Seen At 11: Decision Fatigue Can Lead To Bad Choices In Important Aspects Of Life

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Whether it’s deciding to move to a new country or figuring out what to have for breakfast — big or small, we make hundreds, even thousands of decisions every day.

By some estimates, the average person makes some 35,000 decisions every day. As CBS2’s Kristine Johnson reported, experts said it can lead to bad choices.

“I have three of the similar sweaters to what I am currently wearing,” Gillian Small explained.

The public relations executive has a closet full of the same clothes and said there’s zero guesswork when it comes to what to wear to work each day.

“I can just wake up, I know exactly what I’m going to wear. Every day I just grab it and I go,” she said.

She said it’s a strategy to cut down on decision fatigue — feeling overwhelmed from constant decision making — which frees her up to focus on things that matter more.

“I think that I have been able to apply my decisions to other more important aspects of my life and not necessarily what I’m wearing,” she said.

She’s not the only one. Mark Zuckerberg wears the same thing every day for the same reason. Even President Obama only wears blue or grey suits, saying, “I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m wearing, because I have too many other decisions to make.”

Dr. Sheena Iyengar who studies choice making said it’s a smart move.

“You want to cut down on the number of decisions you’re making per day, so that you have the energy it takes to focus on the ones that matter a lot,” Dr. Iyengar said.

She said decision overload can lead to bad outcomes.

“We start using shortcuts like I’ll just pick the first one or the one that everybody else is choosing,” she said.

There’s science behind the phenomenon — decision making depletes the brain of glucose which leads to less self-control.

“Each time you make those decisions you get less and less ability to resist impulses, why? Because it’s running out of glucose, it’s running out of the energy that it needs to help you resist those impulses,” Dr. Howard Forman said.

Experts said it helps to make important decisions early in the day, and plan some down time to help prioritize what’s important.

“Taking a timeout, providing space in your day to give yourself an opportunity to think and reflect on what you’re doing, how you’re feeling,” Dr. Carol Bernstein, NYU Langone Medical Center said, “Certainly finding space to reflect, I think can be useful.”

Experts said to limit your options, too much choice can be overwhelming and lead to not making a decision at all.

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