If you find it difficult to stick to good habits and are having trouble reaching your goals, it may be the result of decision fatigue. A decision detox can help you get back on track.
We all have those days where we feel like there are just too many choices. Should I go grocery shopping today after work or tomorrow morning? What should I make for dinner tonight? When can I squeeze in a workout?
In fact, it’s estimated that the average adult makes about 35,000 remotely conscious decisions per day. And researchers at Cornell University estimate we make roughly 227 decisions each day on food alone!
It may seem like all this decision making is the obvious consequence of a busy life. Unfortunately, it’s draining us of our mental energy, which can have real consequences on our lives—and finances.
What Is Decision Fatigue?
Coined by social psychologist Roy F. Baumeister, decision fatigue is the emotional and mental strain resulting from a burden of choices. It’s one reason many of us feel exhausted after a stressful day at work even though we were sitting down most of the day.
As your mental energy decreases, you’re more likely to let basic desires take over and make whatever decision seems easiest at the time. For example, you might decide to pick up takeout on your way home rather than cook the healthy dinner you planned.
When decision fatigue sets in, our ability to consider the long-term impact of a decision goes out the window. Meaning, there’s nothing wrong with you if you’re having trouble accomplishing your goals. It just means you may need to go on a decision detox.
How to Do a Decision Detox
A decision detox doesn’t mean eliminating all decisions from your life altogether. The goal is to make fewer decisions so you can clear mental space for what matters.
Here are five strategies for reducing decision fatigue and boosting your mental energy:
Decision Detox Tip #1: Anticipate Routine Decisions
Do you find yourself wasting time on similar decisions every day? Like what to wear or eat for breakfast? The fewer decisions you make early in the day, the more energy you’ll have for more important decisions later.
The solution is to plan accordingly. For example, you can choose your outfit the night before so you’re not struggling to put something together in the morning. If you have trouble deciding what to eat most days, try prepping your meals for the week on Sunday so you always have healthy options in the fridge.
The same is true for routine financial decisions. Consider automating your monthly bill payments and setting up automatic transfers to your emergency fund and retirement savings.
Decision Detox Tip #2: Set Healthy Boundaries and Learn to Say “No”
Many of us have a hard time saying no, especially if it lets someone we care about down. But people pleasing can be mentally draining. If you tend to agonize over how to respond to invitations or requests for your time, you’re contributing to your decision fatigue.
An effective decision detox includes setting healthy boundaries. It’s not easy, but it can save you valuable mental energy. If you haven’t read it, Essentialism by Greg McKeown is a great book for helping you focus on what matters in your life, so you can confidently say no to everything else.
Decision Detox Tip #3: Avoid Making Decisions When You’re Tired, Hungry, Stressed, etc.
There’s a reason everyone says not to go grocery shopping when you’re hungry. Or to avoid major decisions when you’re stressed or grieving. When we’re in survival mode, we’re more likely to take the path of least resistance. That may mean buying food that tastes great but isn’t exactly nutritious or making an impulsive decision that we later regret.
If you feel like you’re slipping into survival mode, there are a few things you can do to pull yourself out. Spend a few minutes meditating, go for a walk, or connect with a friend. Adding these types of activities to your decision detox can help you restore your mental energy and make better decisions more consistently.
Decision Detox Tip #4: Designate Times to Check Email, Texts, and Social Media
Most Americans check their phone about 160 times per day, according to a recent study. If this sounds like you, your smartphone habit may be working against you. For example, if you see a new text or email come in, you may feel compelled to respond immediately. Unfortunately, even communication that feels easy—like responding to a friend about where you want to meet for lunch later—can zap your mental energy.
As part of your decision detox, try designating specific times for communication and scrolling your social media feed. You may be surprised how much more you can get done when your phone isn’t constantly distracting you. And how much more energy you have at the end of the day!
Decision Detox Tip #5: Don’t Be Afraid to Delegate
Lastly, just because you can do it all yourself doesn’t mean you have to. Our time and energy are finite resources. Sometimes reaching your goals means asking for help.
Whether it’s at work, at home, or in your financial life, look for areas where you can delegate decisions to someone else. If delegating allows you to spend more time and energy on things that bring you joy, it’s probably worth it.
At Curtis Financial Planning, our goal is to be a fiduciary financial partner to our clients so they can focus more time and energy on what they love and do best. If you believe we may be a good fit and can help you achieve your financial goals, please schedule a call.
And if you’re ready to go on a decision detox in your financial life, check out The Happiness Spreadsheet—a fresh, inspiring approach to budgeting that aligns your spending with your values.