Decision Fatigue

Today my twitter stream contained a most interesting article: Do You Suffer From Decision Fatigue? The article is long, but worth the read!

Just in case you’re short on time or too exhausted, here’s a summary:

  • Decisions are exhausting, even small ones
    • Especially trade-offs, which are an advanced form of decisions
  • Unfortunately decision fatigue doesn’t feel the same as being tired. So we often don’t realize we’re fatigued and don’t exercise caution, when we really should.
  • In a string of decisions the first ones are usually carefully pondered, whereas the last ones are taken with minimal care. You end up
    • either just accepting stuff indiscriminately or
    • not really deciding anything
  • This can be exploited, e.g. the price for a new car can vary 2000$ depending on the order in which the choices for color, engine type, etc. are presented
  • Also it severely lowers impulse control / willpower. The research suggests that there is a “finite store of mental energy for exerting self-control“.
  • Decision fatigue may be something that traps people in poverty: A limited budget requires a lot of exhausting trade-offs; energy that’s lost for studying, etc.
  • Glucose can mitigate and even reverse the depletion. It restores will power and improves decisions.
    • This is bad, bad news for dieting people:
      1. In order not to eat, a dieter needs willpower.
      2. In order to have willpower, a dieter needs to eat.”

Concrete tips to improve your decisions:

  • Take important decisions early in the day
  • Many decision to take? Distribute them over several sessions. Eat between the sessions.
  • Sugar is fastest, but carbs last longer.
  • Avoid as many decisions as you can; save yourself for those that matter

One last quote to conclude:

“The best decision makers […] are the ones who know when not to trust themselves.”

[Thanks @charityfocus (original tweet) and @fluencygame (retweet I read).]