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decision fatigue

Contributor(s): Matthew Haughn

Decision fatigue is a state of reduced efficacy that occurs when there is an excessive or unlimited number of options. Decision fatigue is related to analysis paralysis and paradox of choice.

As a state of mind decision fatigue is experienced by many people of differing walks of life. Decision fatigue isn’t something that is limited to high power executives who are tasked with making decisions that affect numerous employees and stockholders. Indeed, regular people often experience decision fatigue over everyday choices, such as deciding what to eat. Consumer choices over products and services of all types can be difficult and the options so varied as to cause fatigue. Surprisingly, researchers have found that decisions over how to have fun in particular are known to cause decision fatigue.

Decision fatigue can also be affected by time of day and surrounding circumstances. If a person has low blood sugar, for example, and their hormone level for ghrelin is high, that person is more likely to suffer fatigue from decisions. Later in the day when one has focused on many tasks can also be a poor time to make important decisions. Those trying to reduce decision fatigue can consider formalized processes for decisions with decision management techniques such as PMI (plus, minus and interesting) charts or decision trees. Scheduling important decisions for earlier in the day, after eating and not wasting mental energy on unimportant decisions are all ways to reduce decision fatigue.

This was last updated in April 2019

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