong decision. Here you will regret your decision and be frustrated afterwards.

In addition, you will be wasting a lot of time that you could use much better if you think about different options for what feels like an eternity and get nowhere. Or you postpone a decision and let a good chance slip through your fingers.

You can do that against decision fatigue

You cannot prevent decisions from making you tired and draining you of your strength. However, you can use the knowledge of this exhaustion to counteract decision fatigue and to protect yourself against the possible consequences. We have collected some tips for the correct handling of decision fatigue:

  • Make important decisions in the morning
    Decision fatigue increases as the day progresses, while your ability to make good and correct decisions decreases. If a particularly big and important decision is imminent, you should therefore put it as soon as possible in the morning when you are still in full control.
  • Take breaks before making decisions
    It is a mistake to rush into a decision in a stressful manner. It is better to recharge your energy reserves beforehand in order to escape decision fatigue. Make the most of your lunch break, go out to eat, enjoy the fresh air and the sun, or even take a little nap. You will then be more relaxed and ready to choose.
  • Reduce the number of conscious decisions
    The less you have to consciously think about decisions, the less energy they consume. Automatisms and routine are important factors here. Eating the same breakfast every day, always taking the same bus, or - to revisit the example at the beginning of the article - creating a meal plan for the entire week reduces the number of decisions you have to make every day.
  • Adjust your setting
    Decision fatigue has a particularly strong impact when you are determined to make the perfect choice. This is almost impossible anyway and if you are already tired of making decisions, it is absolutely impossible that you will find the optimal alternative. Better to adjust your setting and be satisfied with it when you've found a good option - even if it's not 120 percent perfect.

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