By Renee Goyeneche—
Decisions, from simple to complex, are part of our daily lives. While factors such as our lifestyle, age or occupation can influence the number of choices we make, studies estimate that the average adult is about 35,000 decisions daily. That number has probably increased in recent decades, given how the rise of technology has significantly changed the way we interact with the world. We are being bombarded with notifications, messages and alerts like never before, and our inherent reachability demands that we deal with issues in real time. When faced with too many options, our brains become overloaded and struggle to process all of the available information, leading first to decision fatigue and then to decision paralysis.
Decision fatigue refers to the idea that our ability to make good decisions becomes exhausted over time. It can be the result of having to make too many decisions in a short period of time, not having enough information to make a decision, or just being mentally exhausted. As we make more decisions, especially complex ones, our ability to make good decisions may decrease, or we may begin to avoid making decisions altogether.
If left unchecked, fatigue can turn into decision paralysis, where we cannot make a choice even when all the necessary information is available. The problem can be compounded by the fear of making a wrong decision, which can lead to procrastination, missed opportunities, and increased stress and anxiety. In both our personal and professional lives, it is essential to be aware of the potential for decision fatigue and decision paralysis in stressful environments, as these can have long-term effects on our physical and mental health.
There are several indicators that indicate that you are experiencing decision fatigue or paralysis. Here are some common symptoms:
- Feeling overwhelmed: If you are constantly overwhelmed by the number of decisions you have to make or if you find yourself procrastinating, decision fatigue may be to blame. Conversely, some people may begin to make hasty, impulsive decisions when they experience decision fatigue, leading to poor choices.
- Irritability or mood swings: When we experience decision fatigue, our brains can become overloaded, leading to emotional instability. It can also manifest in physical symptoms such as headaches, muscle tension and disrupted sleep patterns, perpetuating its adverse effects on our overall health and well-being.
- Difficulty concentrating: A lack of focus leads to decreased productivity and can be particularly concerning when focus and attention to detail are critical, such as in the workplace or while driving. It can also contribute to feelings of stress and overwhelm, creating a vicious cycle that can exacerbate fatigue or paralysis and make tackling complex tasks or decisions more challenging.
- Physical fatigue: Decision-making can be mentally exhausting, so you may also feel tired or exhausted. This can start a cycle of less exercise and reinforce feelings of tiredness and lethargy. It can also lead to burnout, which significantly impacts physical health and increases the risk of heart disease, obesity and other health problems.
If you notice any of these signs, take a step back to evaluate your process and consider solutions such as prioritizing certain choices, delegating decisions, or taking breaks to recharge.
Here are some additional suggestions that may help you get past the roadblock:
- Start by identifying the source of your indecisiveness and any underlying fears or concerns that are contributing to your fatigue or paralysis. It can be helpful to break down a decision into smaller, more manageable steps, gather as much information as you can about your options, and weigh the pros and cons.
- Consider setting a deadline for making a decision and holding yourself accountable. Remember that it is essential to choose a specific and realistic deadline. This facilitates progress by creating urgency, which can be effective when making decisions in both personal and professional contexts.
- If you’re struggling with professional decisions, it can also be helpful to consult trusted colleagues, mentors, or advisors who can provide a fresh perspective and help you identify blind spots in your thinking.
- Finally, it is essential to understand that no decision is ever completely without risk and that sometimes it is best to make a choice with the knowledge that you have to change course and adapt to the circumstances.
By understanding that decision making is a dynamic process and not a one time event, we can approach decision making with a growth mindset. By continually evaluating and adjusting decisions based on feedback and new information, we can develop decision-making skills and make more informed choices over time.
Renee Goyeneche: I am a writer and research editor who focuses on information that benefits women, children and families. Find me Twitter.