How of­ten do you ex­pe­ri­ence de­ci­sion fa­tigue?

De­ci­sion fa­tigue il­lus­trates that good judg­ment is grounded on our state of mind.

Business World - - OPINION - DONNA AURA LUMBO DONNA AURA LUMBO is an As­sis­tant Pro­fes­so­rial Lec­tur­erat the Ra­mon V. Del Rosario Col­lege of Busi­ness of De La Salle Univer­sity. She is also a Hu­man Re­source Con­sul­tant and spe­cial­izes in Or­ga­ni­za­tion De­vel­op­ment, Tal­ent Man­age­ment, and

Ev­ery time I am in­vited to grab a quick bite, this ques­tion usu­ally fol­lows, “Where would you like to eat?” Un­less I had par­tic­u­lar crav­ings at that time, my an­swer would al­most al­ways be, “It’s up to you.”

Some peo­ple might con­sider this as in­de­ci­sive­ness, but there are just some de­ci­sions that I ab­stain from mak­ing, es­pe­cially those that I con­sider in­con­se­quen­tial. I find no point in us­ing up my en­ergy on some­thing that does not have much im­pact on my long-term sat­is­fac­tion. I eat any­thing and ev­ery­thing any­way.

All of us are faced with hav­ing to make a num­ber of de­ci­sions ev­ery day. From the moment we wake up, we get bom­barded with choices such as what to wear and what to have for break­fast. At work, we re­ceive count­less email mes­sages, and de­cide which ones to open first, what ac­tion to take, which ones to for­ward, and to whom. Stud­ies have shown that adults make an av­er­age of about 35,000 con­scious de­ci­sions each day, and at least 220 of them are on food alone!

One might agree that hav­ing to de­cide on a lot of things can be­come ar­du­ous and coun­ter­pro­duc­tive. At a cer­tain point, our judg­ment suf­fers. This is what psy­chol­o­gists re­fer to as de­ci­sion fa­tigue — the wors­en­ing of the qual­ity of de­ci­sions made by an in­di­vid­ual af­ter a long pe­riod of mak­ing de­ci­sions.

Roy Baumeis­ter, co- au­thor of Willpower: Re­dis­cov­er­ing the

Great­est Hu­man Strength, as­serts

that willpower is crit­i­cal in mak­ing sound de­ci­sions. Ren­der­ing de­ci­sions, as well as ex­ert­ing self-con­trol, erodes willpower. Since our willpower for the day is fi­nite, de­ci­sion fa­tigue sets in once our men­tal en­ergy is de­pleted. Baumeis­ter writes, “Your abil­ity to make the right in­vest­ment or hir­ing de­ci­sion may be re­duced sim­ply be­cause you ex­pended some of your willpower ear­lier when you held your tongue in re­sponse to some­one’s of­fen­sive re­mark or when you ex­erted your­self to get to the meet­ing on time.”

We all ex­pe­ri­ence de­ci­sion fa­tigue, whether we re­al­ize it or not.

No mat­ter how ra­tio­nal we try to be, mak­ing de­ci­sion af­ter de­ci­sion takes a toll on our men­tal en­ergy. The more choices we make through­out the day, the more dif­fi­cult it be­comes for us to process things log­i­cally. Our brain com­pen­sates by choos­ing the op­tion that of­fers short-term grat­i­fi­ca­tion, or by do­ing noth­ing. De­ci­sion fa­tigue erodes our self- con­trol, so we choose to act im­pul­sively rather than spend time and en­ergy to think through the pos­si­ble con­se­quences of our de­ci­sions. When we are men­tally drained, we tend to have that “what­ever hap­pens, hap­pens” at­ti­tude; hence, we go on shop­ping sprees, browse Face­book dur­ing meet­ings, get an­gry at col­leagues, or opt not to act at all. Th­ese be­hav­iors, though giv­ing us tem­po­rary re­lief from men­tal dis­tress, of­ten lead to prob­lems.

De­ci­sions, whether big or small, drain our willpower.

Im­por­tant de­ci­sions be­come com­pro­mised by de­ci­sion fa­tigue brought about by the mun­dane and triv­ial de­ci­sions we make. This is why some lead­ers and de­ci­sion mak­ers scale down when it comes to mak­ing de­ci­sions. Al­bert Ein­stein did so by wear­ing gray suits; Steve Jobs, black turtle­necks. Pres­i­dent Obama, dur­ing his in­ter­view with Michael Lewis for Van­ity Fair, ex­plained why he wears only gray or blue suits: “I’m try­ing to pare down de­ci­sions. I don’t want to make de­ci­sions about what I’m eat­ing or wear­ing be­cause I have too many other de­ci­sions to make.” He also em­pha­sized the need to “fo­cus your de­ci­sion mak­ing en­ergy.”

What is the im­pli­ca­tion of this? De­ci­sion fa­tigue il­lus­trates that good judg­ment is grounded on our state of mind. Sound de­ci­sion mak­ing fluc­tu­ates. Pro­duc­tiv­i­ty­wise, we should best be equipped to han­dle com­plex is­sues and dif­fi­cult prob­lems at the be­gin­ning of the day. As willpower rises and falls through­out the day, it is there­fore wise for us to catch our­selves when we are not at our finest to make sound de­ci­sions, es­pe­cially if the de­ci­sion that we are about to make is im­por­tant. A burst of glu­cose has been found to re­store willpower, so the next time you feel like you’re men­tally de­pleted, go for that quick bite. Just don’t spend too much time de­cid­ing on where to get it.

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