What Is Decision Fatigue, And How Might It Impact You?

Last Updated on October 7, 2021

Last week we touched on the basics of decision fatigue, this week we go a little more in depth into this issue and what it could mean for you.

As an event management professional, you’re no stranger to being decisive. You likely make thousands of career-related decisions a day, and thousands with each event. And amidst all that decision-making, there’s also a good chance that, on at least one occasion, you found yourself grinding to a halt, unwilling to even make a choice as small as what you’re having for breakfast.

“We make decisions all day long, without really considering it,” writes Power Event Group co-founder Jeannie Power. “Some are important, like hiring the perfect caterer. Others, such as what belt to wear, are not as important. But decisions are decisions, and they begin as soon as you wake up…on average, the normal person makes about 35,000 decisions a day!”

“I’m confident in saying that event professionals routinely make more,” she continues.

The problem here is that plenty of people aren’t built to be constantly decisive. We aren’t meant to be passing judgement every second of every day, or choosing between option A and B through our every waking moment. As a result, the longer a day goes on – and the more decisions we make – the more exhausted we become.

And the more exhausted we become, the likelier we are to make a mistake.

Slowing Down

This isn’t just something that impacts event professionals, of course. In now well-known study from Columbia University psychologists examined the various factors impacting whether or not a judge would approve a criminal for parole. One of the biggest influencers was time of day.

“What the researchers found was that at the beginning of the day, a judge was likely to give a favorable ruling about 65 percent of the time,” writes James Clear. “However, as the morning wore on and the judge became drained from making more and more decisions, the likelihood of a criminal getting a favorable ruling steadily dropped to zero.”

“It didn’t matter what the crime was,” he continues. “A criminal was much more likely to get a favorable response if their parole hearing was scheduled in the morning or immediately after a food break than if it was scheduled near the end of a long session.”

The same thing can happen with your events. As you plan a conference, your initial ideas for keynotes, layout, etc. might be inspired and creative. Then, as you continue to make choice after choice, decision after decision, you’ll probably start to falter a little – maybe you’ll start drawing a little too much on what you did with a previous event, or maybe you’ll not give as much thought to a particular factor as you should.

Why does this happen, though? And more importantly, what can you do to mitigate it?

Where There’s a Will There’s a Way

Making a decision, no matter how great or small, requires willpower. And willpower, like it or not, is a finite resource. No matter how boundless your energy, no matter how iron-willed you happen to be, you’ll eventually find yourself slowing down if you keep going for too long.

The good news is that there are a number of tips and tricks you can make use of to deal with decision fatigue, and fend off its inevitable onset:

First, Huffington Post advises that you make your biggest decisions in the morning. That way, you’ll be fresh-faced and in full possession of your faculties – meaning it’ll be far less likely you’ll make mistakes. You might also consider planning out your decisions the night before, to help you be more organized.

Second, keep your life outside of your profession simple. Do you really need a huge wardrobe filled with clothes, or eighteen different entertainment systems? Cutting down on clutter in your life will do a great deal for your mental well-being.

“Whether they realize it or not, successful individuals find ways to reduce their daily decisions,” says Powers. “Steve Jobs wore the same type of outfit every day. Mark Zuckerberg does the same thing.”

In addition to cutting down on your daily decisions, consider each choice you make a commitment. Follow through on everything, and tackle your most difficult task first every day. That way, the rest of your choices and to-do’s won’t seem quite so daunting.

Last but not least, eat and sleep regularly. Without proper sleep habits, you can’t operate effectively – and you can’t be expected to make important decisions with as much forethought as necessary.

Everyone needs a break once in a while, no matter who they are. But if you properly manage your energy and make smart decisions, you’ll be able to go longer than any of your peers – and that’s more than worth the effort it’ll take.