Advertising

Last Updated on November 26, 2020

How to Prevent Decision Fatigue From Clouding Your Judgement

How to Prevent Decision Fatigue From Clouding Your Judgement
Advertising

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

      A Complete Guide to Goal Setting for Personal Success How to Get Motivated Every Day When You Wake Up Can’t Focus? The Mistake You’re Making and How to Focus Better 17 Traits That Make a Successful Person Stand out from the Crowd What Is Creativity? We All Have It, and Need It

      Trending in Focus

      1 Can’t Focus? The Mistake You’re Making and How to Focus Better 2 7 Best Noise-Canceling Headphones For Productivity Boost 3 Why Making Yourself a Priority Boosts Your Productivity 4 How to Prioritize Right in 10 Minutes and Work 10X Faster 5 Take Control of Your Focus! How to Avoid Distractions

      Read Next

      Advertising
      Advertising

      Last Updated on July 27, 2021

      Can’t Focus? The Mistake You’re Making and How to Focus Better

      Can’t Focus? The Mistake You’re Making and How to Focus Better
      Advertising

      What comes to mind when you think of learning how to focus better? Do you think of the attention or concentration it takes to complete a task? Do you consider the amount of willpower needed to finish writing a report without touching your phone? Do you think it requires sitting in complete silence and away from distractions so that you can study for an important exam or prepare for an interview?

      I’m sure many of you can relate to the above statements and agree that the ability to focus is about staying on task for a given period of time. Breaking that concentration would mean that you’ve lost your focus, and you’re either doing something else or trying to gain back that focus to finish up the intended task.

      With an ever-increasing amount of information—that is easily accessible online and offline—we’re faced with a lot more opportunities and avenues to create possibilities to experience things on a daily basis.

      Unfortunately, that can make it a lot harder for us to make progress or get things done because we’re either easily distracted or overwhelmed by the constant influx of information.

      That’s why many of us end up having problems concentrating or focusing in life—whether it be on a smaller scale like completing a task on time, or something much bigger like staying on track in your career and climbing the ladder of success. We’ve all found ourselves in situations where we blame our failures due to a lack of focus.

      Learning how to focus better doesn’t have to be too complex. Here is some information to help you get started.

      Focus Is Not About Paying Attention

      What if I tell you that you’ve been doing it all wrong this whole time?

      Focus isn’t just the attention span of giving 20 minutes to a task. It actually goes far beyond that.

      Advertising

      The real reason why we focus is because we need to do something that exceeds our existing capability. We need to devote large amounts of time and energy to move the needle in life, to make that progress and positive change.

      And why do we want to do that? Because we want to spend time becoming a better version of ourselves!

      At the end of the day, the reason why we stay focused on any task, project, or goal is because we want to succeed. With that success comes progress in our lives, which means we eventually become better than what we were a month ago, or even a year ago.

      Let me give you an example:

      Say you’ve been tasked to manage a project by your boss. You have targets to meet and favorable outcomes to achieve. Your focus and attention has to be on this project.

      Once the project has been completed, your boss is happy with the results and your hard work. She rewards you with praise, a promotion, or maybe even a year-end bonus.

      That’s your success right there, and you feel good about your achievements. Looking back at who you were before and after the completion of this project, wouldn’t you say you’ve become a better version of your previous self?

      Focus Is a Flow

      This is what focus is and how where learning how to focus better starts. It’s not a one-off, task-by-task mode that you jump into whenever needed. Rather, focus is a flow[1].

      Advertising

      Focus is the way in which you deliberately target your energy to push progress in something you care about. Because focus takes energy, time, and effort, whatever it is that you need to focus on should be something meaningful to you, something that’s worth shutting down phone calls, text messages, and social media for.

      So, why is it that we sometimes find it so hard to focus?

      Usually, it’s because we’re missing two major elements. Either we don’t know where we want to go—in that we don’t have a clear goal—or we do have a goal, but we don’t have a clear roadmap.

      Trying to improve your focus without these two things is like driving to get somewhere in a foreign country with no road map. You end up using a lot of gas and driving for hours without knowing if you’re getting anywhere.

      Let’s go back to the example of your boss assigning you a project to manage. The company is opening a new office, and your boss wants you to oversee the renovations and moving-in process of this new location.

      Now, if you didn’t have a clear goal or end result of how the new office should look, you could be busy arranging for contractors, interior designers, or movers to come, but have no clue what to assign or brief them on.

      The second scenario is that you know exactly how the new office should look and when it should be up and running. However, because you don’t have a clear roadmap to get to that end result, you end up working all over the place; one moment you’re arranging for the contractors to start renovations, the next moment you’ve got furniture coming in when the space isn’t ready. What do you focus on first?

      The Focus Flow

      Without a clear goal and road map, things can turn out frantic and frustrating, with many wrong turns. You also end up expending a lot more mental energy than needed. But, having a Focus Flow when learning how to focus better can help.

      Advertising

      Let me show you how theFocus Flow works.

      1. It starts from a clear objective.
      2. This becomes a clear roadmap.
      3. Then it manifests into a state oftargeted attentionand effort.
      4. This results in pushing your progress towards your ultimate destination.

      Setting a Clear Objective

      To start off, you need to set a clear focus objective. If you don’t have an objective, how can you decide on which things are worth focusing on? You can’t focus on everything at the same time, so you have to make a choice.

      Like driving a car, you need a destination.

      In this case, you don’t want to drive around aimlessly. You want to arrive at your destination before you run out of gas.

      A good focus objective, therefore, needs to be concrete. This means that it should be something you can visualize, such as determining how the new office is going to look after you’ve completed the renovation and moving in. If you can visualize it, that means you have a clear enough picture to know what’s needed to achieve it.

      Drawing a Focus Roadmap

      The second step is to lay out a practical focus roadmap. Once you have your ideas, setting an objective is easy. The most difficult part is determining how you’re going to achieve your objective.

      There are lots of things you can do to work towards your goal, but what comes first? What’s more valuable, and how long will it take?

      That’s where having a roadmap helps you answer these questions. Like driving, you need to have at least a rough idea of which major roads to drive on, and the order in which you need to drive them.

      Advertising

      Yet, creating a roadmap can get tricky because you have absolute freedom on how you’re going to achieve your objective.

      To create a good road map, you should include major milestones. These are targets you need to hit in order to achieve success. Your roadmap should also include feasible and realistic actions that you can achieve as you learn how to focus better.

      Need a little help in drawing this Focus Roadmap? The Full Life Planner can help you. It’s a practical planner to help you stay focused and on track with your most important goals and tasks in an organized way. Get yours today!

      Power Up Your Productivity

      I hope you now have a better understanding of how focus truly works. By harnessing your focus using the Focus Flow, you’ll be able to work on a task more productively, not because you’re able to concentrate, but rather because you know exactly what your end goal is, and you have a game plan in place to make that happen.

      Once there is clarity, I can assure you that you’ll be less likely to get distracted or lose focus on your tasks at hand.

      You may think it’s going to take you extra time writing out an objective and setting out a roadmap. You may believe that you are better off getting right down to the actual work.

      However, as I’ve mentioned, there’s no point in rushing your efforts that lead you to nowhere or cause you additional detours. You’ll end up expending more mental energy and time than needed.

      Once you’ve made your roadmap and found your focus, follow it up with unbreakable determination with Lifehack’s Actionable Motivation On Demand Handbook.

      Advertising

      More on Overcoming Distractions

      Featured photo credit: Paul Skorupskas via unsplash.com

      Reference

      [1] Very Well Mind: The Psychology of Flow

      Read Next