Whether it’s what to put on the TV in the evening, or how to manage priorities at work, we’re breaking down how to make decisions when things become overwhelming
It can be great to feel in control of our lives, making the call on the things that come our way every day as well as big-picture choices that shape the future. But, sometimes, all those decisions can become overwhelming, or even stifling – and when it comes to choices that aren’t easy to make, or which come with a degree of distress, decision fatigue can set in.
When that happens, deciding what you want to do feels a whole lot harder, engaging with the problem properly seems almost impossible, and apathy starts to set in as your mind is too overwhelmed to engage with the task at hand.
Here, with help from life coach Sukhi Johal, we ask, what can we do to address decision fatigue?
1. Spot the signs of decision fatigue
“The important thing to notice is whether you are becoming irritable or incapable of making simple decisions,” Sukhi says. “It’s then time to prioritise a break for self-care. Take time for gentle exercise throughout your day, make healthy diet choices – or if you have just finished a big project, book in some much-needed annual leave.”
Sometimes, our mood can take a dip and we may not immediately know what’s causing it. So take some time to reflect on the things that are going on in your life at the moment. Are you taking on a lot more responsibility than usual? Or are the stakes higher right now? Perhaps you’ve just had a stressful day and the thought of deciding what to cook for dinner is just one thing too many.
2. Group tasks together
Once you’ve established that you’re struggling, Sukhi suggests implementing strategies to make your day-to-day life easier.
“Group tasks together and look at how you can streamline choices,” she suggests. “For example, rather than facing the daily dilemma of what to eat for dinner, compartmentalise meal decisions by prepping the week’s menu ahead of time. This will save a huge portion of time and headspace every evening by having the decision already made. Saving your headspace on the smaller decisions helps to free up room for the bigger decisions.”
3. Limit your options by making them binary
These days, we have so much choice. Whether that’s what book to read next, or picking out a type of kitchen roll. While that initially seems like a good thing, it can get too much, and multiple studies have looked at the ways that ‘choice overload’ can make actually coming to a decision a whole lot harder.
“Going through a myriad of choices when making a decision can be exhausting and confusing,” Sukhi says. “For example, while going through the possibility of 20 different holiday destinations may save a few pennies, you will have spent a lot of time and energy causing unnecessary stress. Try to dwindle down your options to two choices where possible, to make the assessment of outcomes more manageable.”
4. Once you make a decision, stick to it
“Often, the fatigue continues after we have made a decision as we start to think about whether it was the right one to make, or what we should have done instead,” Sukhi says. “Make your decisions with the intention that you are going to trust your decision-making process, and promise yourself that you are not going to over-analyse it once it is done.”
If you’ve got a lot on your plate, the last thing you want to do is keep on going over the same thing again and again, something which Sukhi says can trap you in a decision fatigue loop.
“A good tip is to learn to trust your decision making – just think of a time when you trusted your gut instinct and it was right. Reminding ourselves that our instincts are reliable can help us to trust and settle on our decisions.”