Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Decision Fatigue and Ikea

The worst place in the world to go when you're tired, hungry or grouchy is Ikea, especially if you go with a significant other.

If you're a fan of the TV show 30 Rock, you probably saw the Valentine's Day episode where Criss and Liz attempt to go to Ikea together. If you haven't seen it, take a moment and enjoy.

Ikea is the quintessential place where decision fatigue strikes people down. The New York Times ran an article  on what decision fatigue is and how it affects people. You can read it here. Basically the more decisions you make, the more of your finite decision energy you use until you're all out.

When decision fatigue sets in, you will choose the easiest answer to the choices you face. Depending on your personality, though, the answer might be different. For me, it's usually the easiest answer to just not do anything. We won't buy that thing, we won't get food, we'll just go home. But that's not always the way that Andrea feels when she's also experiencing decision fatigue. For her, the easiest answer might be to just buy it or just get the food now instead of waiting. Now we're in a situation where we're tired, hungry and have no decision energy left - you might as well ring the bell to start the boxing match.

Since we've learned about decision fatigue we've been getting better at spotting it and doing something about it. When Andrea asks me what I want to do, I can say: "I'm at decision fatigue, you need to choose." We don't do it all the time, but we do sometimes and we're getting better at recognizing the warning signs.

Like last night we went to Ikea. It was rough. Before that we went grocery shopping and then we walked through all of Ikea (not just to the place where we could pick up items). We started off alright, but by the end we were both all out of deciding-juice. It wasn't pretty. But, because we knew what was happening, we stopped and got a cup of meatballs and restored some of our energy.

You can get more decision power back by eating, resting and not deciding on things for a while. So, if you know you have a lot of decisions coming up, plan for rests before and after. One option that we use is to take turns being in charge of things. Yesterday I was in charge of the grocery shopping and then Andrea was in charge of Ikea. That kept us from a 30 Rock-style meltdown.

How have you experienced decision fatigue? What do you do to recover?

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