“Decision Fatigue: Do you have it?”

By Nancy Pollard, LCSW, LLC
Nancy Pollard

Can you believe it is FEBRUARY already???  Where did
January go?  It feels like it wasn’t that long ago that it was Thanksgiving, the month of November, and you were hunkered down to celebrate December holidays.  Next thing you know, it is the end of the year and you are making New Years’ resolutions to begin January 2017.  But wait - it is almost mid-FEBRUARY and what have you actually gotten done?  Anything of significance yet?

More importantly, are you energized or have you noticed that you are exhausted, procrastinating and avoiding tedious tasks, checking out and NOT doing stuff that needs to get done?  Someone asks you, “What’s for dinner?” and you sigh and feel completely overwhelmed.

If this describes you, pay attention.  It could be that you are suffering from Decision Fatigue.

‘The Paradox of Choice’ is a fascinating TED talk that discusses how society today is suffocated by choices to be made every day, from our first waking breath straight through until we fall asleep at night.

“What kind of coffee do you want?  Or tea?  Or chai?  Or a double mocha latte?
Should you work out at the gym?  Run the track?  Lift weights?  Go to a class?  Which class?  Zumba?  Posture training?  CrossFit?
Yoga?  Which yoga?  Hot yoga?  Gentle yoga?  Power yoga?

You go to the grocery store.  There are:
- 353 distinct types of toothpaste
- 285 kinds of cookies
- 175 salad dressings

Unending tedious decisions constantly, insidiously, sapping our mental energy.  Not to mention real-life choices, such as which college to attend?  Which major to take?  Which career path to pursue?  Which house to buy?  Have children?  Not have children?  Which investment?  How to retire?  When to retire?  Where to retire?  Choices and decisions, ad infinitum.

Is your plate so full that you can’t fathom how everything will get done?
Do you have 387 emails in your work email inbox…or more? 
Is your To Do list so long you don’t know where to start?
Do you try and try to stay on top of organizing only to return to piles and piles of STUFF?

Let’s face it, life is busy - perhaps too busy.  And yet, you don’t really want to complain because life is good, you’re successful, you have everything you need…but something feels off.

Success can breed ‘too much on your plate’ and unrealistic expectations.  Everyone wants your undivided attention and they want it NOW.  When you started your career, you had 10 clients.  You could return calls instantly and make everyone think they were your number one priority.  But now, with ‘success,’ you have 100 clients and it is literally impossible to deliver quickly, but your work ethic says YOU SHOULD.  You become so overwhelmed that you get paralyzed and do nothing but worry about all you should be doing, then you feel guilty when you can’t get it all done.  Your body is telling you to check out, yet when you do your mind berates you for doing so.  There is no answer and no peace.

Some concrete solutions to manage decision fatigue and keep your mental energy in check:

  • Learn to delegate and ask for help.  Don’t try to do it ALL BY YOURSELF

  • Hire a housekeeper / a gardener / an accountant / a financial planner

  • Pass off unnecessary decisions by creating smart habits.  Habits take away the need to engage mental energy, thus taking away the need to decide.  Examples: “I don’t eat desserts” or “I work out on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays”

  • Give yourself a deadline so that you don’t fall into a decision coma and learn to be okay with the ‘good enough’ decision, not striving for the perfect decision every time

  • Don’t underestimate the intelligence of your gut; the ‘little brain in your stomach’ often knows the truth, trust yourself

  • Learn to reenergize.  Know what feeds your soul: the people, the places, the things

  • Give yourself downtime where you stop pushing and eliminate all levels of effort

  • Revisit your expectations; you don’t have to answer every call, every email the same day…maybe your turnaround time can be, say, a week’s time

Recognize that decision fatigue is a real phenomenon and a wake-up call.  Notice if time is going by so fast you have truly forgotten to smell the roses.

And speaking of roses, Happy Belated Valentine’s Day.  I love writing to you, and hope you will all Be Mine.

Just a little Mountain Therapy

Copyright © 2017 Nancy Pollard



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