Decision Fatigue: What Is It And How to Combat

Do you ever feel mentally exhausted and overwhelmed after a day of making constant decisions? If so, you might be familiar with decision fatigue.

It's when your brain gets tired from making choices too often, leading to reduced cognitive function and willpower. With endless possibilities and responsibilities today, it's no wonder decision fatigue is on the rise.

This article will explore what exactly decision fatigue means, how it can affect your daily life—and, most importantly—effective ways to deal with or overcome it.

By understanding what causes decision fatigue and implementing practical solutions, you can regain control of your mental energy and improve your overall quality of life. Let's dive in!

Short Summary

What Is Decision Fatigue?

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You're likely familiar with the feeling of being mentally worn out after making a lot of choices. We're afraid that's decision fatigue – when people get tired from making decisions over an extended period.

Every day, we have to decide things, from what clothes to put on in the morning and what to eat for lunch to which tasks we should do first at work. Each one uses up some brainpower – so much so that it can exhaust us mentally. This is what's known as decision fatigue.

While we consider options, our brains use energy—glucose and other resources—which can run low if it's used too much over time.

When this happens, willpower (a person's ability to make yourself do something you may not want to), self-control, and logical thinking about situations all suffer!

Numerous studies indicate that people's ability to make sound judgments diminishes as they make more decisions over the course of a day. As a result, they tend either to avoid choices entirely or to act impulsively and later regret them.

Decision fatigue can have far-reaching effects on every aspect of one's life, including performance at work or school, relationships, and even personal happiness.

Recognizing the problem is an essential step toward figuring out what to do about it—how to improve your ability to make good decisions when you're feeling worn out.

Examples of Decision Fatigue

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Imagine if one morning you wanted to order a coffee, but not just any coffee – there would be regular or decaf options, plus espressos or lattes. And then consider milk options: whole, skimmed, soy or almond?

By the time you've made this decision, your brain might well feel as though it has run a marathon: welcome to decision fatigue.

And it doesn't stop there. As the day wears on, you're bombarded with more choices than arrows at Agincourt. Should you answer emails now or later? What shall I have for lunch? Do I really need that cute but unnecessary impulse buy?

At work, deciding between competing priorities can leave you feeling mentally exhausted and unable to concentrate. By the end of a day like that, even deciding what to watch on Netflix can seem like too much effort.

These are just some instances of decision fatigue that seep into our everyday lives, sapping mental energy and impairing sound judgment.

3 Potential Causes of Decision Fatigue

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Now that you understand decision avoidance let's investigate some possible causes. This could be the first important step towards fighting this state.

Overwhelming Choices

Imagine you're in a supermarket aisle, surrounded by hundreds of types of cereal. It's overwhelming – and that's choice overload.

When we have too many options to consider, our brains struggle to compare them properly. Working out which choice is best uses up mental energy, leaving us feeling drained and less able to make good decisions – or sometimes any decision.

It's not just about cereal, either. This can apply to choices we face daily in many areas of our lives: from shopping for clothes online when we're baffled by the range on offer to trying to prioritize tasks at work when they all seem essential (analysis paralysis).

This feeling of mental exhaustion from decision-making is called ego depletion effect, where each choice we make draws on our limited pool of willpower and self-control, leaving us with less overall for future decisions.

Frequent Decision-Making

Making choices all the time—about outfit options, plans for the day, and so on—can be mentally draining. Every decision we make uses up some cognitive energy.

This constant drain on our mental resources causes us to run out of steam when it comes to decision-making. As our cognitive energy dips, so does our capacity for making good decisions.

This can mean going for choices that are faster and less considered later in the day—or sticking with what we know even if there might be better options available that require more thought.

Lack of Adequate Rest Or Nutrition

The brain's ability to make decisions is connected to how well we take care of our bodies. Not getting enough sleep or good nutrition can seriously hurt cognitive function—including decision-making abilities.

Sleep is vital for memory consolidation, information processing, and giving the brain a chance to recharge. Likewise, when you don't feed your brain correctly or give it enough rest, it doesn't lack the resources required for optimal performance—like making decisions!

In these cases, your brain might take shortcuts that result in impulsive and poor choices or avoiding decisions altogether.

6 Signs of Decision Fatigue

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Recognizing the signs of decision fatigue is crucial if you want to manage its impact. Someone experiencing decision fatigue may feel exhausted, experience brain fog, or have other indications of physical or mental fatigue. Let's analyze:


If you find yourself putting things off all the time, it might be because your brain is tired from making so many choices or having to make one critical decision.

Rather than being lazy, procrastination is a way of conserving energy in order to cope with the mental effort required for making difficult or lots of choices.

When we procrastinate about something we're choosing (like which university to accept), there's often a sense of relief. But as the deadline draws near, we may get stressed and worried—which uses up even more mental resources!


In the world of decision-making, one issue that can lead to snap judgments is feeling tired from making too many decisions, also known as decision fatigue.

When you're low on mental energy, your brain can only reason things out carefully, so you may end up selecting options without thoroughly weighing the potential outcomes.

This shortcut can be helpful if you want to take a break from thinking hard (who wouldn't?), but it's not necessarily going to serve you well in the future. Impulsive choices made this way might leave you with regrets or negative results.


When people feel mentally exhausted from decision-making, they sometimes dodge the need to make choices altogether—a phenomenon known as decision fatigue's avoidance aspect.

This can mean ignoring emails that call for a thoughtful reply, blowing off meetings with an agenda, or failing to do tasks where you'd have to decide what to do.

Avoidance is a way of protecting yourself temporarily from the drain of decisions. It feels good not to have to overthink.

But it can backfire, leaving you with a bunch of things you still need to resolve. It adds to your stress levels and impairs future judgments even more because the unfinished business keeps weighing on your mind.


Indecision is a classic sign of decision fatigue: when you can't decide which option to choose because you're mentally exhausted from making so many decisions.

When people experience decision fatigue, the part of the brain that weighs alternatives starts working less effectively or more slowly.

This kind of paralysis can affect us not just when we have important choices to make that could significantly impact our lives but also in everyday life—like picking what to eat for breakfast or what task to tackle next.

It's like having no mental energy left and feeling unable to move forward with even simple decisions as a result—which can bring productivity and progress grinding to a halt.

Mental Fatigue

Feeling mentally exhausted from making too many decisions is similar to reaching a cognitive barrier. If you've had a day full of difficult choices, you might need help with concentrating, taking in information, or even thinking flexibly.

Decision fatigue doesn't affect your choices. It impacts everything your brain does. You might find problem-solving trickier than usual, need help communicating your thoughts effectively, or not be able to pay attention as well as you'd like.

Outside of work, too, don't be surprised if you find leisure pursuits less satisfying. Does that feeling when having a chat with family or friends seem more tiring than fun? It could be down to mental fatigue.

Decreased Self-Regulation

Decreased self-regulation is a symptom of decision fatigue that can cause a decrease in self-control and impulse management. As the brain's energy resources are used up by making decisions, there is less ability to exercise self-discipline.

This may show itself in different ways: giving in to temptations that one would usually resist (such as having another doughnut or buying something expensive) or responding with irritation when it would be more thoughtful to do so later on.

The reduction in self-regulation shows why decision fatigue affects not only the caliber of choices we make but also how we act overall – including toward other people!

Ways to Combat Decision Fatigue

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To fight decision fatigue, you need to have tactics that work and save your mental energy. Do important tasks first thing, automate regular decisions, create helpful habits, and reduce choices when you can.

Remember to rest and refuel, too: take breaks. And if it makes sense, pass some decisions off to other people to improve mental health. Now, let's go into more detail about how to overcome decision fatigue:

Simplify Choices

One way to managing decision fatigue is to make choices simpler. This can involve reducing the number of decisions you have to make every day and how complicated they are.

By creating routines (like always eating the same breakfast or wearing a work uniform), you save mental energy for more meaningful choices. Simplifying can also mean organizing tasks and responsibilities so there's less deciding to do.

The aim is to lighten your cognitive load—in other words, the amount of thinking work your brain has to do. This way, you're better able to focus on making vital decisions well (and without getting stressed out).

Prioritize Decisions

By prioritizing decisions, you concentrate your mental energy on high-stakes or complex issues when your mind is fresh. Address the most critical choices at the start of your day or decision-making session before moving on to lower-stakes matters.

This way, crucial decisions get the thought and attention they require. It also helps you manage decision-related brain strain better over time.

You don't build up less decision fatigue throughout the day if you spread out high-impact choices. And as a result, your decision quality may stay higher overall.

In short, learning how to recognize which decisions carry long-term importance (versus those that can be safely put on autopilot) helps stave off decision fatigue's adverse effects—a lot.

Limit Options

A helpful strategy for dealing with decision fatigue is to limit your options. Having too many choices can overwhelm you and make it hard to decide. This is known as choice overload, which can lead to decision paralysis or making choices that aren't the best for you.

By narrowing down your options on purpose so that only a few are available to choose from, you can ease the cognitive burden of making decisions.

It works in all areas of life: picking between projects at work or deciding what to buy when there seems to be an endless selection.

The aim is to strike a balance – you still want to be able to make thoughtful decisions, just without maxing out your mind's capacity for doing so!

Take Breaks

If you want to avoid being overwhelmed by making too many decisions, it can help to take regular breaks during the day.

Just as a short period of rest can enable us to recover from exercise and, therefore, do more physical activity overall, brief pauses in mental exertion recharge the brain's batteries.

You don't have to sit still for hours meditating: even something as simple as a stroll away from your desk allows the mind time to untether itself from thinking about decisions.

And when we give cognitive energy levels a chance to replenish themselves, we come back at subsequent choices with greater clarity and reduced anxiety.

Practice Good Self-Care And Self-Control

Ensuring you get enough sleep, eat well, and exercise regularly helps you take care of yourself and deal with decision fatigue better overall. These activities also boost your brain power and resilience.

Plus, practicing self-control in small ways each day (like making your bed or sticking to a set breakfast) strengthens your willpower. When bigger decisions roll around, you're less likely to hit the wall for good.

Building habits so you don't have to overthink about confident choices can also conserve mental energy - meaning you may approach decisions more calmly or do them better.

Set Deadlines

One way to fight decision fatigue is by setting deadlines, which impose a fixed time limit on the process. Deadlines force you to prioritize and concentrate – meaning you are less likely to procrastinate or feel stressed about open-ended choices.

Creating a sense of urgency can also streamline your decision-making; you may act more efficiently and decisively if a deadline is looming.

Managing tasks well with this method can help prevent decision overload – having too many pending items, all in need of a verdict – as it encourages action rather than accumulation. Clear deadlines make things easier (and possibly less taxing) from a cognitive standpoint, too!

Delegate Decisions

Delegation of decisions is a strategy for dealing with decision fatigue by sharing or transferring responsibility for making choices. This can mean letting co-workers decide certain things at work or allowing family members to make household decisions.

Delegating reduces the number of decisions you must make – saving your brainpower for where it's needed. It also makes people feel trusted and vital when they are given control over something.

If done well, this can result in a more evenly distributed workload of decision-making and improved executive function, which leads to better decisions overall!


In a world of options and obligations, decision fatigue is a common problem that can hold us back—both at and out of work.

Understanding how decision fatigue affects us, identifying what's causing it, and finding ways to tackle it can all help restore our brain power and improve how we make choices.

Simple changes to daily routines, ranking tasks by importance, or introducing moments of calm can all help reduce decision fatigue. As a result, we use our minds more efficiently and live life more fully.

Having these techniques at your disposal provides a sense of empowerment in navigating complex decisions with greater clarity and certainty than ever before!

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is Decision Fatigue a Symptom Of?

Decision fatigue is borne from cognitive exhaustion due to continuous decision-making, resulting in diminished self-regulation and mental stamina.

How Do You Recover From Decision Fatigue?

Recovering from decision fatigue necessitates taking intervals between choices, prioritizing duties, setting up protocols, allotting decisions whenever feasible — plus employing mindfulness exercises or relaxation techniques.

How Long Does Decision Fatigue Last?

The length of time for which decision fatigue affects someone depends on various factors, including their individual disposition and the extent of their required decision-making. However, as a general rule, it sticks around all day.

How Does Decision Fatigue Impact the Quality of the Medical Decision-making Process?

Within healthcare settings, this state can compromise clinical judgment and result in incorrect diagnoses or treatment plans. Strategies should be put into place to mitigate any negative effects on patient care.