30 Ways to Avoid Decision Fatigue (So You’ll Stop Eating Fistfuls of Twinkies)
By: Rebecca Paredes
- Your brain is tired. Making decisions all day saps your energy and willpower. It’s called “decision fatigue,” and it’s exhausting.
- When you have to decide what to eat, where to go, and how you’re going to spend your attention, you have less energy to focus on the things that truly bring you joy.
- Save your brain power. The most effective way to avoid decision fatigue is to reduce your decision load to begin with.
- With the Bulletproof 30-Day Decision Fatigue Challenge, you’ll be equipped to make better choices with iron-clad willpower.
- Once you’ve checked everything off, what else can you do to streamline your life?
Your brain is tired. You want to eat clean, exercise more often, and stop feeling like a raging stress monster at the end of the day. But from the moment you wake up to the moment you fall into bed, every decision you make saps your willpower.
It doesn’t have to be that way. You have the power to take control of your life. You just have to start saying “no.”
That’s where the Bulletproof 30-Day Decision Fatigue Challenge comes in. With this checklist, you’ll be equipped to make better choices in the new year. Save your brain power so you can be a better, more productive person with stronger willpower. Keep reading to find out how.
How decision fatigue makes you weak
The term “decision fatigue” refers to the burnout your brain feels after making choices all day. It sounds like a first-world problem, but decision fatigue is a studied issue. People who avoid chocolate chip cookies all day are less able to resist other temptations. Physicians become increasingly more likely to prescribe antibiotics as their workday progresses. And if you ever end up in court, try to have your trial scheduled early in the day: You’re more likely to get a favorable decision from the judge.
What gives? When you have to decide what to eat, where to go, and how you’re going to spend your attention, you have less energy to focus on the things that truly bring you joy. In “Game Changers: What Leaders, Innovators, and Mavericks Do to Win at Life,” Bulletproof founder Dave Asprey says that every time you avoid making a choice, you save a little bit of willpower that you can then put toward something that will have a greater impact.
Think about it: After a stressful day at work, you reach for the closest pint of ice cream, even though you swore off sugar. You snap at your kids because they’re demanding your attention and you have zero cares left to give. You collapse on the couch instead of going to the gym because your brain and body are tapped.
The most effective way to avoid decision fatigue is to reduce your decision load to begin with. Decluttering your wardrobe and planning your meals might seem small, but these choices add up. Instead of losing precious minutes picking an outfit, figuring out what to eat for breakfast, or searching for your car keys, you’ll have more energy to focus on yourself and your goals.
It’s an ounce of pre-planning with major payoff: a happier, more productive, more awesome you.
30 ways to streamline your life and make better decisions
Below, you’ll find 30 easy ways to reduce decision fatigue. Every day, try something new on this list. You can go in order, or jump around. Check off these items as you try them.
Here’s how you can tell if you’re effectively reducing decision fatigue: You feel less stressed, more focused, and like you’re actually working toward your goals. You’re saying “no” to things that don’t bring you joy and “yes” to the things that do. You know exactly what you need to do to set yourself up for success the next day.
Think of this checklist as your starting point. Once you’ve checked everything off, what else can you do to streamline your life?
The Bulletproof 30-Day Decision Fatigue Challenge
1. Set your goals
The first step in this challenge is arguably the most important: Identify what you want to accomplish. Maybe you’ve always wanted to save up for a big trip, learn a new language, master the art of meal prepping, or meditate a little bit every day. To keep things simple, pick three. Learn how to set fail-proof goals and resolutions.
2. Create realistic deadlines
OK, you probably won’t be able to learn a new language in 30 days. Instead, focus on intention — “I’m going to study Spanish every day for the next 30 days.” That mindset is much more sustainable, realistic, and forgiving. It’s also tied to a clear action you can stick to every day.
3. Schedule everything
Look at your goals and deadlines, and make them fit into your life. Schedule the immovable things first, like your work hours and the time it takes to drop your kids off at school. Then, pencil in the things you want to accomplish.
Here’s an example: If you want to exercise more often, schedule your workouts into your week (these quick workouts are a great place to start). Be realistic. If you aren’t a morning person, don’t say you’re going to work out at 4 a.m. every day. Instead, schedule a 15-minute HIIT routine after work two or three times a week. Treat it like an appointment.
3. Say “no”
This is your permission to say “no” to the activities and obligations that eat up your time and energy. If you really don’t want to grab lunch with a friend-of-a-friend, say no. If your coworker wants you to bring something for the office potluck and you don’t have the time, turn them down. And if you’re tired of replying to messages all day, say “no” to notifications — work in “Do Not Disturb” mode for up to an hour, and then check your alerts. Odds are, you’ll get a lot more done.
4. Become a meal planning ninja
Meal planning is a great way to minimize waste, save money, and reduce decision fatigue in one fell swoop. Plan your meals based on what you like to eat, what you like to cook, and what you have available. Prep your meals a few days in advance, or pick out go-to recipes to cook during the week. When you go grocery shopping, you’ll know exactly what you need to buy because you’ve picked out your recipes ahead of time. Make a little extra so you have an easy lunch the next day. Boom. Click here for a downloadable meal plan and easy recipes.
5. Master a few delicious meals
It’s the end of the day, and you want to cook dinner. What’s your go-to meal? Pick five or six recipes you love, and keep them in your rotation. Instead of wondering what to cook for dinner (and then eating out instead), you’ll have a selection of favorite recipes you can feel good about eating. They don’t have to be fancy. Even something as simple as chicken and rice can be elevated to new levels when you’ve mastered it — transform it into an Indian-inspired dish with some turmeric and curry, or add a bed of salad greens and cilantro for a quick burrito bowl. Magic. These weeknight dinners take 30 minutes or less.
6. Keep a running grocery list
Keep a notepad by your refrigerator. Any time you start to run low on everyday essentials — like eggs, grass-fed butter, or coconut oil — write it down. When it’s time to hit the grocery store, you won’t forget something you absolutely need. Instead, you’ll have a stocked kitchen, which means you’ll have an easier time preparing your meals.
7. Drink Bulletproof Coffee
Your breakfast should fuel you up for hours so you can focus on your day, not your hunger. Instead of loading up on sugary carbs or running out of time to prepare breakfast in the morning, drink a cup of Bulletproof Coffee. It’s tasty, buttery, and frothy like a latte. It’s also way easier to prepare than a traditional breakfast, but it’ll keep you satisfied for hours because fat is an amazing energy source.
8. Eat more fat
Want to stop thinking about food and dealing with hanger pains? Eat more fat with every meal. High-quality fat is good for you — it keeps you full, boosts your mood, regulates your hormones, and helps you lose weight. And unlike carbohydrates, fat won’t spike your blood sugar and make you crash. When you’re fueled by fat, you’ll enjoy stable energy all day long. That way, you can focus on being awesome all day, not wondering what you’re going to have for lunch. Learn more about
9. Eliminate obstacles
Want to read every night? Leave a book and reading lamp on your nightstand. Want to stop eating out as often? Set aside one or two days per week to prep your lunch and dinner. Identify the obstacles that hold you back. Find a solution that works for you. Then, smash that obstacle to pieces.
10. Identify your sleep chronotype
According to sleep expert Michael Breus, PhD, your sleep chronotype determines when you are the most energetic — and therefore the most productive. Some people are naturally night owls, while others are naturally morning people. Use that information to inform your schedule. If you’re a Bear, push your intense meetings to mid-morning. If you’re a Wolf, you’re most productive in the evening. Learn more about your sleep chronotype here. Listen to Breus in conversation with Asprey on this episode of the Bulletproof Radio podcast.
11. Go to sleep
Want to have enough energy to power through your decisions throughout the day? Go to sleep at the same time, no matter what. It establishes a healthy bedtime routine, which helps train your brain into recognizing that it’s time for shut-eye. Don’t fall into the temptation of another Netflix binge: Irregular sleep patterns are so detrimental that they directly impact your mental health, happiness, and overall performance. Do you have trouble winding down at the end of the day? Download the Bulletproof Sleep Roadmap here to identify why you’re not sleeping — and get personalized solutions that really work.
12. Pick a workout plan
Take the guesswork out of exercise by following a workout plan. The Bulletproof Body Workout Plan is a great resource — you exercise just three days per week, and every workout is designed to push your entire body in less than 20 minutes.
13. Downsize your closet
There’s a reason why CEOs wear the same thing every day. Having a uniform frees up your brain to focus on more important tasks at hand. Donate or give away old clothes you haven’t worn in a year. Put away seasonal items so they don’t clutter up your closet. For hardcore mode, try a capsule wardrobe. Pick a handful of tops, bottoms, jackets, and shoes that complement each other. Get rid of all your other clothes (or just put them out of sight for now). Your goal is to have less than 30 items in your closet that work well together.
14. Automate what you can
Most utilities offer automatic payments so the bill is automatically deducted from your account. Try a subscription to minimize the amount of time you spend at the store — ButcherBox will deliver meat directly to your door, and other services will deliver basic essentials like razors and toothbrushes on a customizable schedule.
15. Put things in their place
The junk drawer is the scourge of every home. Designate a space for items like your keys, your phone, your wallet. Leave them in the same place every day. That’s less energy wasted looking for lost items, and more attention you can place elsewhere.
16. Delegate your decisions
Stop shouldering everything — it’s killing your willpower. Instead, at work and at home, find opportunities to delegate decisions so you can make fewer choices throughout the day. If you’re stressed because of a big project, reach out to your supervisor to see about delegating other tasks. If you’re drowning in laundry every time you go home, ask your partner (or recruit your kid!) to wash a load.
17. Identify barriers
Once you’ve spent some time actively streamlining your life, take a step back and look at the places you keep hitting a wall. Are you having a hard time waking up early enough to make it to the gym? Try a quick home workout instead, or try working out later in the day. Can’t stick to your new diet? Change your approach and find out how to stop sugar cravings for good. Your goals and decisions aren’t set in stone; they can and should evolve over time. Identify what’s holding you back and find solutions to create change.
18. Practice self-care
Having trouble clearing up brain space? Spend some time taking care of yourself to feel recharged and refocused. Take a meditative walk, hop in a bath, or try this guided meditation to get back in touch with yourself and restore focus.
19. Pack your bags
This is a simple way to set yourself up for success the following day. At night, prep your bags for the gym, work, lunch — whatever you’re planning for the day ahead. In the morning, you can focus on enjoying your routine, drinking a cup of coffee, and starting your day the way you want — not rushed and stressed.
20. Do the most important thing first
Whether it’s an important project for work or a personal task you’ve been putting off for ages, take care of it as soon as you start your day. You’ll have all the mental clarity and energy you need to power through. Double up your focus by turning off notifications on your phone and laptop, even if it’s just for 20 minutes. Try these five fast hacks to improve focus and concentration.
21. Donate, recycle, or give something away
When you have fewer possessions, you can appreciate the things that truly bring you joy. Pick one item to get rid of. Once you get rid of one thing, see how it feels when you get rid of something more — odds are, you’ll enjoy the way it feels to live with less clutter in your cabinets (and in your life).
22. Master the mid-day recharge
Embrace the power nap. If you usually hit a wall halfway through the day, you’re going to have a harder time making decisions later on. Take a coffee nap, exercise, or meditate to replenish your energy in no time. Learn how here.
23. Delete apps you never use
Decision fatigue extends to your phone, too. Delete apps you haven’t opened in ages. This is especially true if they send you annoying notifications because you haven’t used them. Try to reduce your phone to one screen of essential apps you use all the time.
24. Simplify your desktop
Tired of searching for files? Clean up your desktop. Create nested folders for the files you use all the time, and delete everything else or store it in a cloud system like Dropbox or Google Drive.
25. Go on a digital detox
Overusing technology is stressing you out. Deciding to scroll through social media is stealing your attention away from more important things, like spending quality time with loved ones. Pick a day to abstain from social media and screens after dark. If you want to go big, ditch all technology for a full day. (It’s just as challenging as you think.) Learn more about the benefits of disconnecting.
26. Create a morning routine you enjoy
Whether you start your day with a workout or a big mug of coffee (or both), find a routine that works for you and stick to it. Routines are important because they create habits over time. Fill your morning with habits you want to make a part of your lifestyle, like 5 minutes of meditation.
27. Keep your bedtime routine sacred
Two hours before bedtime, stop eating and don’t exercise two hours. Limit your screen time after dark. Go to bed around the same time every night. Life may get in the way sometimes, but stick to your bedtime routine as much as possible — it’ll help you fall asleep and stay asleep, so you can tackle the next day with properly renewed energy and focus.
28. Be picky with your social time
You don’t have to say “yes” to every happy hour, family reunion, or dinner date. Say “yes” only when you genuinely want to spend quality time with someone else. It’s okay to be picky — your time is valuable, and the way you spend it determines how much energy you have to make decisions with the rest of your day. For the ultimate social hack to avoid decision-making, set up a recurring date with your friends. Pick a day and time every week or month that generally works with your schedules, and stick with it — that way, you won’t have to deal with trying to cram a brunch date last-minute into your already busy schedule.
29. Adjust as needed
Life happens. If you weren’t able to stick to your schedule, don’t take it as a failure — just adjust accordingly. It’s already Saturday, and you weren’t able to work out twice this week — so do a quick workout at home today.
30. Practice gratitude
Gratitude literally rewires your brain by strengthening neural pathways to make you happier and more productive. Write down your gratitudes daily to reinforce what truly brings you joy. Learn more about how to practice gratitude here.
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