October 17, 2011

Decision Fatigue

Every day you’re asked to make decisions.  You need to decide what to eat, what to wear, what to do with your time and how to spend your money, among other choices. 

In The Clutter Book: When You Can’t Let Go, I offer reasons people procrastinate, including getting stuck on information gathering and not being able to move forward. People may believe they want more choices, but faced with too many choices, they may become overwhelmed and unable to make a decision at all.

John Tierney, columnist for The New York Times and author of the new book “Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength,” says in a recent Times Magazine article
“No matter how rational and high-minded you try to be, you can’t make decision after decision without paying a biological price. It’s different from ordinary physical fatigue — you’re not consciously aware of being tired — but you’re low on mental energy. The more choices you make throughout the day, the harder each one becomes for your brain, and eventually it looks for shortcuts… One shortcut is to become reckless: to act impulsively instead of expending the energy to first think through the consequences… The other shortcut is the ultimate energy saver: do nothing.”
My clients often remark that they are exhausted after working through their clutter for a short time.  I tell them that the mental exertion can be much tougher than physical activity.  Tierney backs up that assertion by saying “…there is a finite store of mental energy for exerting self-control.”  Pushing yourself to complete a project can use up your willpower, leaving you unable to make decisions later on.

When you are struggling with deciding what to keep and what to let go, allow yourself enough time to make decisions.  You might be more successful earlier in the day, when your brain isn’t tired from other decision-making activities.  In addition, Tierney learned that glucose needs to be present in adequate amounts to fuel your brain, so you can maintain self control.  Set a timer for 30 minutes, grab a healthy snack and get started.
What tips do you have to improve willpower?  Click on Post a Comment, below, and tell us.

Organized by MarcieTM: Save time and money by letting go of what you don't need and finding room for what you value
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