Do you find it harder to resist treats later in the day?
Do you find you are less motivated to keep to your workout routine as the day goes on?
It’s not just you. And, it’s not just your health & fitness that is affected as the day goes on.
Studies have shown that we have willpower in limited supply. And, that willpower is used all day long. You may have started using it the second your alarm clock went off —you really wanted to stay in bed, but you made yourself get up. You use it to fight distractions all day. You make yourself focus on work rather than surf the web all day. You pass on the donuts someone brought to the office or resist eating the cookies you made for your kids. Maybe you bite your tongue when someone says something that angers you.
By the time it’s 4:00 pm, you’re experiencing “decision fatigue”. The willpower you used was actually a choice you made that sapped your mental energy. Decision fatigue affects everyone. Studies have shown the negative effects on the decisions of judges, doctors, people on a diet & athletes as the day/game goes on. The more decisions we make, the more we deplete our “cognitive budget.” After a certain point, we go for the easy choice, rather than the best one.
Sound familiar? Think about the last day you spent a day shopping. You may not have been working on the national budget, but you were making choices all day. Were you exhausted? Did you make any purchases at the end of the day that you wouldn’t have made at the beginning?
Decision fatigue may be unavoidable, but there are things we can do to help ourselves out:
Schedule important meetings and workouts at the beginning of the day.
Don't schedule meetings back-to-back.
Create habits. When something is a habit, we don’t have to make a decision about it. Habits spare our mental energy. For example, every time you drive to your office/school you take the same route —you don’t decide what streets to turn on as you go. Each morning when your alarm goes off, you go to the bathroom & brush your teeth. We are already doing things that help save our cognitive budget. Think about what other things you can make habits. Exercise is always a good one! Don’t deicide day-by-day if you’ll workout & what you’ll do. Make a schedule and follow it—don't think about it, just do it. Spare your brainpower :)
If you do wind up having to make important decisions or motivate yourself later in the day, keep in mind that decision fatigue may be affecting you.
Make better decisions by keeping the above in mind, focusing on what you need to do, and remembering why you’re doing it.