You may or may not have heard of decision fatigue, but you have no doubt felt it. Decision fatigue refers to the exhaustion we feel after making so many large and small decisions over the course of the day.
Those in positions which involve more decision-making are of course more prone to this phenomenon. A 2011 study found that judges were likely to deliver harsher rulings later in the day.
But decision fatigue impacts everyone. Think about how many decisions you make every day. What to wear, what to eat for breakfast, how you want your coffee, whether to stop for gas, how to greet your coworkers, which task to start first, what language to use in an email... The list goes on.
These decisions add up. We make thousands of decisions every single day. But we don't have an infinite amount of energy and willpower with which to make these decisions.
The New York Times published a wonderfully comprehensive article about decision fatigue, which includes links to studies demonstrating the finite nature of willpower.
At some point, we simply run out of mental energy. What happens then?
Burnout. When your stores of mental stamina are exhausted, you're likely to crash, and you're likely to make poor decisions. You may not have the willpower to resist temptation, like that plate of chocolate chip cookies on the counter. Or to say no to a friend or salesperson.
Mental exhaustion and burnout can have all kinds of effects, and none of them are good.
Victoria Griffin is an author and editor based in East Tennessee. She provides developmental and line editing for traditionally and independently publishing authors. Her short fiction has appeared in more than 40 publications, and she is represented by Sandy Lu of L. Perkins Agency.
She is the author of the workbooks Edit Like a Pro and Craft Your Query. She is also the owner of Blue Pen Publishing Services, which provides book design and branding services for independent authors. Email Victoria.