I read that high-powered executives try to limit the number of trivial decisions they have to make each day, so that they can save their mental energy for the important decisions. They have a rack of identical suits, they have tightly scheduled routines, they let someone else order lunch.
There is actual science behind this. And I realized today that this is part of why I’m so tired all the time. I make a million petty decisions, and it wears me out.
Today I drove Tom to his doctor appointment, figured out where to park when I couldn’t find the handicapped spaces, filled out his medical forms – don’t get me started on the decisions involved in that one – and picked him up again. Driving involves a thousand decisions that we don’t even consider decisions because we make them quickly and continuously – about speed, braking, distance between cars, where to turn, when to change lanes, which route to take – it would be exhausting if I weren’t so numb to it.
I shopped at both the grocery store and Costco, both of which involve a hundred little decisions – What kind of fruit? Which brand has the best unit price on uncared salami? Should I buy two quarts of organic half-half or a half-gallon of non-organic? What should I get my sister, who’s visiting this weekend, for breakfast? Will Tom need more pineapple? One bottle of Tito’s or two? Should I try this Kirkland brand of boxed almond milk?
I also made lunch – how much pesto on the sandwich? Will this much kimchi have enough probiotics to help Tom’s digestion? And dinner – How many potatoes? Is that enough Worchestershire on the pork roast? Will mustard greens be OK without bacon grease? – and cleaned the kitchen – Should I run the dishwasher again before we leave the condo? Can I break up these frozen gel packs with my hands or should I let them melt?
There are other domestic decisions – What to do about our spare car which the condo neighbors are complaining about because it’s been sitting there for four months? How to clean the slime off Tom’s no-slip shower mat? Can the recycling be compacted enough that I don’t have to take it out yet? Should I wake up Tom from his nap yet?
Then there’s my actual job.
Work in Pakistan is always a mix of major and minor decisions, one growing from the other but all accumulating, so that I measure and weigh my words in each email and document.
Budgeting for the new project is on my plate this week, and that’s a whole other set of decisions with implications both small and large – including how to design the Excel spreadsheets to manage the spending and accounting.
No wonder my art isn’t where I want it to be.
I got up early to work on my glass projects. Creating fused glass art involves many decisions about color, size, shape, opacity, cut, and composition. First thing in the morning I have more energy, and feel more expansive and loose – prerequisites for creativity and improvisation.
But by 7:30 pm, when I tried to return to my two sculptures, I just couldn’t do it.
I had no more decision-making left in me.
I don’t know how I managed to decide which words to put into this post.
I can’t decide what penny should be for today. So I’ve chosen one of those that’s so corroded, the date is indecipherable.
2 thoughts on “Decision fatigue”
one of my decisions is to read everything you write. Even at 2 am when I should be sleeping so I can make decisions for tomorrow. Somehow reading your columns (blogs?) calms me. Thank you
What a huge compliment! Thanks, Kathi … you have inspired me to keep going today!
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