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Analysis paralysis

Thanks to chotda for making this photo available on Flickr
Thanks to chotda for making this photo available on Flickr

I’ve made too many decisions today, resisted too many desires (except that brownie at lunch, I caved and ate the brownie :D), to write this post as well as I wanted to tonight, but here it is anyway.

Have you heard of decision fatigue? This is the feeling, and reality, of simply running out of the willpower and ability to make decisions, usually in part because we’ve made so many throughout the day. “Analysis paralysis,” as an article in Forbes (Yes, No, Maybe So: Defeating decision fatigue) puts it.

I think I first heard about decision fatigue on NPR, almost a year ago now, but have kept it in my pocket as a great excuse for not working on projects that required strong critical thinking towards the end of the work day, being crabby about making dinner choices, etc. I’ve been meaning to go back and learn more, and think harder about how its implications for data use.

Alas, I am writing this on a Friday night and I can’t seem to make my brain think so deeply. (Which is also why I’m doing this instead of homework, or class prep, or family budgeting with my husband.) So I will leave this here:

‘“Even the wisest people won’t make good choices when they’re not rested and their glucose is low,” Baumeister points out. That’s why the truly wise don’t restructure the company at 4 p.m. They don’t make major commitments during the cocktail hour. And if a decision must be made late in the day, they know not to do it on an empty stomach. “The best decision makers,” Baumeister says, “are the ones who know when not to trust themselves.”’

        – NY Times article Do You Suffer from Decision Fatigue?

And say that I think this is not just interesting (or an interesting excuse) but also really important to understanding how we humans work. If we want decision makers to use data, we should probably understand decision fatigue, and how to avoid or work around it in advocating for said data use. Not to mention that it might be wise for those of us who analyze data to do so when we are appropriately mentally attuned to do it well. Does that make sense? I’m not sure tonight, but I hope you find this as interesting as I do.

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    • Kim

      Right?! Me too! Definitely justifies my desk drawer stash of chocolate and other snacks, and my afternoon walk habit as well (important willpower recharging time).

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