“Making decisions uses the very same willpower that you use to say no to doughnuts, drugs or illicit sex,” Baumeister says. “It’s the same willpower that you use to be polite or to wait your turn or to drag yourself out of bed or to hold off going to the bathroom. Your ability to make the right investment or hiring decision may be reduced simply because you expended some of your willpower earlier when you held your tongue in response to someone’s offensive remark or when you exerted yourself to get to the meeting on time.”

Roy F. Baumeister, co-author of Willpower

Do you think making decisions depletes your willpower and self-control?

Do you think willpower and self-control have a large impact on your life?

Decision fatigue is a thought provoking subject. Currently, I’m reading Willpower and it is bringing to light the role self-control, willpower, and decision fatigue play a role in our lives. From page 90 in the chapter on decision fatigue,

“When asked whether making decisions would deplete their willpower and make them vulnerable to temptation, most people say no. They don’t realize that decision fatigue helps explain why ordinarily sensible people get angry at their colleagues and families, splurge on clothes, buy junk food at the supermarket, and can’t resist the car dealer’s offer to rustproof the new sedan.”

What can we do win this battle against decision fatigue?

Do the big decisions early in the morning. Eat breakfast, drink your morning coffee/tea, and hit the ground running. Willpower runs on glucose from the brain. Depletion or lack of glucose will cause poor decisions and lack of willpower (see going shopping when you’re hungry). Don’t schedule back to back meetings as this will drain you. If you have an afternoon meeting, make sure you have a snack or small meal to pick you up (glucose). Leaving the big decisions for the end of the day is asking for your “fuel gauge” to be on empty. Decision fatigue is real and it affects us every day. Formulate a plan.

“If your work requires you to make hard decisions all day long, at some point you’re going to be depleted and start looking for ways to conserve energy. You’ll look for excuses to avoid or postpone decisions. You’ll look for the easiest and safest option, which often is the status quo”

Steps to combat depletion of willpower and decision fatigue

Step 1: Form a morning ritual/routine

Get your day started on the right foot by doing the same thing every morning. Deciding what you’re going to eat for breakfast is not the most important thing of the day. But if you wake up and don’t have a routine, you are fatiguing your decision making off of a simple meal. Getting into a routine sounds boring but it’s not. It’s a great momentum builder.

Step 2: Be clear on your goals

If you are an action taker you might be able to set simultaneous goals. If not, start with one and build from there. Setting 4-6 week challenges with a whiteboard/poster board is an alternative to “goals”. Marking an X in the box each day gives you the achievement and reinforcement each day of hitting your goal.

Step 3: Take action

Failing to plan is preparing to fail. But without action the best plans don’t mean squat. So take action; teeny, tiny, little action each day to move towards your goals.

Or you might find yourself checking out at the grocery store buying candy and a magazine.


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