How to Use a Decision Guide to Reduce Decision Fatigue
Do you ever feel overwhelmed by the amount of choices you have or the amount of decisions you have to make? This kind of overwhelm can look different for everyone, but some common examples may look like ordering takeout because you're not sure what to cook for dinner or even what ingredients you have, skipping the gym because you're not sure what workouts to do when you get there, or taking 20 minutes longer to get ready in the morning because you can't decide which outfit to wear. You are not alone. Considering that adults make about 35,000 conscious decisions each day, it's no wonder that sometimes we feel overwhelmed and choose decisions that are easier for us, but not necessarily better for us. This phenomenon is also known as decision fatigue, where the quality of our decision-making decreases with the more decisions we have to make. Decision fatigue is partially why people often find themselves going for that glass of wine or cookie at the end of the day or watching an extra episode on Netflix rather than reading that book they've been meaning to get to. After a long day of making decisions, it's not surprising that we would want the more pleasurable, comfortable option. Thankfully, I have a resource that will help you fight off decision fatigue: creating a decision guide.
WHAT IS A DECISION GUIDE?
A decision guide is a template you can use to help you make any decision. Instead of wondering what to do or what steps to take in the future, you can look at your decision guide for help. Before creating a decision guide, you should try to identify what areas of life you're struggling with when it comes to making decisions. The goal is to figure out what is hard for you and then to think of potential solutions ahead of time so that when you're faced with the decision, you already have your answer and you don't even have to think about it. Decision guides work best for decisions that you're repeatedly faced with on a daily or weekly basis.
THE DECISION GUIDE FORMAT:
1. What decision am I being faced with?
2. What answer have I come up with ahead of time?
3. What is my back-up plan if I can't do #2?
4. Does this make me feel good?
DECISION GUIDE EXAMPLE #1: WHAT TO EAT FOR DINNER
Let's say you struggle with choosing what to eat for dinner. You want to eat healthfully, but by the time dinner rolls around you find yourself going out to eat or ordering take out more than you'd like.
1. Decision in question: What should I eat for dinner?
2. Answer: Have an idea of what type of meal you plan to eat every night for dinner. This will take some time to plan out. Your weekly dinner plan could look something like this:
Monday: Crockpot meal
Wednesday: Soup and salad
Friday: Leftovers from the week
Saturday: Meal out (as long as your meal out is intentionally planned, you won't feel guilty about it)
Sunday: Pasta dish
You can change the exact recipes of what you're eating every week, but the format can stay the same to eliminate having to make more decisions. For example, you could have fish tacos one Tuesday and
chicken tacos the next Tuesday.
3. Back-up plan: If you aren't able to have one of your pre-planned meals on a particular night, you should have a back-up meal in mind. Your back-up meal could be deli food from the grocery store such as a sandwich or a meal you made and froze for later use.
4. Does this make me feel good: Do you feel better using this guide? Do you find yourself eating more healthfully at home instead of eating out? If the answer is no, then you might want to try a different strategy.
DECISION GUIDE EXAMPLE #2:
Decision in question: What should I do for exercise?
Answer: Figure out what type of exercise you enjoy doing (you won't stick with something you hate) and then make a plan. If you like weight-lifting, your exercise plan could look like this:
Tuesday: Chest + triceps
Wednesday: Rest day
Thursday: Legs + biceps
Friday: Shoulders + triceps
Saturday: Rest day
Sunday: Back + biceps
3. Back-up plan: If you don't have time to do a full weight workout, what can you do instead? Perhaps you can go on a walk around your neighborhood, use the elliptical/treadmill for 20 minutes, or do some at-home yoga.
4. Does this make me feel good: Are you enjoying your workouts that you developed in this decision guide? Do you find yourself feeling happier, more energetic, and stronger? If not, you might want to think of different workouts for your decision guide.
USING THE DECISION GUIDE:
The decision guide you come up with is intended to make your life easier and to take away decision fatigue. Creating a step-by-step system that you can fall back on when making a decision will eliminate confusion and provide clarity. The most important thing to remember when using a decision guide, however, is that you enjoy the decision. If you don't like the meals you're making or the workouts you're doing from your decision guide, for example, then that decision guide is not for you. You may find yourself experimenting with a few decision guides to see which one works best for you, and that's totally okay and normal. Take what works for you, and leave the rest.