How to deal with decision fatigue and overwhelm in the workplace
Leadership expert and founder of networking community The Successful Leaders’ Collective Rebecca Ann, talks decision fatigue and overwhelm in the workplace.
Modern life is structured as an ongoing series of decisions, ranging from the mundane (like choosing dinner) to the substantial (such as dissecting complex work issues with far-reaching consequences). Our minds are constantly pulled in various directions. We’re confronted with questions from others, tempted by the allure of social media distractions, and pressured to stay in a state of perpetual productivity. Technology offers immense benefits, but it also keeps us constantly stimulated, leaving little room for natural downtime.
To achieve downtime, you must consciously power down, and this becomes yet another set of decisions. However, this relentless overstimulation and the resulting decision fatigue are not the sole culprits affecting our ability to make choices.
Many people get trapped in the fear of making the wrong decision. This fear rapidly spirals into overthinking and overwhelm. A mind overwhelmed is an exhausted one, lacking the necessary mental clarity to comprehend issues, plan, or devise solutions.
Another fear to contemplate is the dread of making a mistake, leading to the compulsion to examine every conceivable outcome, striving to ensure no errors are made. This relentless pursuit of perfection can trigger decision paralysis, particularly challenging for perfectionists who hold themselves to exceedingly high standards. They may dread that no decision can ever measure up to their perfectionist ideals, potentially serving as evidence of their inadequacy.
Low self-confidence, self-esteem, or self-doubt can further erode faith in one’s decision-making abilities, fostering hesitancy in trusting one’s own judgement. Emotional turmoil or sleep deprivation can similarly blur judgement, resulting in hasty or irrational choices.
So what can you do to reduce the impact of these factors and reduce decision fatigue in the workplace?
Carve out moments for yourself.
Minimising the cost of daily stress will enhance your resilience and sharpen your decision-making skills. Key factors to consider include enhancing your sleep quality, staying adequately hydrated, engaging in physical activity, immersing yourself in a hobby, getting out into nature’s fresh air, and nurturing your social connections.
Allocate dedicated slots for mindfulness to safeguard your overall well-being and mental health. We all require intervals of respite from external pressures, the grind of day-to-day life, and the demands of others. This entails regular breaks from technology as well.
This allows you room to reflect on your emotions and the events of the day or week. Doing so can alleviate the emotional burden and the sense of being overwhelmed that often contributes to mental fog and decision fatigue.
Introduce structure to your week or daily routine. For example, you may choose to do all your 1:1 line management meetings on a Monday, This approach can instil a greater sense of control, diminishing stress and overwhelm. It also establishes clear boundaries that you can easily enforce; when someone interrupts you and you’re acutely aware of your current focus, it becomes simpler to respond with, “I’m sorry, I can’t address that at the moment. Can we chat later?”
- Start becoming aware of what is stealing your attention
- Make a note of what is distracting you - what can you do to reduce the temptation?
Ditch the long to-do-lists!
Maintain a list of only your next three tasks at any given time. Anything beyond that can begin to overwhelm the mind. If you’ve organised your day, you might have separate lists for each section of the day. However, it’s more fulfilling and motivating to check off the entire trio of tasks than to feel like you’ve merely chipped away at a perpetually expanding to-do list.
Group activities or tasks that are alike or similar together. Shifting between different tasks consumes a considerable amount of mental energy, contributing to mental fatigue. Reducing mental fatigue enhances your capacity to maintain focus and make sound decisions.
Don’t check your emails constantly.
Unless you’re anticipating something critically urgent that demands constant inbox vigilance, designate specific intervals to review your inbox. Afterward, establish follow-up actions, keeping in mind the benefits of grouping tasks together. This approach will streamline your daily schedule and boost productivity by minimising distractions vying for your attention.
Turn off notifications.
These are unnecessary distractions pulling your attention away and increasing mental fatigue.
Practice saying no!
Mastering the art of saying “no,” or more gently, “not right now,” is essential for regaining control over the demands on your attention. When you’re not immediately available to address every request, it can be surprising how others can learn to handle things on their own.
Consider preparing a few phrases to employ in the moment, allowing you to maintain your focus. Phrases like “Can I get back to you on that?” or “Sorry, I’m currently busy” or “Let me check my diary” can be quite helpful.
Follow my P.A.U.S.E. methodology when making decisions as this will ensure you are making effective decisions.
- Pause - never rush into decision making
- Acknowledge what are your limits? What are the capacity and capabilities of your team? Any other challenges?
- Understand the situation or problem from different perspectives
- Share - others can often see what you can’t or have useful insights.
- Evaluate - Consider risks, assess any proposed action and likely outcomes.
Rebecca Ann is a leadership expert, who helps women unlock their true potential. She is also the founder of The Successful Leaders Collective, a networking community for women in leadership and can be found on The Successful Leaders Collective Instagram.
This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by business writer .