Decision fatigue happens every day in your life as well. If you have a particularly decision-heavy day at work, then you come home feeling drained. You might want to go to the gym and workout, but your brain would rather default to the easy decision: sit on the couch. That’s decision fatigue.
The same thing is true if you find it hard to muster up the willpower to work on your side business at night or to cook a healthy meal for dinner.
And while decision fatigue is something that we all deal with, there are a few ways that you can organize your life and design your day to master your willpower.
1. Plan daily decisions the night before.
There will always be decisions that pop up each day that you can’t plan for. That’s fine. It’s just part of life.
But for most of us, the decisions that drain us are the ones that we make over and over and over again. Wasting precious willpower these decisions — which could be automated or planned in advance — is one reason why many people feel so drained at the end of the day.
For example, decisions like…
What am I going to wear to work? What should I eat for breakfast? Should I go to the dry cleaner before or after work? And so on.
All of those examples above can be decided in 3 minutes or less the night before, which means you won’t be wasting your willpower on those choices the next day. Taking time to plan out, simplify, and design the repeated daily decisions will give you more mental space to make the important choices each day.
2. Do the most important thing first.
If there was the most important court case in the world, when would you want the judge to hear it?
Based on the research above, first thing in the morning. You’d want their best attention, energy, and focus on going toward the decisions that were most important.
The same thing goes for your work and life. What’s the most important thing for you right now?
Is it getting in shape? Is it building your business? Is it writing that book you have inside of you? Is it learning to eliminate stress and relax?
Whatever it is for you, put your best energy toward it. If you have to wake up 30 minutes earlier, then do that. Start your day by working on the most important thing in your life.
I’ve written previously about the importance of morning routines and time management, this research on willpower is just another reason to work on the most important things first.
3. Stop making decisions. Start making commitments.
I think advice like, “you just need to decide to do it” gets dished around too much.
Yes, of course, you need to decide to do the things that are important to you, but more than that you need to schedule them into your life.
We all have things that we say are important to us.
“I really want to scale my business.”
“I really want to lose 40 pounds.”
“I really want to get started on XYZ.”
Unfortunately, most of us simply hope that we’ll have the willpower and motivation to make the right decisions each day.
Rather than hoping that I’ll make the right choice each day, I’ve found much more success by scheduling the things that are important to me.
For example, my schedule for writing is Monday and Thursday. My schedule for weightlifting is Monday, Wednesday, Friday. On any given Monday, I don’t have to decide whether I’m going to write. It’s already on the schedule. And I’m not hoping that I’ll have enough willpower to make it to the gym. It’s just where I go on Mondays at 6 pm.
If you sit back and hope that you’ll be able to make the right decisions each day, then you will certainly fall victim to decision fatigue and a lack of willpower.
4. If you have to make good decisions later in the day, then eat something first.
It’s no coincidence that the judges became better decision makers after eating. Now, if you cram french fries into your veins every day, then I doubt that you’ll enjoy the same results. But taking a break to feed your brain is a wonderful way to boost willpower.
This is especially important because although it’s great to do the most important thing first, it’s not always possible to organize your day like that.
When you want to get better decisions from your mind, put better food into your body.
Whether you are trying to reach the highest level of performance or just want to start eating a healthy diet, the biggest frustration for most people is the feeling that you need to use willpower on an hourly basis.
Find ways to simplify your life. If something isn’t important to you, eliminate it. Making decisions about unimportant things, even if you have the time to do so, isn’t a benign task. It’s pulling precious energy and willpower from the things that matter.
Willpower is one area of life where you can most certainly improve your output by reducing the number of inputs.
Willpower isn’t something you have or something you lack. It rises and falls. And while it’s impossible to maximize your willpower for every moment of every day, it is possible to make a few changes to your day and your routine so that you can get the most of your decisions and make consistent progress on the things that are important to you.