Decision Fatigue

Ever feel overwhelmed by the sheer number of decisions you make in a given day?  Wonder why you sometimes end up making really poor decisions when you are shopping?  Wish you could make better decisions when you go out to dinner?  The New York Times ran an interesting article on something called decision fatigue recently (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/21/magazine/do-you-suffer-from-decision-fatigue.html?pagewanted=all).  Basically, the article says that your brain can only process a limited amount of information and only make so many decisions before it becomes really tired.  Once the brain runs low on mental energy, you make poorer decisions because you simply cannot attend to all the details.  So, you might end up spending more money than you planned, eating the entire basket of chips, or giving into the pressures of a salesperson.  Apparently low glucose levels worsen the situation.

So, in order to made better decisions, limit the actual number of decisions you make under pressure by making those decisions in advance when you are thinking clearly.  Then just put things on automatic pilot.   For example, maybe you always eat one of two options when you go to a particular restaurant or you have the routine of exercising on your lunch hour.  Setting up a system like this is much less taxing on the brain.  Be sure you get plenty of mental rest and adequate nutrition to supply your brain with enough glucose if you want to optimize willpower.  Really important decisions should only be made when you are well fed, rested, and have the energy to focus on details.

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Licensed psychologist in San Antonio, Texas.
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