Are You Too Tired to Decide?

It was a simple decision, but I just couldn’t make it.

My assistant was picking up lunch for me because I had a string of back-to-back meetings in an already hectic week.  A few minutes after she left, I got a call telling me that the restaurant was out of what I had ordered.  It seems simple enough looking back to think that I just ordered something else, but I couldn’t.  I didn’t know what else I wanted.  In fact I was more willing to go without lunch than to have to make another decision.

I went home that night thinking “what in the world is wrong with me?.  I can’t even make a simple decision about lunch!”

Sadly, my ability to make even simple decisions has been taxed on more than just this occasion.  But I found it interesting that there is actual a name for this “condition” – Decision Fatigue.

Here’s a quote from an article that The New York Times recently published:

Decision fatigue helps explain why ordinarily sensible people get angry at colleagues and families, splurge on clothes, buy junk food at the supermarket and can’t resist the dealer’s offer to rustproof their new car. No matter how rational and high-minded you try to be, you can’t make decision after decision without paying a biological price. It’s different from ordinary physical fatigue — you’re not consciously aware of being tired — but you’re low on mental energy. The more choices you make throughout the day, the harder each one becomes for your brain, and eventually it looks for shortcuts, usually in either of two very different ways. One shortcut is to become reckless: to act impulsively instead of expending the energy to first think through the consequences. (Sure, tweet that photo! What could go wrong?) The other shortcut is the ultimate energy saver: do nothing. Instead of agonizing over decisions, avoid any choice. Ducking a decision often creates bigger problems in the long run, but for the moment, it eases the mental strain.

So at least I’m not crazy, right?

Do you ever struggle with decision fatigue? 

I think as leaders this is a challenge to our leadership that we need to be hyper-aware of.

From a spiritual perspective I think decision fatigue can be a result of relying too much on our own strength.  I would also suspect that it’s a bi-product of not observing the spiritual discipline of Sabbath.

What do you think?

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  • Andy September 7, 2011  

    This is why I pray for the entire staff of Crosspoint every morning and even at night,cause i know that what you all do can be very hard at time,stressful at times, and I know you all enjoy doing what you are doing and I don’t want you all to come to a point to not love it anymore, cause I have seen ministries fall a part because it is hard and stressful and making decisions even the easy ones can be very stressful. So just remember in your hearts that you have people that are praying for you all daily and love you what you all do on a daily bases.

  • ronedmondson September 7, 2011  

    Jenni, I think it’s a different reason sometimes for me. It’s not decision fatigue as much as little picture fatigue. I have to make big picture decisions all the time, live in a very big picture world, and so when it comes to making the simplest decisions I can’t make them. I see this in picking a lunch time and place, or choosing a flight schedule. If I have someone pick the date and time and put it on my calendar (thankful for Christy!) I’ll show up and have the meeting. If I have to pick it, I get bogged down with little picture fatigue.  

  • Jen Wilson September 8, 2011  

    I had this happen to me YESTERDAY!  I am a pastor and was leading a staff meeting.  We did the ‘where is your challenge level right now’ follow up from Bill’s talk.  One of our staff members put their mark in the ‘under-challenged’ area.  I WAS FURIOUS!  I think I was actually was in this fatigue.  We are right in the middle of a huge building expansion, decisions about resource campains, new staff people, sermons, teaching classes, fall campaigns……I just had a melt down.  After our mid-week service last night, I went home and straight to bed!  I felt like I had the flu.  Head hurt, body ached and I was all over the map emotionally.  Your words of Sabbath are taken seriously.  I appreciate your work and Spiritual accountability.
    Jen Wilson: Pastor

  • Laura Anne September 9, 2011  


  • carlos ortega September 16, 2011  

    I feel the same way. I had the same experience with you. I feel I’m always running out of time. I sometimes even forget that I haven’t eaten something yet.

  • jim intihar September 19, 2011  

    Not that much but decision making, I believe is one of the most stressful thing to do. For me as a businessman, I find it so stressful to decide on something that we know it’s risky.

  • don best November 9, 2011  

    Yes, this is so much true. There are really times that we are mentally low and we feel a lot of information trying to enter our brain that is going to burst because we cannot absorb it because of stress or fatigue. This is not the perfect time to make decisions.  

  • tom bonds November 13, 2011  

    Do you ever struggle with decision fatigue? Well, I wanted to answer this straight. Yes, we all do experience that. Me, personally, always do because of the stress brought to e by my work.  

  • John Sanders November 17, 2011  

    Yes,  I am tired to decide and I’m stressed out. Thanks for this help, I really had a good time reading the article. 

  • frances melu November 30, 2011  

    Sometimes decision making is hard to do, especially if your under stress and especially if it’s important for your people around to have you decided as soon as possible. 

  • Paul John December 7, 2011  

    Not too tired but too doubtful in times of decision making. 

  • Doom Wallhack May 19, 2016  

    Good article. I will be experiencing some of these issues as