9 Little Habits That Make You a Better Decision Maker

In a World of Endless Choices, Why Is Decision-Making So Tiring?

9 Little Habits That Make You a Better Decision Maker

Decisions, decisions. Whether it’s looking through the closet for something to wear, sorting through restaurants to find a good takeout spot or figuring out what to watch on TV — our everyday lives are filled with many decisions. And living in a world with endless choices at our fingertips can be downright exhausting.

That tired feeling, experts say, has a name: decision fatigue.

Just your physical energy might be low after a workout, your mental energy to make good choices can run out when you're overly taxed from the burden of a large number of decisions.

When that happens, it’s difficult to avoid temptations, and you're prone to take one of two shortcuts instead of diligently weighing the options: choosing something impulsively or avoiding the choice altogether.

«People can make an impulsive decision, or they can really think things through carefully,” says Roy Baumeister, a social psychologist who coined the term decision fatigue. “It’s the latter that piles up into decision fatigue. You know, the feeling of ‘I’ll do whatever you want tonight, I just don’t want to make any decisions.’”

So the more choices there are throughout the day, the harder each one becomes for your brain to process. And while the phenomenon impacts us all, how do we actually make decisions?

How the Brain Makes Decisions

When making any choice — whether it’s what houseplant to buy or whether to propose — our brains go through a decision-making process. All decisions fit into two types of processes: perceptual or value-based decision-making.

Perceptual decisions are sensory information, such as deciding if you have enough time to walk across the street before a car drives by. On the other hand, value-based decisions exist when neither option is necessarily a bad one — say deciding between eating an apple or an orange, for example.

When making value-based decisions, the choice is easy if there’s a large difference between the options. But when the choices are similar, decision-making becomes more complex and time-consuming.

To assess the advantages and disadvantages of the options, our brains perform calculations using a certain kind of logic called transitive inference.

It’s a form of reasoning used when comparing two objects never directly compared before, drawing on past experiences and memories to use learned information to form decisions.

This process is more difficult when the choices are similar because we need to draw on more memories.

And once this mental energy is depleted, you become unwilling to make trade-offs, which involve a particularly draining form of decision-making: compromise. In an effort to store energy, you’re inclined to either look at only one aspect, price, and choosing the lowest cost. Or you instead indulge by looking at quality, choosing the very best.

This state of mental depletion causes activity to rise in some parts of the brain while declining in others. As the brain takes in more information, the prefrontal cortex, the region responsible for strategic planning and decision-making, becomes more active.

However, at a certain point, the brain can no longer handle any more information, and so activity in the prefrontal cortex ceases when overloaded.

Your brain doesn’t stop working, but it responds more strongly to immediate rewards and pays less attention to the long-term value.

Researchers are still investigating the exact neural mechanisms behind making decisions. We are yet to understand the route from receiving information to making decisions and then taking action, because even the most ordinary decisions involve many areas of the brain.

Willpower and Discipline

While this helps to explain why people make impulse buys, indulge in junk food or agree to that extra warranty, decision fatigue doesn’t just result from too many choices.

Baumeister’s experiments demonstrated that there is a finite store of mental energy for exerting self-control. When people fought the temptation to eat sweets or cry during a movie, they were then less ly to resist other temptations and gave up more quickly during exercises requiring self-discipline — squeezing a hand-grip or working on a geometry puzzle.

Willpower turned out to be a form of mental energy that could be exhausted a muscle worn out from use and conserved by avoiding temptations.

To learn about the depletion of this energy, researchers picked up a number of miscellaneous items from a nearby department store holding a going-out-of-business sale and informed study participants that they would get to keep one item at the end of the experiment.

But first, they were tasked with thinking about the items' characteristics and making a series of choices about them. The control group instead spent an equally long period contemplating the same products, without needing to make decisions about them.

Afterward, all the participants were asked to hold their hand in ice water for as long as they could to test their self-control. The participants asked to make decisions gave up much faster, lasting only 28 seconds, or less than half the 67-second average of those that didn’t make any decisions.

Making decisions wears down willpower, but this energy doesn’t run out forever.

“That depletion is your muscle getting tired after exercise,” said Baumeister. “But once you get over being tired, it comes back and regular exercise makes it stronger. Just lifting dumbbells to strengthen your arms will make your arms better for all sorts of strength challenges, there are all sorts of things that people can do to strengthen their willpower.”

So strengthening willpower makes everyday decision-making less tiring by prolonging your ability to make good decisions. Baumeister explained that an easy way to exercise your willpower is to find a habit you’d to break — for example, if you slouch, every time you remember to sit up straight you’re using willpower to consciously override your normal habit, thus building that muscle.

What you’re doing doesn't really matter as long as you are overriding that habitual impulse to do something else. But once the habit, slouching, is broken, sitting up straight no longer strengthens willpower. To continue strengthening that muscle, you would need to find something else to do instead.

Breaking bad habits and boosting willpower helps to steer clear of decision fatigue, but recognizing when it’s actually happening is another matter.

Ways to Avoid Decision Fatigue

Decision fatigue isn’t always easy to detect. Un physical fatigue, you’re not necessarily consciously aware of how tired you are. However, if you notice that you’re procrastinating, acting impulsively or avoiding choices, the signs might be pointing to decision fatigue as the culprit.

Beyond willpower exercises, there are some other strategies that work to lighten the load of decision-making. Making important decisions earlier in the day when the most mental energy is available, creating a consistent routine to lower the number of daily decisions and regularly sleeping and eating works to avoid decision fatigue.

And while it’s impossible to absolutely maximize your willpower for every moment and decision, recognizing decision fatigue and making small changes can help make everyday choices easier.

Источник: https://www.discovermagazine.com/mind/in-a-world-of-endless-choices-why-is-decision-making-so-tiring

Changing Your Habits for Better Health | NIDDK

9 Little Habits That Make You a Better Decision Maker

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Are you thinking about being more active? Have you been trying to cut back on less healthy foods? Are you starting to eat better and move more but having a hard time sticking with these changes?

Old habits die hard. Changing your habits is a process that involves several stages. Sometimes it takes a while before changes become new habits. And, you may face roadblocks along the way.

Adopting new, healthier habits may protect you from serious health problems obesity and diabetes. New habits, healthy eating and regular physical activity, may also help you manage your weight and have more energy. After a while, if you stick with these changes, they may become part of your daily routine.

New habits may help you look better and have more energy.

The information below outlines four stages you may go through when changing your health habits or behavior. You will also find tips to help you improve your eating, physical activity habits, and overall health. The four stages of changing a health behavior are

  • contemplation
  • preparation
  • action
  • maintenance

Contemplation: “I’m thinking about it.”

In this first stage, you are thinking about change and becoming motivated to get started.

You might be in this stage if you

  • have been considering change but are not quite ready to start
  • believe that your health, energy level, or overall well-being will improve if you develop new habits
  • are not sure how you will overcome the roadblocks that may keep you from starting to change

Preparation: “I have made up my mind to take action.”

In this next stage, you are making plans and thinking of specific ideas that will work for you.

You might be in this stage if you

  • have decided that you are going to change and are ready to take action
  • have set some specific goals that you would to meet
  • are getting ready to put your plan into action

Action: “I have started to make changes.”

In this third stage, you are acting on your plan and making the changes you set out to achieve.

You might be in this stage if you

  • have been making eating, physical activity, and other behavior changes in the last 6 months or so
  • are adjusting to how it feels to eat healthier, be more active, and make other changes such as getting more sleep or reducing screen time
  • have been trying to overcome things that sometimes block your success

Maintenance: “I have a new routine.”

In this final stage, you have become used to your changes and have kept them up for more than 6 months.

You might be in this stage if

  • your changes have become a normal part of your routine
  • you have found creative ways to stick with your routine
  • you have had slip-ups and setbacks but have been able to get past them and make progress

Did you find your stage of change? Read on for ideas about what you can do next.

Contemplation: Are you thinking of making changes?

Making the leap from thinking about change to taking action can be hard and may take time. Asking yourself about the pros (benefits) and cons (things that get in the way) of changing your habits may be helpful. How would life be better if you made some changes?

Think about how the benefits of healthy eating or regular physical activity might relate to your overall health.

For example, suppose your blood glucose, also called blood sugar, is a bit high and you have a parent, brother, or sister who has type 2 diabetes. This means you also may develop type 2 diabetes.

You may find that it is easier to be physically active and eat healthy knowing that it may help control blood glucose and protect you from a serious disease.

Making the leap from thinking about change to taking action can be hard and may take a while.

You may learn more about the benefits of changing your eating and physical activity habits from a health care professional. This knowledge may help you take action.

Look at the lists of pros and cons below. Find the items you believe are true for you. Think about factors that are important to you.

Healthy Eating

Pros Cons
  • have more energy
  • improve my health
  • lower my risk for health problems
  • maintain a healthy weight
  • feel proud of myself
  • set an example for friends and family
  • _______________________
  • _______________________
  • may spend more money and time on food
  • may need to cook more often at home
  • may need to eat less of foods I love
  • may need to buy different foods
  • may need to convince my family that we all have to eat healthier foods
  • _______________________
  • _______________________

Physical Activity

Pros Cons
  • improve my health
  • reduce my risk for serious health problems
  • feel better about myself
  • become stronger
  • have fun
  • take time to care for myself
  • meet new people and spend time with them
  • have more energy
  • maintain a healthy weight
  • become a role model for others
  • _______________________
  • _______________________
  • takes too much time and energy
  • it is too hot or cold outside
  • feel self-conscious
  • am nervous about my health
  • could hurt myself
  • am not good at being active
  • do not know what to do
  • have no one to be active with
  • am not young or fit enough
  • keeps me from family and friends
  • _______________________
  • _______________________

Preparation: Have you made up your mind?

If you are in the preparation stage, you are about to take action. To get started, look at your list of pros and cons. How can you make a plan and act on it?

The chart below lists common roadblocks you may face and possible solutions to overcome roadblocks as you begin to change your habits. Think about these things as you make your plan.

Roadblock Solution
I don’t have time.Make your new healthy habit a priority. Fit in physical activity whenever and wherever you can. Try taking the stairs or getting off the bus a stop early if it is safe to do so. Set aside one grocery shopping day a week, and make healthy meals that you can freeze and eat later when you don’t have time to cook.
Healthy habits cost too much.You can walk around the mall, a school track, or a local park for free. Eat healthy on a budget by buying in bulk and when items are on sale, and by choosing frozen or canned fruits and vegetables.
I can’t make this change alone.Recruit others to be active with you, which will help you stay motivated and safe. Consider signing up for a fun fitness class salsa dancing. Get your family or coworkers on the healthy eating bandwagon. Plan healthy meals together with your family, or start a healthy potluck once a week at work.
I don’t physical activity.Forget the old notion that being physically active means lifting weights in a gym. You can be active in many ways, including dancing, walking, or gardening. Make your own list of options that appeal to you. Explore options you never thought about, and stick with what you enjoy.
I don’t healthy foods.Try making your old favorite recipes in healthier new ways. For example, you can trim fat from meats and reduce the amount of butter, sugar, and salt you cook with. Use low-fat cheeses or milk rather than whole-milk foods. Add a cup or two of broccoli, carrots, or spinach to casseroles or pasta.

Once you have made up your mind to change your habits, make a plan and set goals for taking action. Here are some ideas for making your plan:

  • learn more about healthy eating and food portions
  • learn more about being physically active
  • make lists of
    • healthy foods that you or may need to eat more of—or more often
    • foods you love that you may need to eat less often
    • things you could do to be more physically active
    • fun activities you and could do more often, such as dancing

After making your plan, start setting goals for putting your plan into action. Start with small changes. For example, “I’m going to walk for 10 minutes, three times a week.” What is the one step you can take right away?

Action: Have you started to make changes?

You are making real changes to your lifestyle, which is fantastic! To stick with your new habits

  • review your plan
  • look at the goals you set and how well you are meeting them
  • overcome roadblocks by planning ahead for setbacks
  • reward yourself for your hard work

Track your progress

  • Tracking your progress helps you spot your strengths, find areas where you can improve, and stay on course. Record not only what you did, but how you felt while doing it—your feelings can play a role in making your new habits stick.
  • Recording your progress may help you stay focused and catch setbacks in meeting your goals. Remember that a setback does not mean you have failed. All of us experience setbacks. The key is to get back on track as soon as you can.
  • You can track your progress with online tools such as the NIH Body Weight Planner. The NIH Body Weight Planner lets you tailor your calorie and physical activity plans to reach your personal goals within a specific time period.

Overcome roadblocks

  • Remind yourself why you want to be healthier. Perhaps you want the energy to play with your nieces and nephews or to be able to carry your own grocery bags. Recall your reasons for making changes when slip-ups occur. Decide to take the first step to get back on track.
  • Problem-solve to “outsmart” roadblocks. For example, plan to walk indoors, such as at a mall, on days when bad weather keeps you from walking outside.
  • Ask a friend or family member for help when you need it, and always try to plan ahead. For example, if you know that you will not have time to be physically active after work, go walking with a coworker at lunch or start your day with an exercise video.

Reward yourself

  • After reaching a goal or milestone, allow for a nonfood reward such as new workout gear or a new workout device. Also consider posting a message on social media to share your success with friends and family.
  • Choose rewards carefully. Although you should be proud of your progress, keep in mind that a high-calorie treat or a day off from your activity routine are not the best rewards to keep you healthy.
  • Pat yourself on the back. When negative thoughts creep in, remind yourself how much good you are doing for your health by moving more and eating healthier.

Maintenance: Have you created a new routine?

Make your future a healthy one. Remember that eating healthy, getting regular physical activity, and other healthy habits are lifelong behaviors, not one-time events. Always keep an eye on your efforts and seek ways to deal with the planned and unplanned changes in life.

Eating healthy and being physically active are lifelong behaviors, not one-time events.

Now that healthy eating and regular physical activity are part of your routine, keep things interesting, avoid slip-ups, and find ways to cope with what life throws at you.

Add variety and stay motivated

  • Mix up your routine with new physical activities and goals, physical activity buddies, foods, recipes, and rewards.

Deal with unexpected setbacks

  • Plan ahead to avoid setbacks. For example, find other ways to be active in case of bad weather, injury, or other issues that arise. Think of ways to eat healthy when traveling or dining out, packing healthy snacks while on the road or sharing an entrée with a friend in a restaurant.
  • If you do have a setback, don’t give up. Setbacks happen to everyone. Regroup and focus on meeting your goals again as soon as you can.

Challenge yourself!

  • Revisit your goals and think of ways to expand them. For example, if you are comfortable walking 5 days a week, consider adding strength training twice a week. If you have limited your saturated fat intake by eating less fried foods, try cutting back on added sugars, too. Small changes can lead to healthy habits worth keeping.

Clinical Trials

The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) and other components of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) conduct and support research into many diseases and conditions.

What are clinical trials, and are they right for you?

Clinical trials are part of clinical research and at the heart of all medical advances. Clinical trials look at new ways to prevent, detect, or treat disease. Researchers also use clinical trials to look at other aspects of care, such as improving the quality of life for people with chronic illnesses. Find out if clinical trials are right for you.

What clinical trials are open?

Clinical trials that are currently open and are recruiting can be viewed at www.ClinicalTrials.gov.

Источник: https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/diet-nutrition/changing-habits-better-health

5 Tips for Better Decision-Making

9 Little Habits That Make You a Better Decision Maker

Traditional economics does an excellent job explaining human decision-making in situations where people have all the facts and are thinking logically.

Nevertheless, in our everyday lives, we often do not have complete information and decisions can have an emotional impact as well.

Dealing with these uncertain and risky day-to-day decisions can often lead to bias, require emotional regulation, and may result in habit formation.

Therefore, to help explain these choices under uncertainty and risk, the discipline of behavioral economics taps into theories and research from various domains within psychology. Together, they offer some unique insights into how we can make better day-to-day decisions (and “nudge” the choices of other people, too).

To begin to understand and apply those insights, we must first start with a basic premise—that we don’t always think about our choices and decisions the same way. Sometimes, we may think about things in a fast and automatic way. At other times, we may consider things more slowly and deliberately. In turn, each of these ways of making choices has its own pros and cons.

Thinking Fast and Slow

In his book, Thinking, Fast and Slow, behavioral economist Daniel Kahneman discusses these finer points of thinking in detail. Specifically, he uses the framework of two “systems” of cognition. Kahneman (2011) explains:

“System 1 operates automatically and quickly, with little or no effort and no sense of voluntary control.

System 2 allocates attention to the effortful mental activities that demand it, including complex computations. The operations of System 2 are often associated with the subjective experience of agency, choice, and concentration” (p. 20-21).

In the rest of the book, Kahneman (2011) goes into detail about the differences between these two general processes of thinking and their impact on various types of decision-making. Particularly, he notes that, while System 1 thinking may be fast and effortless, it often jumps to the wrong conclusions, relies on hunches and biases, and may be overconfident.

In contrast, System 2 thinking is usually more balanced, acquiring greater information and using more reliable decision rules—but requires attention and effort (which is often limited). Taken together, then, making the most of our decision-making capacity is often about balancing and managing when we are thinking fast versus when we are thinking slow.

Simple Rules for Better Decision-Making

Given the above, a few general tips can help improve your decision-making.

1. Rest or sleep on it.

When you have to make a big and important decision, it may be best to do it when you are rested, focused, and motivated. According to Kahneman, complex and effortful thinking (system 2) requires attention, motivation, and self-control. All of those resources are more limited and depleted when we are already busy, stressed, and tired.

Although there have been some challenges to this idea, a recent review by Baumister, Tice, and Vohs (2018) noted the negative effects of such depletion on the decision-making of children in academic settings, hospital staff, judges, and voters.

Therefore, when possible, think through important decisions when you are well-rested, clear-headed, and have the energy and motivation to dedicate to the task.

Your mother telling you to “sleep on it and decide in the morning” was probably good advice.

2. Take your time.

Thinking clearly and logically takes time, too. When we are under time pressure and short deadlines, our fast-thinking (system 1) takes over instead. For example, according to research on financial decisions by Kirchler and associates (2017), individuals are more ly to make risky choices under such time pressure.

Thus, when we are in a rush, we jump to a quick conclusion that may be full of biases and hunches, rather than carefully thinking through the facts and information.

Therefore, quick thinking might be helpful for small, habitual, everyday decisions that don’t require much deliberation—or have many risks involved.

Nevertheless, if the decision is more complex and important, then take the time to think it through thoroughly.

3. Gather the facts.

Beyond having the time and energy to think clearly, our decisions are only as good as the information we have about our choices and options.

We can ponder a choice for hours, but if the information we mull over is very limited, or of poor quality, then all that effort and thought will be much less effective.

In the end, with such uncertain decisions, we’re left to rely on our biases and hunches to fill in the gaps anyway (system 1).

Therefore, the more reliable facts and information we can gather and consider about a decision, the more we can reduce our uncertainty and make better choices.

For example, work by Ariely (2000) notes that the more customers are in control of the flow of information they receive about a consumer decision, the better they can match their preferences, improve their knowledge about the domain, and increase confidence in their judgments.

Nevertheless, there is no such thing as “perfect” information—and endless evaluation is not effective either (sometimes called analysis paralysis). Ariely (2000) also notes that controlling the information flow is demanding and taxing.

Given that, the trick is to balance the information with the importance of the decision. So, when you are considering something big and important, feed your system 2 processes with more of the facts to help you make a better choice.

4. Stay open to all possibilities.

Sometimes, our quick thinking biases how we consider facts, information, and options along the path of decision-making—not just at the final decision.

Particularly, as noted by Gilbert (1991), we often automatically accept things as “true” before we carefully deliberate about them.

Also, according to Kunda (1990), our reasoning about an issue may be motivated by a “directional bias,” leading us to selectively review only the information and facts that support what we already want to believe.

Given that, we can often jump to conclusions, or be biased to confirm something that we want to believe, rather than honestly looking at what all of the information and facts are really telling us.

Therefore, when making important decisions, it is helpful to stay open to all of the facts and possibilities (especially to the ones you don’t want or ).

While more challenging and perhaps uncomfortable at times, this mindset can help you avoid making those decisions that may “feel good” in the moment, but blow up in your face later too.

5. Create rules.

Even the best decision-makers are still human. We all get tired, unmotivated, rushed, stressed, and emotional at times. Beyond that, gathering every fact and carefully thinking through every decision is impossible—especially as we move through our day-to-day lives.

That is why, when they are thinking clearly, more effective decision-makers often set up simple rules and formulas to make better choices—even when they are rushed at a later date.

In Thinking, Fast and Slow, Kahneman (2011) notes that using such strategies, formulas, and algorithms is often superior to intuitive decision-making in a number of fields.

Also, in a review article on behavioral finance, Ricciardi and Simon (2000), advise investors to set up an investment checklist as part of a “disciplined trading strategy,” in order to minimize the effect of emotional biases that can impact buying-and-selling decisions in the moment.

Looking at more everyday examples, an individual might make a grocery list at home while considering what they really need (and stick to it at the store), rather than being tempted by immediate hunger or expensive sweets.

Alternatively, they might set a firm upper limit for a big purchase, as they dispassionately consider what they can comfortably afford (rather than getting swept away by “falling in love” with a house or car that they struggle to pay for later).

In short, even in situations where we might get caught up in biased and emotional thinking, we can often set up rules or formulas ahead of time to see us through.

For more information on how these fast and slow decision-making processes can be used to persuade others, see «7 Tips for Better Persuasion.»

© 2018 by Jeremy S. Nicholson, M.A., M.S.W., Ph.D. All rights reserved.


Ariely, D. (2000). Controlling the information flow: Effects on consumers' decision making and preferences. Journal of Consumer Research, 27(2), 233-248.

Baumeister, R. F., Tice, D. M., & Vohs, K. D. (2018). The strength model of self-regulation: Conclusions from the second decade of willpower research. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 13(2), 141-145.

Gilbert, D. T. (1991). How mental systems believe. American Psychologist, 46(2), 107-119.

Kahneman, D. (2011). Thinking, fast and slow. New York, NY: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Kirchler, M., Andersson, D., Bonn, C., Johannesson, M., Sørensen, E. Ø., Stefan, M., Tinghög, G., & Västfjäll, D. (2017). The effect of fast and slow decisions on risk taking. Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, 54(1), 37-59.

Kunda, Z. (1990). The case for motivated reasoning. Psychological Bulletin, 108(3), 480-498.

Ricciardi, V., & Simon, H.K. (2000). What is behavioral finance? Business, Education & Technology Journal, 2(2), 1-9.

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Источник: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/persuasion-bias-and-choice/201806/5-tips-better-decision-making

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