Less is More: End Decision Fatigue and Resolve Your Personal Energy Crisis

By on October 6, 2013

In a world overloaded with choice, one might be tempted to think that the more options we have to choose from the better. A growing body of research on willpower, decision-making, energy, performance and happiness shows the opposite. Here are just a few of the findings:

•    The more options you have to choose from the less happy you will be with your choices.
•    The more decisions you have had to make, the less willpower you have.
•    Mentally exhausted people are less ethical, more impulsive, and more likely to either make poor decisions or to avoid decisions altogether.
The bottom line of all this research is that we have a finite amount of mental energy available to us in any given period, so optimizing performance and fulfillment depends upon your ability to be more strategic in how you use it. Here are a few simple tips to do so:
•    Don’t check your e-mail first thing in the morning. Dealing with your e-mail requires you to make dozens, if not hundreds, of decisions. By the time you are finished dealing with it, you have seriously depleted your mental resources. If you really must check your e-mail first thing, only allow a quick scan to identify and respond to anything that is absolutely critical. This saves your energy so you…                                                                                                                                           •    Do attack the hard and important things first. If you are like most people, you go through your task list and do the easy things first. This squanders your finite mental energy on things that are not critical to your success, performance and happiness. Instead, block off at least the first two hours of your day to work on the projects that require your peak energy and performance. Getting results on these projects actually gives you energy because it frees up the mental resources you were using to chew on that difficult problem in the back of your mind (i.e. to procrastinate about it!).                                                                                                                                 •    Don’t schedule important decisions for the latter half of the day (or a time when you have had enough of a break to be refreshed). If you are interviewing for a new employee, schedule the interviews for two consecutive mornings instead of over a full day. This will ensure that you are looking at the candidates with equally fresh eyes and evaluating them fairly. Schedule your strategic planning time earlier in the day to improve the quality of your thinking and your results. You will also decrease the likelihood of making rash decisions you will regret later.            •    Do limit your options. Trader Joe’s – a wildly successful supermarket in the United States – has built their success based on offering their customers fewer choices. If Trader Joe’s carries it, you know it is amazing. They don’t need to give you sixteen different options for yogurt – just the two best ones.  As my 5-year-old son teaches me, young children get overwhelmed if we give them too many choices. The research proves that adults do too! You can apply this in many areas of your life. Get rid of any clothes in your closet that you don’t love and you will use less energy getting dressed in the morning. Find three things you love for breakfast and rotate them on a schedule so you don’t have to think about it. Buy a cottage at the lake so you always know where you are going for summer vacation.

Most importantly, take a few minutes right now to consider all the ways in which you are using up your mental energy. Is your current allocation serving you or sabotaging you in achieving the life you desire?

About Andrea Jacques

Andrea Jacques is the founder of Kyosei Consulting and the author of Wabi-Sabi Wisdom: Inspiration for an Authentic Life (available on Amazon.com). She has spent more than 20 years developing the potential of people and businesses worldwide, five of which were in Japan. A dynamic speaker, coach, and facilitator, her work integrates spiritual insight with top-tier leadership, wellness and sustainability consulting to help individuals and organizations build thriving, purpose-driven cultures where employees know their work truly matters. She can be contacted through her website at www.kyoseiconsulting.com