You make thousands of decisions a day. Every decision, even a simple one, takes an energy toll on your brain. The more important or complex the decision, the more of a toll it takes. Brain researchers have identified something called decision fatigue. Yes, your brain gets tired from all the decisions your demand of it. Think about this: 100 years ago the General Store carried about 100 items. Now you’re faced with 100 varieties of even mundane things like snack chips. The average grocery store carries more than 42,000 items. I recently went to an amazing store with at least 24 varieties of salt! There was white salt, black salt, pink salt, truffle salt, flaked salt. Yikes! When I asked a helpful clerk how to possibly choose among them, she just laughed and shrugged.
Decision fatigue occurs when the part of your brain that makes conscious decisions gets tired – which doesn’t take long. Researchers found that it can happen in just a couple of hours. It’s important to understand this because you’re not aware when it’s happening, yet it impacts your decision making. You’ll default to the easiest and least-risky option. Unfortunately, that doesn’t generally turn out to be the wisest choice. This brain fatigue and compromised decision-making can quickly lead to overwhelm, and perpetuating the cycle further.
What can you do to keep your brain at its best for decision making? Researchers found that taking mental breaks and eating small, healthy (e.g., protein-rich) snacks throughout the day helped maintain decision quality. Sugary snacks were neutral or detrimental (one more reason to stay away from the candy machine in the afternoon). If you have important decision-making to do, be sure to schedule it when your brain is as rested and relaxed as possible.