Our Decision-Making Pool is Empty Right Now.

Are you feeling like you just cannot decide on anything right now? Never mind the big stuff like whether you should send your kids back to school or not, you may also be battling to even figure out if you want tea or coffee.

You are not alone, and you are not going mad. Human brains have a finite capacity for decision making.

Imagine you have a little pool in the immense landscape of your brain. The water in this pool is used for making decisions. The pool gets filled up to the brim every morning with clear, fresh decision-making magic. As the day goes on, every time you make a decision the pool empties a bit. On some days you have some decision-making left over, it can’t be stored, the pool just refilled overnight. On other days you get to midday and the pool is empty and you can’t even decide whether to take a shower or not.

Our decision-making capacity is finite.

Steve Jobs wore the same black turtleneck and blue jeans every day. He understood that he had a finite capacity to make good decisions. Steve didn’t want to waste that pool of power on what shirt to wear, or even what breakfast to eat.

The answer may be in streamlining and automating. One of the best places to start is your morning routine. If you can create and stick to a habit in the morning you could have more brain power later on in the day.

Psychologists call it decision fatigue and it would seem that, in these times, along with stress and anxiety, we are having to make so many more decisions every day. These decisions include who gets the device for work/school today, should you buy a new set of headphones because the old ones are glitching, who will sweep the floor today and “oh my goodness, it is so late already, what should we have for dinner?”

John Tierney, co-author of the New York Times bestselling book “Willpower,” says:

“Decision fatigue helps explain why ordinarily sensible people get angry at colleagues and families, splurge on clothes, buy junk food at the supermarket and can’t resist the dealer’s offer to rustproof their new car. 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.”

Routines, habits, assigned roles and automatic tasks take the load off and leave you room to make better financial decisions, better parenting decisions and better health decisions.

Think about what you are wasting your decision-making pool on. Can you change a few things?

  • Maybe a chores list so you decide only once.
  • A weekly meals plan could help.
  • Make big decisions once, like whether to stop ironing for now.
  • Set up a picture board for your kids of their routines, use prompts and let them loose.

I wonder if these ideas will give you some extra energy to get through the day. And enable you to make the big decisions that are coming down the line for us all.

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Lauren Edmunds

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