Mental exhaustion is part of a person’s life. This exhaustion can happen first thing in the morning, even before we go to work or school.

We wake up in the morning thinking about our daily tasks and ask ourselves what we should do first. Decisions like what to wear to impress your clients, to organize a birthday party, or even juggling two jobs.

Changing the way we think about willpower can modify our outlook on decision-making. Dozens of decisions should be made, which can be very tiresome. Plus, there are many decisions to make, and they sometimes overlap.

That is where struggle from burnout or mental fatigue takes place. This article will help you manage decision fatigue.

What Is Decision Fatigue?

Decision fatigue is the exhaustion of the mind after a long process of decision-making. Our decision gets worse after overthinking ideas. It is also called “ego depletion,” a term that Roy F. Baumeister coined.

Professor Roy F. Baumeister is a social psychologist from the University of Queensland. He developed studies on how to attain authentic happiness. Professor Baumeister stated in his study that making too many decisions can lead to poor decision-making, and such may lead to negative consequences.

For example, health care workers often pull all-nighters. Decision fatigue causes them to be less efficient and make poor decisions. In addition, the quality of care they deliver may not be on par with the standards.

Causes of Decision Fatigue

Decision fatigue has many causes, but the main cause is making too many decisions over a rather short period of time. There’s simply no time to think and reflect on the consequences because there is limited time.

Each day we are bombarded with making crucial decisions from what to eat, where to go, and what shoes to wear. At the end of the day, we are still capable of making these choices, even when we are tired.

We have no choice but to keep making decisions. The more complex the decision is, the more we are depleted.

Signs and Symptoms of Decision Fatigue

What does decision fatigue look like? A person may feel tired, stressed, and cannot focus. These are typical signs of fatigue.

Physical fatigue can also affect a person’s mental energy. Here is a list of common symptoms that can arise in a person with decision fatigue:

  • Procrastination. Bad decisions like putting things off for tomorrow are a product of procrastination.
  • Impulsiveness. People tend to be careless and select poor choices
  • Staying in the comfort zone. Resistance to change can lead to decision avoidance. Saying things like, “I’m not used to this,” means you are stuck in your bubble, avoiding opportunities.
  • Overthinking. Thoughts like, “What if this happens?” or “But what if it does?” are signs that you may be overthinking things. You overthink that you might fail and this stops you from making further decisions.
  • Having too many choices. Wasting time on unnecessary options is draining. Stick to the ones that apply to you and focus on your decisions.
  • Getting emotional. Emotions can overpower what the brain is thinking. You will realize some important decisions affect your feelings.

Effects of Decision Fatigue

The effects of decision fatigue vary from person to person. Important decisions also decline over time.

Willpower can help you make the right decisions in stressful circumstances. It is connected to our mental energy, which diminishes when decision fatigue occurs. We lose ourselves and can be impulsive. Some possible effects are listed below:


Trade-offs are small decisions we need to make that come with a cost. If we don’t have self-control in decision-making, we will lose a lot of time and energy. It’s like bartering something negative, hoping for a positive outcome.

Trade-offs are a product of compromise. When a person has decision fatigue, they probably can’t make wise decisions. They are reluctant to choose between what is right and wrong.

Avoiding Decisions

“I can’t do this anymore” and “I don’t want to deal with this today” are two common thoughts people with decision fatigue have. They can’t come up with better decisions because they are exhausted in such a way that they end up rejecting the idea of making a decision.

One example of decision avoidance is procrastination, which is briefly discussed above. Avoiding decisions on a personal matter greatly affects the brain. These can keep very significant tasks from being started or finished.

How to Deal with Decision Fatigue

Overcoming decision fatigue is easy once you have the knowledge and assistance. Jot down decisions that may or may not be applicable in your life.

If you have a job that requires constant decisions like designing and marketing, you will feel burnout. This will affect decision-making and lean toward bad trade-offs.

A negative mindset will just tell you to give up. Instead, think about ways to combat it.

Learn from your mistakes. Once you have a framework on how to go about it, just trust the process and commit to following it. Listed below are tips to get started:

1. Practice Self-Control

Having self-control can eliminate the negative side of decision-making. Examples of self-control are doing your work as early as possible, stopping yourself from saying bad words, and avoiding temptations. You need to learn how to stay calm when challenges that makes self-control difficult arise.

Every morning, internalize how you want your day to be like, eat healthy meals, or listen to happy songs to boost your energy for better decision-making throughout the day. Once a week, make it a habit to engage in a physical activity that is different from your daily exercise. Also, having enough sleep at night could make a difference.

Taking control of our decision-making is essential. You will be given tasks and decisions throughout the day, so these positive and significant choices will impact your life. Be assured that your decision to make the right choices will not be in vain.

2. Simplify Choices Throughout the Day

Dress as simply as possible, as this could take away excess stress on decision-making. Being simple has benefits in your personal lifestyle, especially on your ability to make decisions.

Follow the styles of Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs. As you have seen them on television, they have both individualized their wardrobes. They don’t wear loud colors and designs.

Mark Zuckerberg, for example, only wears gray clothes for presentations every day. He chooses simple clothing, which enables him to spend his energy on more important tasks. Determine which choices deserve your energy and leave the rest as secondary.

3. List Down and Prioritize Tasks for the Day

Prioritize what is important. Making decisions is hard and can lead to decision fatigue. Take control of these and avoid making decisions that you will regret in the end.

List down on a piece of paper the things that need to be done on that day and prioritize them. For example, jot down your errands in a week, like going to the grocery, washing the car, and gardening.

If you have resources like books and published research, take time to read about prioritizing decisions. There is what we call a prioritization matrix in which you write a task, its difficulty, and overall score. From this data, you can follow it according to the prioritization matrix.

4. Learn How to Breathe Once in a While

Take a break by having a snack or doing some deep breathing exercises. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Don’t waste your time on things that are not worth it.

Jonathan Levav studies behavioral decision theory at Stanford University. He researched parole decisions in judicial decision-making. Judges were placed on several decisions in a day. It involves a long session with 1,000 parole decisions made by eight judges in months.

It shows that taking a break with a meal helps judges to have faster parole decisions. They ate a full meal with glucose content. Decision fatigue can be eliminated once a person is well-rested and energized.

You can breathe once in a while by setting aside time for yourself. A good bath can help release stress and fatigue. Try to enroll in yoga exercises and hobbies you love. Having a healthy mind and soul keeps you focused throughout the day.

5. Be Grateful for Good Decisions

Decision fatigue takes a toll on our self-control and willpower. It drains our brain energy, making it hard for us to focus. Stress is the number one side effect of decision fatigue. Poor choices are the product of stressful decision-making.

Celebrating good decisions you made in a day could yield good results, helping to clear your mind. Let’s say you had an excellent presentation at work because you decided to prepare for it instead of binge-watching your favorite series. Treat yourself by having a glass of wine or reading a good book as a way to congratulate yourself.

6. Monitor Your Mental and Physical Health

Planning ahead of time is one of the tricks that can help you make a number of decisions easily. It is a daily struggle, but you have to be on track to reach your goals.

Ask yourself the following questions: “Am I still doing a good job? Can this affect my mental health over time?” If something doesn’t impact you positively, decide to stop doing it.

Keep track of your emotions. List down ways to improve yourself. Try to monitor your sleep pattern, appetite, and mood. These can help you take care of your mental health, which can be negatively affected by decision fatigue.


Decision-making is a daily task. You make choices several times a day. Juggling them from left to right is laborious. In conclusion, taking a rest, eating healthy foods, and organizing tasks can eliminate decision fatigue.

Do you suffer from decision fatigue? You can visit our website Kentucky Counseling Center (KCC) to book an appointment.

Appointments are available seven days a week. Eliminate decision fatigue and make it a habit to take care of your mental health. Contact us now through the KCC Direct Services.

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