Advertising

How to Prevent Decision Fatigue From Clouding Your Judgement

Advertising
How to Prevent Decision Fatigue From Clouding Your Judgement

What is decision fatigue? Let me explain this with an example:

When determining a court ruling, there are many factors that contribute to the final verdict. You probably assume that the judge’s decision is influenced solely by the nature of the crime committed or the particular laws that were broken. While this is completely valid, there is an even greater influential factor that dictates the judge’s decision: the time of day.

In 2012, a research team from Columbia University[1] examined 1,112 court rulings set in place by a Parole Board Judge over a 10 month period. The judge would have to determine whether the individuals in question would be released from prison and granted parole, or a change in the parole terms.

While the facts of the case often take precedence in decision making, the judges’ mental state had an alarming influence on their verdict.

As the day goes on, the chance of a favorable ruling drops:

Proportion of rulings in favor of the prisoners by ordinal position.... | Download Scientific Diagram

     

    Does the time of day, or the judges’ level of hunger really contribute that greatly to their decision making? Yes, it does.

    Advertising

    The research went on to show that earlier in the day the likelihood of the judging giving out a favorable ruling was somewhere around 65%.

    However, as the morning dragged on, the judge became fatigued and drained from making decision after decision. As more time went on, the odds of receiving a favorable ruling decreased steadily until it was whittled down to zero.

    However, right after their lunch break, the judge would return to the courtroom feeling refreshed and recharged. Energized by their second wind, their leniency skyrockets back up to a whopping 65%. And again, as the day drags on to its finish, the favorable rulings slowly diminish along with the judge’s spirits.

    This is no coincidence, as according to the carefully recorded research, this was true for all 1,112 cases. The severity of the crime didn’t matter. Whether it was rape, murder, theft, or embezzlement, the criminal was more likely to get a favorable ruling either early in the morning, or after the judges’ lunch break.

    This is just one of the negative effects of decision fatigue.

    Are You Suffering From Decision Fatigue?

    We all suffer from decision fatigue without even realizing it.

    Perhaps you aren’t a judge with the fate of an individual’s life at your disposal, but the daily small decisions and weekly or monthly big decisions you make for yourself could hinder you if you’re not in the right headspace.

    Regardless of how energetic you feel (as I imagine it is somehow caffeine-induced anyway), you will still experience decision fatigue, which can lead to poor choices. Just like every other muscle, your brain starts feeling drained after periods of overuse, pumping out one decision after the next. It needs a chance to rest in order to function at a productive rate.

    Advertising

    Looking at the chart below, it may look quite similar to one of your average days[2]. Considering that this is just a handful of the decisions one has to make throughout the day, it’s easy to see how decision fatigue begins to manifest.

    Decision Fatigue

      The Detrimental Consequences of Decision Fatigue

      When you are in a position such as a judge, you can’t afford to let your mental state dictate your decision making; but it still does.

      According to George Lowenstein, an American educator and economy expert, decision fatigue is to blame for poor decision making among members of high office. The disastrous level of failure among these individuals to control their impulses could be directly related to their day-to-day stresses at work and in their private life.

      When you’re just too tired to think, you stop caring. Once you get careless, that’s when you need to worry. Decision fatigue can contribute to a number of issues, such as impulse shopping, poor decision making at work, and poor decision making with after-work relationships.

      You know what I’m talking about. Don’t dip your pen in the company ink.

      How to Make Decisions Effectively

      Either alter the time of decision making to when your mind is the most fresh, or limit the number of decisions to be made. Try utilizing the following hacks to avoid decision fatigue and make better decisions.

      1. Make Your Most Important Decisions Within the First 3 Hours

      You want to make decisions at your peak performance, so do so either first thing in the morning, or right after a break.

      Advertising

      Research has actually shown that you are the most productive for the first 3 hours[3] of your day. Utilize this time! Don’t waste it on trivial decisions such as what to wear, or mindlessly scrolling through social media.

      Instead, use this time to tweak your game plan. What do you want to accomplish? What can you improve? What steps do you need to take to reach these goals and make good decisions?

      2. Form Habits to Reduce Decision Making

      You don’t have to choose all the time.

      Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but it doesn’t have to be an extravagant spread every morning. Make a habit out of eating a similar or quick breakfast, and cut out that step of your morning.

      If you can’t decide what to wear, pick the first thing that catches your eye. We both know that after 20 minutes of changing outfits you’ll just go with the first thing anyway.

      Powerful individuals such as Steve Jobs, Barack Obama, and Mark Zuckerberg don’t waste their precious time deciding what to wear. In fact, they have been known to limit their outfits down to two options in order to reduce their daily decision fatigue.

      By choosing to make less decisions throughout the day, you’re choosing to free your mind for the most important decisions.

      3. Take Frequent Breaks for a Clearer Mind

      You are at your peak of productivity after a break, so to reap the benefits, you need to take lots of breaks to improve your mental energy. If judges make better decisions in the morning and after their lunch break, then so will you.

      Advertising

      The reason for this is because the belly is now full, the hunger is gone, and you likely have a bit more energy. Roy Baumeister, Florida State University social psychologist[4] found that low-glucose levels take a negative toll on decision making. By taking a break to replenish your glucose levels, you will be able to focus better and improve your decision making abilities.

      Even if you aren’t hungry, little breaks are still necessary to let your mind refresh.

      Structure your break times. Decide beforehand when you will take breaks, and eat energy sustaining snacks so that your energy level doesn’t drop too low. The time you “lose” during your breaks will be made up in the end, as your productivity will increase after each break.

      One study found that the ideal work day consists of work periods lasting around 50 minutes, followed by a 15-20 minute break[5]. Try to follow this pattern for a more productive day.

      The Bottom Line

      Instead of slogging through your day and succumbing to decision fatigue, letting your mind deteriorate and fall victim to the daily abuses of decision making, take a break and eat a snack. Let your mind refresh and reset, and jump-start your productivity throughout the day.

      More Tips About Decision Making

      Featured photo credit: Kelly Sikkema via unsplash.com

      Reference

      More by this author

      Leon Ho

      Founder & CEO of Lifehack

      How to Create a Good Work-Life Balance Realistically What Is Life About? How to Find Your Meaning in Life How to Prevent Inaction from Leading to Regret What Is a Midlife Crisis and How to Deal With It How to Create Life Goals And Put Them into Action

      Trending in Focus

      1 The 5 Fundamental Rules Of Working From Home 2 How to Increase Attention Span If You Have a Distracted Mind 3 10 Reasons Why You Have Trouble Concentrating (and Their Solutions) 4 How to Use the Prioritization Matrix When Every Task is #1 5 How to Become Indistractable: 4 Powerful Tactics to Help You Focus

      Read Next

      Advertising
      Advertising

      Last Updated on January 5, 2022

      The 5 Fundamental Rules Of Working From Home

      Advertising
      The 5 Fundamental Rules Of Working From Home

      Suppose you finally took the plunge: resigned your corporate job, decided to follow the passion of your life and (by lack of a new office space, of course), you started to work from home. Welcome to the club! Been there for a few years now and, guess what, it turned out that working from home is not as simple as I thought it would be.

      It certainly has a tons of advantages, but those advantages won’t come in a sugary, care free, or all pinky and happy-go-lucky package. On the contrary. When you work from home, maintaining a constant productivity flow may be a real challenge. And there are many reasons for that.

      For instance, you may still unconsciously assimilate your home with your relaxation space, hence a little nap on the couch, in the middle of the day, with still a ton of unfinished tasks, may seem like a viable option. Well, not! Or, because you’re working from home now, you think you can endlessly postpone some of your projects for ever, since nobody is on your back anymore. You’re your own boss and decided to be a gentle one. Fatal mistake. Or…

      Advertising

      OK, let’s stop with the reasons right here and move on to the practical part. So, what can you do to squeeze each and every inch of usefulness and productivity from your new working space and schedule (namely, your home)? What follows is a short list of what I found to be fundamentally necessary when you walk on this path.

      1. Set Up A Specific Workplace

      And stay there. That specific workspace may be a specific room (your home office), or a part of a room. Whatever it is, it must be clearly designed as a work area, with as little interference from your home space as possible. The coexistence of your home and work space is just a happy accident. But just because of that, those two spaces don’t necessarily have to blend together.

      If you move your work space constantly around various parts of your house, instead of a single “anchor space”, something awkward will happen. Your home won’t feel like home anymore. That’s one of the most popular reasons for quitting working form home: “My home didn’t feel like home anymore”. Of course it didn’t if you mixed all its parts with your work space.

      Advertising

      2. Split Work Into Edible Chunks

      Don’t aim too high. Don’t expect to do big chunks of work in a single step. That was one of the most surprising situations I encountered when I first started to work from home. Instead of a steady, constant flow of sustained activity, all I could do were short, compact sessions on various projects. It took a while to understand why.

      When you work in a populated workspace, you behave differently. There is a subtle field of energy created by humans when they’re in their own proximity, and that field alone can be enough of an incentive to do much more than you normally do. Well, when you’re at home, alone, this ain’t gonna happen. That’s why you should use whatever productivity technique you’re comfortable with to split your work in small, edible chunks: GTD, pomodoro.

      3. Work Outside Home

      In coffee shops or other places, like shared offices. It may sound a little bit counterintuitive, to work outside your home when you’re working from home. But only in the beginning. You’ll soon realize that working from home doesn’t mean you have to stay there all the time. It basically means your home is also your office and you’re free to go outside if you want to.

      Advertising

      I know this may not apply to all of the “work from home” situations, but for those related to information processing, when all you need is a laptop an internet connection, that usually works beautifully. It adds a very necessary element of diversity and freshness. It can also be the source of some very interesting social interactions, especially when you have to solve all sort of digital nomad situations.

      4. Go Out!

      Working from home may be socially alienating. After almost 3 years of doing it, I finally accepted this as a fact. So, apart from balancing your home time with consistent sessions of working outside of your home, you should definitely go out more often. Our normal work routine, the one that is performed in an office, that is, makes for an important slice of our social interaction needs. Once you’re working from home, that slice won’t be there anymore. But your need for social contacts will remain constant.

      So, my solution to this was to grow my social interaction significantly over what I was having when I was working in my own office. Going out to movies, running in the park, meeting for drinks or just chat, whatever it takes to get me out of my home/working space. On a one to ten scale, my social life before was around 3 and now is at a steady 7.

      Advertising

      5. Thoroughly Log Each And Every Day

      It goes hand in hand with keeping a personal journal, but this time it’s about work, not personal feelings and experiences. Keep a detailed log of each project and be always ready to pick up from where you left one day or one week ago in just a matter of minutes. It’s not only a productivity enhancer, although it will help you be more productive, but it’s more on the accountability area.

      When you work from home you’re your own boss. And, for any of you who are (or have been) bosses, this is not an easy position. You gotta keep track of all the information about your team and of every advancement in your projects. That’s what a boss is supposed to do, after all. When you work from home you have to perform this bossy role too, otherwise you will be lost in your own unfinished ideas and endless project stubs faster than you think.

      Featured photo credit: Ian Harber via unsplash.com

      Advertising

      Read Next