A Mom’s Guide to Fighting the Effects of Decision Fatigue

Do you suffer from decision fatigue?
Do you suffer from decision fatigue? Adults make thousands of decisions each day. These range from the mundane (cereal or oatmeal?) to important life and business decisions.  As we go through the day, our brain’s ability to make good decisions, compromises, and to resist temptations falters. Scientists call this decision fatigue. As a mom, you may have experienced this phenomenon as decision paralysis – when you’ve spent the day working, caring for your children and all the sudden you can’t figure out what to make for dinner?

As we make hundreds of big and small decisions and exert willpower over temptations, each act of resistance erodes our willpower at the end of the day. Like when our children ask us the same thing twenty times, and in the late afternoon we suddenly give in?
Scientists have even found that as decision fatigue sets in food becomes more appealing, making it extra difficult to make good food choices. This explains why people tend to buy more junk food at the end of the day!
Business leaders have sought to maximize their decision-making ability by eliminating some of the mundane decisions they have to make every day. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg choses to wear a gray t-shirt and jeans to work every day. President Obama favored only blue or gray suits for the same reason. They literally wanted to preserve their decision-making ability for the many critical situations they faced each day.
As mothers, we too can remove some of the decisions we need to make each day, therefore improving our ability to fight decision fatigue.

  1. We make lots of decisions each morning while getting dressed. Most people wear 20% of their clothes 80% of the time. Eliminating the decision of which of the ten black cardigans you should choose to wear can save you time and decision making power. Fewer options, fewer decisions that need to be made and hence more energy for decisions later in the day. This is why the concept of a capsule wardrobe came about.
  2. Use checklists and stick to them. You have ten things on your grocery list, stick to those ten items instead of strolling the aisles. In the same spirit, use a checklist or give yourself a time limit at the mall. Fewer stores visited, fewer temptations to resist and hence improved decision making late in the day.
  3. Do your grocery shopping first thing in the morning when your resolve to eat healthfully is still strong. If mornings are not an option, consider having your groceries delivered to avoid impulse buys.
  4. Make your online purchases in the morning. Online impulse buys are more likely to occur in the evening when your ability to make good decisions is spent.
  5. When meal planning, write down your family’s favorite simple weekday meals. Keep the list of ingredients in your favorite grocery shopping app. Rotate through these meals each week, taking out the need to decide what’s for dinner. Taco Tuesday anyone?
  6. Instead of deciding each day whether to exercise, schedule regular appointments with a friend or a trainer. If someone is counting you, you have an obligation to show up – no decision needed.
  7. When you reach decision paralysis, recognize it and sleep on it. Sleep recharges our brains and resets our decision-making ability. Make vital decisions in the morning while you are fresh.