At the beginning of the year, I picked off on a fairly high note. However, my mental health took a significant nosedive, catching me off guard when I hot rock bottom. Surprisingly, none of my usual coping mechanisms seemed effective. Despite downplaying it now, the situation was critical. I sensed myself slipping, and the struggle was real. Desperate for answers, I made a conscious choice not to evade my emotions but to fully experience them. It turned out that, after a few weeks of embracing the discomfort and doing absolutely nothing, I slowly started to reclaim my sense of self. My creativity, which I thought had vanished, was merely buried under chronic burnout.
I did a lot of reading, research and some deep thinking and I realised the constant battle of having to make even the littlest decisions was exhausting especially for an over-thinker like myself. There is always something to have to think hard about in world where multiple options are being laid out to you.
From deciding what to wear, what to eat, and which app to order your ride on. In many ways, this constant deluge of decisions is a byproduct of our ever-advancing modern society. Look around and you’ll see more choices than ever before.
Fast-food restaurants encourage you to have it your way. You can instantly compare items on Amazon or swipe through hundreds of eligible dates right from your bedroom. While on the surface, these choices feel like a good thing, there is a heavy burden to our constant need to make decisions. And the cumulative cost of making tens of thousands of them every single day might be having a not so positive effect on our lives.
Essentially self-control is like a battery. Every decision that we make, even the little ones, drain the our batteries. This means that we have less energy available to make other decisions later on and those decisions that we make might not always be good ones. Some studies have found that many healthcare personnel make more expensive and ineffective decisions the longer they go without a break. Judges have also been shown to be less likely to grant parole later in the day, even with similar cases.
Corporations know all about decision fatigue, and they use it to encourage us to make impulsive decisions. That’s why when you go to the supermarket, you see treats like candy bars near the checkout. They know that you’ve already made a bunch of decisions while you were doing your grocery shopping, and you won’t have the self-control to say no to the shiny and colourful wrapper.
And when we’re really worn out from making too many decisions, sometimes we refuse to make any at all (I am especially guilty of this one.) We neglect, ignore or postpone important decisions because it all feels too difficult. We don’t know what to say back to that person in a text message, so we ghost them for a month. We don’t know what task to tackle next on our to-do list, so we do none of them. And if all that sounds a lot like procrastination, that’s because it is. Decision avoidance can keep us stuck in a state of ‘analysis paralysis’, and stop us from taking action on the important things. The good news is that there are some simple strategies you can use to reduce decision fatigue and make better choices where it counts.
The first and most straightforward way is to simply (1)reduce the amount of decisions that you make. Speaking from my own experience, I honestly think that there is so much crap that we take on every day that we simply don’t need to. I realised this somewhat in the middle of September and decided to let go off the burden of those decisions. I recommend that you take stock of your commitments and determine what’s actually essential and what you could let go of. Cut down your to-do list by half leaving the most important stuff, take a rain check on your next social engagement if you’re nor feeling up to the task or if you’re really feeling the pressure from the amount of decisions that you need to make, employ what I call the ‘universal no’. Whenever I’m really busy like working towards a deadline, I will say no to all collaborations, all networking calls, and all side projects. It doesn’t matter if Rihanna shows up at my door and asks that I model for Savage Fenty. I will look her right in her eyes and say, no.
That’s a lie.
I mean I’m not going to say no to Rihanna.
Yeah, so obviously there are exceptions.
There are always exceptions.
But for 99.9% of all decisions that I need to make, I would typically say no. In the end, it makes the act of turning people down so much easier because I can say, “Sorry, right now I’m turning down all commitments (unless you’re the Rihanna), as I study towards my final exams. This really tends to take the sting out of the word no, and people don’t get as hurt when you turn them down.
Next, you can (2)automate as many decisions as possible.
There’s a reason why some of the world’s most successful people wear the same thing every day. This is the same ideology that influenced the wearing of school uniforms in schools. From Steve Jobs to Barack Obama and what have you. These brilliant people know that automating daily decisions like what to wear each day can free up some of that precious cognitive energy for the things that actually matter. This is where putting simple routines in place can really be helpful. Whether it’s having a meal plan on rotation or working out at the same time every day. Not only will this help to conserve that brain power, but it can also help you make healthier decisions every day without trying, thanks to habits.
Finally, (3)make your most important decisions first thing during the day when your brain hasn’t had the chance to get fatigued by all the other minor decisions yet. Whether you start work at 7:00 AM or 3:00 PM, if you spend the first hour of your day browsing through Instagram or combing through your emails, you’re wasting your best energy on repetitive tasks that you can handle later on when you’re feeling that afternoon slump. Instead, choose the two or three most important things that you need to get done that day. The things that require the most amount of mental energy, and do those things first. Brian Tracy put it best as ‘Eat that Frog‘. This phrase which you have probably heard before is based on a quote by Mark Twain.
If the first thing you do each morning is to eat a live frog you can go through the day with the satisfaction of knowing that it is probably the worst thing that is going to happen to you all day long.”
That is why I typically leave my mornings open to write (like right now it is the 15th of November, 4:13 am as I key this into my drafts) or to plan my big picture ideas for my blog or instagram, because this is when I know the most important decisions can be made.
The last bit of advice that I want to give you is that you should cut yourself some slack. It’s okay that you’ve taken on too much in a world that’s designed to wear down your ability to make good decisions. Rather than punishing yourself or attempting to bury your urges, listen with curiosity to what thoughts and feelings are behind those impulses.
By paying attention to the triggers that lead to not so great decisions, you can learn to identify the things that drain your energy and compromise your judgment.
Alright, that’s a wrap for the year. A lot went on this year and unfortunately I couldn’t be as consistent with my blog posts but 2024 promises to be better(fingers crossed).
A hearty thank you to you all for your support, words fail me.❤️
I’m so grateful for you and I hope the year ahead would be an amazing one for us all. Happy new year in advance!🎇🎉
PS: Please don’t forget to subscribe to my newsletter!