Have you ever had a hard time making a decision? Or reverted to a bad habit you were working hard to break? The culprit might be decision fatigue. If you’re having a hard time reaching your goals or building healthy habits, you might need to learn how to outsmart decision fatigue. 

What is decision fatigue?

Decision fatigue is a term coined by social psychologist Roy Baumeister, who describes it as what you experience after a long session of decision-making which results in low self-control and willpower. In short, your brain is tired. When this occurs your brain will automatically default to the easiest decision, often a habit, that allows your brain to rest. Unfortunately, the easiest choice isn’t the healthiest choice or one that leads you in the direction you’d like your life to go. Knowing how to outsmart decision fatigue makes it easier to build good habits that lead toward more holistic wellbeing. 

Get enough sleep

Lack of sleep can lead to impulsive decisions and less control of your desired choices. Baumeister also introduced the term ego depletion, which describes a level of fatigue that goes beyond physical tiredness. People living in this depleted condition report more tiredness and negative emotions. When faced with challenges like an especially difficult assignment at work, they are more likely to fail or turn in lower quality work. The brain area that’s crucial for self-control slows down. To restore energy levels and outsmart decision fatigue it’s important to improve sleep quality and quantity. 

Eliminate early decisions

Ever wonder why Steve Jobs wore the same outfit everyday? By eliminating the morning decision of what to wear, he preserved brain power for more important decisions he faced later in the day. Filling the early hours of your day with routine, or habits, is an effective way to outsmart decision fatigue. This might mean waking at the same time, having the same breakfast, or simplifying your wardrobe.   

Create space to be alone 

Whether you’re enjoying your daily shower or a solitary walk in the park, you’ve probably experienced moments of clarity and serenity. When your brain is free to wander and rest from urgent decision making, you may discover important problem-solving gets easier. You improve the neural connections in your brain and make better decisions. Ultimately, you are better equipped to outsmart decision fatigue when you take breaks in your day.

Eat at regular intervals

When you are hungry, your body releases a hormone called “ghrelin,” which decreases impulse control. According to Baumeister, “acts of self-control cause reductions in blood glucose levels, which in turn predict poor self-control on behavioral tasks.” Keeping your blood sugar stable and ghrelin from taking over is a simple but effective way to outsmart decision fatigue. A basic rule of thumb is to eat every 3-4 hours to maintain a balanced blood sugar level and sustained energy. Include protein, healthy fats, and a small dose of carbs in each meal or snack to help outsmart decision fatigue. Meal prepping also helps eliminate decisions when you are tired.

Decisions are a daily part of life. While you can’t eliminate all of them, you can make better decisions and outsmart decision fatigue with the help of these strategies.