10 Strategies for Eliminating Decision Fatigue at Work

What is decision fatigue? It’s that feeling you get when you’ve had a lot of decisions to make throughout the day and you start to get tired, which causes you to make poor decisions or feel overly stressed. It happens to the best of us, especially at work. However, these 10 strategies can help you eliminate decision fatigue so you can avoid making bad decisions at work!

1. Streamline Your Morning Routine: You can either start your day making a bunch of decisions so you’re already on your way to fatigue before you’ve stepped foot in the office, or you can streamline your morning routine. Here’s how it works: create a simple morning routine and follow it every day. This will eliminate almost every decision you have to make in the morning because you wake up at the same time, do the same 4-8 things, and then head to the office on weekdays. This puts you in a prime spot to avoid decision fatigue later in the day when you’re at work.

2. Work Capsule Wardrobe: One way that you can reduce the amount of decisions you make each morning is to create a capsule wardrobe for work specifically. Basically, a capsule wardrobe is a limited amount of clothing that you dedicate as work clothes. Ideally there’s about 20-30 items that mix and match quite easily so you reduce the amount of time it takes to get dressed in the morning and you never stress out about what to wear that day. Refresh this work capsule wardrobe seasonally or as needed and you can basically eliminate the stress that comes with getting dressed before work.

3. Tie Specific Tasks to Specific Days: In an effort to reduce the amount of tasks you do each day, you can tie specific tasks to specific days or even specific time periods of the day if it’s something you need to do more frequently. For example, Tuesday is the day you clear out your inbox. You don’t have to worry about it any day that isn’t Tuesday and, when Tuesday rolls around, you don’t have to make the decision to do it you just do it because it’s Tuesday and that’s what you do on that day! If you want to do it with a time, say you’ll focus on big picture brainstorming at 9:30 am every day. When that time rolls around, you’ll set aside everything for 30 minutes and focus on that, and then go back to the rest of your regularly scheduled day after. While not every task is suited for this, you can reduce the amount of decisions to start a certain task if you tie less frequent ones to specific days or times during your workday.

4. Rely on Outside Expertise: Sometimes decision fatigue stems from the worry that you aren’t making the right decision. The best thing to do to ward off this specific decision fatigue trigger is to rely on outside expertise! Whether it’s coworkers with more experience than you, your boss, more experienced professionals you meet at conferences or meetups, or even experts you find online, you can lean on others’ expertise to help you make decisions at work, especially if you’re making decisions in areas where you’re less confident or less experienced.

5. Start the Work Day With a To Do List: Deciding which tasks to focus on each day shouldn’t be an all day thing. Instead, start your workday with a to do list. This will act as a roadmap for the rest of your day and eliminate the decision of, “what should I work on next?”

6. Automate What You Can: From small decisions to large decisions and everything in between, there are a lot of decisions to make throughout your workday, especially if you’re in a management or lead position. However, you can prevent the fatigue from taking over in the afternoon by automating as many decisions as you can. For your personal life, this could mean automating contributions to your 401k or savings account so it just happens without you actively doing it every paycheck. At work, this could mean setting specific times for reoccurring meetings or scheduling reminder emails for yourself and coworkers in advance so you won’t have to nag anyone about upcoming deadlines.

7. Tackle Impactful Decisions First: The age-old wisdom of eating the frog first thing in the morning so the rest of your day seems easier in comparison works well to ward off decision fatigue too! Tackle the most impactful, important decisions you’ll make all day first thing in the morning. That way, the decisions you have to make will get progressively easier throughout the rest of the day and you won’t feel as fatigued making those.

8. Create Habits: A habit is a repeat behavior. It’s something you do at the same time, in the same way, day in and day out. Create better work habits and you’ll be able to avoid even more decisions throughout your workday!

9. Collaborative Decision Making: If you want to reduce the amount of decisions you make each day at work, you may consider switching jobs, positions, or team structures so you can be in a more collaborative environment. The beauty of collaboration is that everyone’s ideas come together so you can choose the best one and have to make fewer decisions on your own throughout the day. You’re less likely to suffer from decision fatigue if you have others around to help make decisions and bolster your confidence once you’ve made a choice.

10. Get Better Rest: Let’s focus on the fatigue element of decision fatigue for a minute. Sometimes, you get decision fatigue and start to make bad decisions later in the workday because you’ve made so many decisions earlier in the day and your brain power is maxed out. Other times, you start to make bad decisions later in the day because you’re simply running out of energy. The final strategy for avoiding decision fatigue is to get better rest because some of that may just stem from regular old fatigue! Make sure you’re getting enough sleep, exercising, and really unplugging from work to get the most out of your time off on a regular basis.

No one wants to make a bad decision at work or make a mistake, but it can happen thanks to a phenomenon known as decision fatigue. However, if you implement one or more of these 10 strategies, you’ll be less prone to that specific form of fatigue and be able to make clear, intelligent, impactful decisions throughout your workday that have a positive effect on your career.