Have you ever felt like making a very simple a decision during the workday (even deciding what to have for lunch) is next to impossible? You have? Alright. Next question: Have you ever wondered why all supermarkets have candy stands near the cash registers?

You’re probably thinking the answer to the second question has something to do with what you’re going to have for lunch, but it doesn’t.

The reason behind your occasional inability to make even the simplest of decisions is exactly the same reason why supermarkets place candy stands where they do: decision fatigue.

So what is decision fatigue?

It is the worsening quality of decisions made after long sessions/stretches of decision-making. #UnderstandDecisionFatigueClick To Tweet

It is the phenomenon of worsening quality of decisions made after long sessions/stretches of decision-making. In other words, the more the decisions you make and the longer they take you to make, the more likely your later ones will be bad/wrong. Just as the name suggests, you get fatigued and your mental energy is depleted, causing your decisions to worsen in quality.

How did we come to know decision fatigue?

Social psychologist Roy F. Baumeister and his colleagues discovered and confirmed this through many experiments. In one of them, they gathered two groups of people. They asked the first group to make a series of decisions about simple products like candles, T-shirts, pens, and so on. For example, the researchers asked the group whether they preferred to take the T-shirt or pen. They also asked them which color of pen or T-shirt they wanted. On the other hand, the other group was not asked to make any decisions; instead, they were only asked to give their opinions on the items.

Decision fatigue things choose experiment

Afterward, both groups were given a classic test of self-control: They were asked to keep a hand submerged in ice-cold water for as long as they could. And then the results were amazing. The group that had to make a lot of decisions before gave up a lot faster. In fact, they gave up in less than half the time the other group did: 28 seconds vs. an average of 67 seconds, respectively.

Keeping your hand in the cold water as long as you can is a conscious decision you have to make and requires not succumbing to the temptation of relief you’d feel when you pull your hand out. And making that decision after having made all the other ones needs mental energy you just wouldn’t have then.

So how does that decide the placement of the candy stands?

The idea is that while shopping you spread yourself too thin in going through the different shelves comparing brands, qualities, prices, and any other factors to be considered that by the time you get to the cash register you just can’t resist the temptation of a candy bar, after all, that decision-making, so you decide to get one, making a purchase almost guaranteed every time. Not bad for the supermarket owner, is it?

decision fatigue supermarket

How does it affect my life?

So what happens when you’re suffering from this phenomenon? Your brain just wants to end the situation that’s forcing you to make a choice. And that leads to one of two scenarios.

  • You pick anything

The fastest way to put an end to the situation is to just pick something. And your brain knows this. So you find yourself making the easiest decision or choosing the easiest option with no consideration for later repercussions. In this case, you run the risk of bad/unwise/reckless decisions.

  • You pick nothing

The complete opposite is also possible. The lack of decision-making ability could drive you into analysis paralysis. That’s what happens when you overanalyze a situation and the options you have to the point of incapacitating yourself.

You could also choose to not make a decision at that particular moment because your brain convinces you that this way you keep your options open and you can come back to decide later.

But we all know that luxury of delaying decisions is not one available all the time at work. You also can’t afford to be making the wrong decision at work all the time. So you see why decision fatigue is a serious problem, don’t you?

How to deal with it?

What makes matters worse is the huge number of decisions out there. We face decisions in all shapes, sizes, and forms at work. From deciding what to have for lunch to who deserves a promotion, the range of decisions at work can give anyone a run for their money.

It’s not just about work-related decisions either. Imagine any typical day. You have to choose what to wear, what to have for breakfast, whether to reply to that text you received now and many, many others. All these decisions and you haven’t even left home for work yet!

Every decision you make, big or small, takes a toll on your brain. #UnderstandDecisionFatigueClick To Tweet

No matter how small or inconsequential it might be, every decision you make from the moment you wake up takes a toll on your brain and takes away from your decision-making ability later in the day.

Understanding the decision fatigue phenomenon is the first key to solving it. Now check out our ultimate guide to better decision-making at work.

Have you heard of decision fatigue before? What surprised you the most about this phenomenon? Let us know in the comments below.

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featured image source: ibitimes.com

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