Decision fatigue: Analyze a single day of yours from the decision-making point of view and you will be surprised how many decisions you need to make every hour, if not every minute.
An average American adult makes 35,000 decisions a day, according to some studies cited by creative director Jim Sollisch in his column on WSJ in 2016. https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-cure-for-decision-fatigue-1465596928
For common people, most of these decisions are about food, clothes, routes, shopping, etc. and there is a good and simple way to avoid facing decision fatigue, so-called condition when the quality of the decisions being made starts deteriorating with time within one or several consequent decision-making stretches.
Look at some of the most famous people out there wearing same clothes every day: Barack Obama, Mark Zuckerberg, Apple’s late Steve Jobs.
“I’m trying to pare down decisions. I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing. Because I have too many other decisions to make.” – Obama in a Vanity Fair http://www.vanityfair.com/politics/2012/10/michael-lewis-profile-barack-obama
There are many advice’s on how to cope with decision fatigue just by simplifying daily routine or changing some habits. Here are some of them
But what if decision fatigue is a “professional disease”?
Think of doctors and army men, safeguards and pilots, teachers and judges, stock market analysts and traders, and you get the point. Some people’s work is all about right and timely decisions they make, and very often other people’s lives depend just on the quality of those decisions.
Multiple studies have shown the quality of decision-making regresses with time and intensity of the process.
Baumeister and other in 1998 paper (https://faculty.washington.edu/jdb/345/345%20Articles/Baumeister%20et%20al.%20(1998).pdf)described decision fatigue as a consequence of “ego depletion,” defined as a draining of mental resources. The self-control required for quality cognitive processing and systematic decision-making requires mental resources that are in limited supply, they argued, adding that ego depletion resulting from acts of self-control would interfere with subsequent decision making by making people more passive.
In 2011, Shai Danziger, Jonathan Levav, and Liora Avnaim-Pesso in their article “Extraneous factors in judicial decisions” published in PNAS (http://www.pnas.org/content/108/17/6889) said their study of 1,112 judicial rulings revealed the percentage of favorable rulings drops gradually from around 65% to nearly zero within each decision session and returns abruptly to around 65% after a lunch or snack break.
“Prior research suggests that making repeated judgments or decisions depletes individuals’ executive function and mental resources, which can, in turn, influence their subsequent decisions,” research paper noted.
“Our findings suggest that judicial rulings can be swayed by extraneous variables that should have no bearing on legal decisions,” it added.
David Hirshleifer and others in “Decision Fatigue and Heuristic Analyst Forecasts” (July 19, 2017) (https://ssrn.com/abstract=3005757) discovered that decision fatigue affects professionals in the capital market setting. “Analysts cover multiple firms and often issue several forecasts in a single day. We find that forecast accuracy declines over the course of a day as the number of forecasts the analyst has already issued increases,” the researchers pointed out.
Although the psychology and neurology behind decision fatigue is not fully understood, what is common to all the findings on this phenomenon is that the quality of decisions professionals make tends to deteriorate with more decisions having been made.
Unlike dealing with decision fatigue in our personal lives, where you can either play your days better or limit number of things to decide about, professionals do not have such option.
For them, in order to deal with decision fatigue better or illuminate its effects on their performance completely, additional resources need to be found to support self-control and self-discipline required to make numerous and tough decisions.
Many reports available suggest that narcolepsy medication or smart drugs – Modafinil help professionals across industry stay focused and prevent feeling drained-out, which eventually helps them make better quality decisions.
A meta-analysts by researchers at Harvard Medical School and Oxford revealed that Modafinil has significant cognitive benefits for those who do not otherwise suffer from sleep deprivation by improving their ability to plan and make decisions.
Modafinil has positive effects on learning and creativity, studies have found, making it one of the most efficient and safe in the short-term medication for students and professionals whose type of work requires constant decision-making without becoming impulsive when making decisions.
The ability of Modafinil to help staying focused and productive, with much less side effects compared to some other medications known to be used for productivity enhancement, led to media labeling Modafinil the world’s first safe smart drug.