We suffer from acute decision fatigue. Every day, countless decisions have to be made and it just doesn’t stop. Burying our heads in the sand and waiting for it to be over is not an option. Because the decisions won’t make themselves. Simple solution strategies are needed here.
I can’t even remember the last time I had to consciously make as many decisions as I have in the last 3 months. Small, big, positive, negative, easy and difficult choices – everything is included. Every single project, no matter how small, requires some kind of decision almost every day. There are so many questions that sometimes we don’t even know where to start. Research, filter, compile advantages and disadvantages, consider the consequences and weigh up alternatives. All of this is more exhausting than expected – mentally, but also physically. And it even takes strength to decide against all the alternatives that have not been chosen.
Too many options
For example, we need to paint the freeboard of our boat white. Sounds simple, but it requires countless decisions. How much are we willing to spend? Should we use one- or two-part paint? Rolling and tipping or spraying? Which brand? What material is available? Fair first and then apply primer, or vice versa? What type (s) of primer and how many coats? White – but which one of the 43 nuances that are available? How many coats of white? When is the best time to do this? What is useful? Should it be the optimal solution or simply good enough? What even is good enough? How long will we own the boat anyway? Which of these questions needs to be answered first? Which came first – the chicken or the egg? And what’s the meaning of life?
I realize: I just don’t feel like making a decision anymore. Even a simple question can be too much and I don’t have an answer to it. What do we have for lunch? I don’t care, as long as I don’t have to choose. It has even been scientifically proven (says Google): the more decisions you have to make, the less you are able to make more decisions. It’s called decision fatigue. It can get to the point where you no longer want to, or even can, make decisions. Decision making isn’t crucial when it comes to for example food or clothing, but when it comes to safety issues or certain critical situation, it is.
The decision-making muscle
What I personally have difficulty with is the inability to evaluate the consequences of the decision. I am often not familiar with the topic and the number of unknown variables is huge. So, I have to make a lot more assumptions to make the best decision with the information I have at the moment. I think my decision-making muscles have really atrophied over the last few years and need to be exercised again.
At home in accustomed surroundings with subjects that were more or less familiar to me, it was straightforward and it was easy for me to make a decision. Here, on the other hand, my head is often spinning. Then I postpone the decisions, but this leads to more and more pressure, because new decisions are added every day. “The worst decision is no decision.” I can confirm. (Too) many open decisions increase the level of frustration and the feeling that things are not moving forward.
Immobility due to decision fatigue
The worst part is that as soon as you make a decision, there is usually some good input coming from somewhere that challenges the decision you just made. The process starts all over again. But what to do to prevent this? Stop talking to other people or stay away from the internet? Hardly. Stick to decisions even though there’s new information? Kind of difficult, too. Nevertheless, we cannot possibly include all possible factors in our decisions and at the same time revise decisions when new information becomes available. A vicious circle that leads to decision fatigue and ultimately to immobility.
Possible solution strategies for decision fatigue
In these situations, which can quickly become overwhelming, the knowledge of possible solution strategies is important. In order to move forward with our projects and not fall into agony, we use one or more of the following methods, depending on the situation:
If you are tired of making decisions, it is recommended to delegate decisions. The question with us is: To whom if both of us feel exactly the same about the situation? We then rely on a trusted expert (another cruiser) or swarm intelligence (even more cruisers), for example.
If new information emerges after a decision, it helps us to consciously reaffirm the decision. “Yes, with the new information we might decide differently, but we had weighed all options and are sticking with it now. We are taking the “risk” that there might have been a better option. “
Taking the bird’s eye view
When an important decision is pending, it helps to take a step back and look at the situation from the outside. Then we ask ourselves: will the decision sink our boat or will it pose a safety risk (fire, dying of thirst, etc.)? If the answer is no, then it is worth not thinking about it for long and we just make a decision.
Perfection vs. good enough
The perfection trap (a dangerous one being Swiss) lurks around every corner and sometimes leaves us unable to decide. We always want to choose the best option, although often “good enough” is absolutely sufficient. We then ask ourselves whether we are aiming for the 100% or the 80% solution. 80% it is.
Checking the permanence of the decision
You can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs. The question here is: How easy is it for us to rectify a possible decision error in the future? If it’s easy, the case is clear. Just do it.
Exclude irrelevant decisions
Another way of reducing the number of decisions is to assess whether a decision is both important and urgent (Eisenhower principle). If neither is the case, we can safely exclude it. After all, the focus should be on the important decisions – but that is not always easy!
To stay mentally and physically healthy and avoid decision fatigue, it’s important to recharge our batteries regularly. Good food, enough exercise and even a bit of time away contribute significantly to this – the camping trip to the desert, yoga in the morning in the Cruisers Lounge, online playdates with friends from Switzerland or fresh, homemade tacos. Sometimes we struggle to find the right balance though.
Remember the vision
Why are we doing this in the first place? Visualizing the long-term goal, the vision, can help to overcome low motivation and become more decisive again. We then imagine how we explore the world with our own home… Amazing!
And if none of the above helps, we just call it a day and treat ourselves with a beer. Oddly enough, this always helps. Beer is decision water.
What strategies do you have to combat decision fatigue? Let us know in the comments.