By Marissa Joyce, MA in Counseling and LPC (Licensed Professional Counselor since 2008)

Decision fatigue is a real thing. Did you know that the average American adult makes roughly 35,000 daily decisions? That averages out to about one decision for every two seconds you are awake in a day. While many of these decisions are trivial – what type of milk would you like in your latte? Or easy – Mommy can I jump out of this tree? The truth remains that the cumulative effect of these decisions can be overwhelming. At some point, all of us reach a level of decision fatigue that affects our ability to cope.

Experts have many suggestions to cut down on decision fatigue, but one tried and true method is called “Routinization.” That is, creating habits and automatic efforts that cut down on the need to start from scratch in repetitive situations. This strategy helps not only in daily habits but also when it comes to bigger-picture decisions. Automating some bigger decisions, such as scheduling your next dental appointment before you leave the dentist’s office, or setting up monthly 401K direct deposits can help your life function more smoothly. The number of small (or large) decisions a person automates, or plans for, the more mental capacity they are able to save for other, unforeseen circumstances.

There are additional ways to mitigate decision fatigue. One popular way is to establish a list of priorities for your life and your family. Holding decisions up to this measuring rod helps clarify what the best option is when a decision seems murky. Consulting a friend or an expert for advice often gives insight into necessary decisions. In addition, it sheds light on patterns of thinking of habits you may not be aware you are engaging in. Establishing a set aside time for self-care, and making sure your mind is refreshed with exercise, rest, or engaging in the flow of creative work helps restore a sense of balance and surety when it comes to looking at your life and making effective decisions.

Finally, delegating decisions about subjects you feel ill-informed about helps you feel secure. Secure that someone who has the knowledge needed to make correct choices at the right time for these daunting decisions. Homeownership is an area of life that comes with many important (and costly) decisions that are overwhelming. Most people aren’t experts in DIY. So, knowing when a problem is a big deal and when it can safely be ignored often is an ongoing stressor. Doesn’t it seem like the plumbing always leaks right before you host houseguests? Or that the furnace breaks down right in the middle of a cold snap? Likely, each of these scenarios will trip off a chain reaction of high-stakes decisions that feels incapacitating.

decision fatigue

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