It has been said that the quality of decisions that we make deteriorates throughout the day. In fact, a 2011 study in the National Academy of Sciences found that judges who were responsible for granting prisoners parole became increasingly less lenient as the mornings approached lunch. On an empty stomach their decision making capabilities were actually compromised.
Thankfully most of the decisions that I have to make throughout the day are slightly less significant. Nonetheless below are a few strategies that I have experienced real success with that could help put you back in the driver’s seat.
5 tips for managing decision fatigue
1. Choose your clothing the night before.
Our brains when faced with choices throughout the day move closer towards a state of cognitive overload. Removing that first decision of the day is a surprisingly powerful trick to help conserve brain energy in the early hours of the day. I’ve taken it one step further by loading my closet with a dozen of the same black shirt to help remove one last decision. A word of warning though, this advanced move may lead to people questioning your bland wardrobe.
2. Meditate first thing in the morning
Prolific author Robert Greene compares our brains with icebergs, in that the majority of cognitive reasoning is buried within our subconscious. But this potential can often get drowned out by our monkey minds. The daily intentional practice of quieting that chatter in our minds can have huge benefits towards setting us up for success and happiness. Even 1 minute each morning is a powerful small step towards achieving the numerous benefits of meditation. A good entry point that I’d recommend is an app called Head Space.
3. Write in a journal for 5 minutes each morning
The Five Minute Journal has been one of my best purchases so far this year. Each morning (most mornings if I’m honest) before looking at my phone or scanning e-mails, I jump straight into my journal to jot down 3 things I’m grateful for, and 3 things that would make today great. Sound simple and trivial? It’s actually more difficult than you would think. But it forces me to exercise that same muscle as the meditation to give me laser focus on 3 things to achieve each day.
4. Exercise each day even if just for a few minutes
This is an obvious one, and I won’t get into the myriad of benefits of daily exercise. But I’ll put it in as a reminder to stop making excuses. The body and mind are so linked that it would be impossible to aspire for a balanced life without tending to both. And if you have troubles finding the time, start out with an app like Seven Minute Workout.
5. Break your world into 90 day chunks
Chris Anderson illustrates the exponential curve of choice in his book The Long Tail. There are so many avenues of choice in our world these days that they are literally trending towards infinite. One only needs to visit the supermarket to count the amazing abundance of choices. Who knew there would be demand for Lobster Roll flavored chips? Dan Sullivan, founder of Strategic Coach recently wrote a book called the 25 Year Framework, in which he has succinctly mapped out where he wants to be 25 years from now in all aspects of his life. He then breaks it down into 90 day chunks. Each quarter effectively equals 1% of 25 years. A great way of dealing with the overwhelm is to write down 5 multipliers or goals that you can work on each 90 days that will move you closer to that 25 year target. And if you have one bad quarter, no sweat. It’s only 1% of the picture.
Whatever your situation, there are a tonne of intentional hacks that can help you regain control of your days. What tricks have you found to be successful?