A few years ago I heard about decision fatigue in a fashion/business/politics article and I was immediately intrigued. Long story short, super-high achievers like Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, and Barack Obama claimed they wear the exact same clothing pretty much every day to cut down on the mundane decisions they have to make, so that they have more decision-making power for the big stuff.
(And I mean, it’s true – can you picture Steve Jobs in anything other than his famous black turtleneck, or Zuckerberg in anything other than a T-shirt?)
And while I’m not running a country or a tech-giant company, the notion of decision fatigue resonated with me. Namely, I realized that it was not only hurting my decision-making, it was hurting my finances.
Table of Contents
What is decision fatigue?
Let’s start with a decision fatigue definition. Decision fatigue happens after a long spurt of making decisions which leads to a general drained feeling and a deteriorating quality of decisions.
It’s as if at the end of the day your brain wants to give up, and give you the quickest “out.”
Who gets decision fatigue?
Decision fatigue is a symptom of burnout and can hit both high performers and regular Joe-Shmoes because all of our decisions can feel high-stakes sometimes.
Why can decision fatigue hurt my finances?
Like I said, when you get decision fatigue, your brain just wants the decision aspect to go away as fast as possible. That means when you’re thinking about dinner, your brain will tell you to just order. When you’re thinking about which suit to wear to an important meeting, your brain will tell you to just go pick up a belt and matching shoes on your way to work. And when you’re thinking about your investment options, your brain will tell you to just deal with it tomorrow.
How do I overcome decision fatigue and its grasp on my finances?
The best thing you can do for yourself is to set up systems, routines, and automations when you feel the most clear-headed and just stick with them when you’re not sure what to do. This is exactly why Steve Jobs always wore a black T-shirt.
Of course, you don’t have to wear the same outfit every day, but you can adopt a similar mentality in other areas of your life.
1 – Automate your investments.
If you’re going to invest in stocks, rather than driving yourself crazy with stock picking, invest in index funds and watch your portfolio grow. (My favorite platform for this is M1 Finance because they’re the easiest to use.)
Of course, as your portfolio grows, you will have some big decisions to make, but you can always refer back here for advice.
2 – Have a morning routine.
Okay, I secretly love reading about the amazing morning routines of super-high-achievers, but I’m not here to tell you that you have to get up at 5 a.m. to run and meditate if you don’t want to.
Just make your mornings consistently decision-free:
- Have the same breakfast every morning
- If you choose to work out in the mornings, do it consistently.
- Have your clothes already picked out.
That sort of thing.
3 – Delegate non-critical decisions, but trust the decision-maker.
Whether at home or at work, there are plenty of decisions that do not need to clutter your brain space. Delegate those decisions to others. BUT do not second-guess those decisions. Here’s why:
- You’re putting your decision fatigue through double duty. If you’ve asked your assistant to take care of ordering lunch for a meeting but then decide you’d rather have something different, you’re not actually giving your brain a break. Cut it out.
- These decisions are not critical anyway. If you asked your kids to pick your socks for the day, does it really matter if they chose the wrong shade of Navy Blue?
- You’ll hurt your confidante’s decision-making process. Lastly, if you entrust someone with a decision but then take it away, the person will not be as happy to help you in the future. If you delegated a decision, stick with it.
Decision fatigue and finances – TL;DR
If you’re consistently making bad decisions with your money, decision fatigue could be to blame.
Get very clear with your financial goals, set up rules, and stick with them.
Has decision fatigue ever hurt your finances? Let me know what you think.