“I feel like I'm not in control of my life. I’m always tired at the end of the day. Maybe I’m not getting enough sleep....but I regularly get 8 hours. I don’t know. Being an adult sucks—there’s always too much to do!”
I’ve been there. You pause one day and think, “Where did the time go? It was just March and now it’s November!” There will always be more to do than we are capable of doing as individuals. And unless we take control of our decisions and guard our time and interests, we will always feel rushed and frantic and stressed.
These are symptoms of decision fatigue or ego depletion—essentially, the technical terms for “I make too many decisions on a daily basis and don’t have the energy to do it.” (Note: if you’re feeling tired, lethargic, and/or apathetic ALL the time, then you may want to see a doctor.)
While there the articles linked above have some great insights and tips, here are our top three:
Have you truly figured out how you, as a person, need to operate in order to have balance (i.e. decent energy levels and stable emotions)? If not, you may want to take the time to do that. Things like understanding your Ikigai can go a long way toward this. A quick internet search can turn up tons of resources out there, like this one from Psych Central, that provide some basis for you to get started.
I’ll use myself as an example. I only started to figure out who I am back in 2009 (yeah, “only” 2009. That was 2/3rds of my life at the writing of this article.) I had spent roughly twenty years letting life happen to me—and I was a literal human mess. I didn’t care about anything; getting up in the morning stressed me out; and forget about contact with other humans! Life for me was nothing but stress and fatigue. Around that time, a major life event happened that gave me enough of a proverbial kick in the ass to start understanding myself better, and after years of trial and error and the occasional success, I am nearly stress free. I credit the fact that I know my limits, likes and dislikes, and have developed the courage and strength of will to operate in that space.
Decide What Is Important
This naturally follows after “Know Thyself,” since you can’t decide what is important to you until you know who you are as a person. With that foundation, you now have all you need to make clear decisions on this topic. You can start to ask yourself questions such as:
Do I like where I live?
Do I enjoy my job?
What bugs me the most?
Am I okay with the way my life is? (If you’re reading this article, then I’m guessing the answer is “no.”)
Obviously, these are examples. I encourage you to spend some time thinking about whatever questions come to mind and being honest with yourself and how you answer. You need to follow up each question you ask with my favorite three letter word, though—why?” For example:
Do I enjoy my job?
Why don’t I enjoy my job?
Well, my boss is a jerk and I don’t feel like I’m paid enough for all of the hours and work I put in.
Now that you have solid reasons, you can start to figure out what to do about each one. In this example you may not be able to do much about your boss being a jerk (unless you really want to go on a crusade with your HR department), but you can work to find another job, negotiate for a raise or a transfer within the company, or even work on starting your own business doing something you enjoy. You have endless options! The key is understanding the root of the problem first. Then you can make decisions about whether or not you actually need to do or worry about something. You may find there are a lot of things you don’t need to worry about as you go through this process. Let them go, and bask in the reduction of your decision fatigue!
Automate or Eliminate
This is my favorite step. As part of my self-discovery, I have learned that I enjoy building systems and procedures. There is something viscerally satisfying to me about finding efficiencies and creating a repeatable process that makes life easier. Here’s an example: a card that details my morning and evening routines.
Creating a routine removes the need to think about what to do next. We can boost our energy levels and mood considerably by having systems in place to let us just “follow the bouncing ball,” so to speak, and operate on autopilot. To clarify, this doesn’t mean you need to turn yourself into a robot and put your entire life on autopilot, but having a balance of systems and variety will go a long way towards a better quality of life, less stress, and removing decision fatigue.
To wrap things up, you may want to write your findings and musings down in some form so that you can keep track of what you do to eliminate decision fatigue from your life. As the saying goes, “What gets measured, gets managed”—or in this case reduced. Don’t be afraid to discuss with people you trust for a bit of accountability and for new perspectives and ideas. If you want a non-biased resource to talk to, we here at Protagonist have experience working on these things and would be happy to listen! Just drop us a line here or through a private message on one of our social media pages.