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This is how your productivity is affected by Paradox of Choice

If you sit back and picture Steve Jobs, you'll realize that he almost always wore a black turtleneck and jeans. Now think about Mark Zuckerberg, there are a grey tee and jeans. Both men have taken conscious efforts to simplify their wardrobes. Why? To conserve their decision-making reserve present in their brain and use it for other essential tasks.

In his TED talk, "The Paradox of Choice," Barry Schwartz, shows that while increased choices allow one to achieve better results, it also leads to anxiety, indecision, and even dissatisfaction. So the hypothesis that more options mean better welfare is actually false. You can check out the link for the TED Talk at the bottom of this post.

Being presented with a lot of choices propels us to overthink. Overthinking about choices lowers your productivity, kills your creativity, and makes you less happy. How do we, then, find a way of out these choices?

Read on this classic example of decision fatigue. National Academy of Science looked at parole board judges' decisions over ten months. From 1,100 cases, regardless of the severity of the crime, it was found that judges were more likely to grant parole earlier in the morning and immediately after a food break. Cases that came before judges at the end of long sessions were much more likely to be denied. It implies that your brain functions best when it is either fuelled by energy to make decisions or in a clearer headspace, which happens to be earlier in the day.

Imagine this scenario. You have 8-time slots to choose from for your next interview. Do you find yourself to be confused about when you should schedule your interview? Going by the same logic as shown in the study above, you can increase the probability of turning the odds in your favor by scheduling your interview either early in the day or just after lunch.

Four signs you are suffering from decision fatigue:

  1. You find it hard to resist temptations. You pace around engaging in impulsive behavior like jumping signals, binge eating, switching between excel sheets.

  2. You find yourself continually delaying the big decisions. Be it buying a new car, changing your job, moving out of your house.

  3. The small decisions are bothering you now, more than ever. Whether it is deciding what to cook for lunch, returning your friends' call, choosing which song to listen to, or even determining which offer to use while shopping online, you are bothered by it all.

  4. It is affecting your life. Whether you work in an organization wherein your inability to hire a new employee affects the performance of the entire team, or you are unable to buy summer clothes during the online sale, you feel like you have failed to plan for the incoming sweaty summers.

The fatigue resulting from these small decisions can snowball quickly to make you feel unproductive, which will come back to cause your mind, more exhaustion.

You can spend a lot of time finding the best option, wasting valuable minutes, and then end up with insufficient time to do other stuff, then procrastinate, then become miserable. If you recognize this loop and these signs, know that you can change. I recently suffered from decision fatigue and this is what happened. In the next post, I will tell you how to ease your decision fatigue.

Till then, stay tuned and subscribe to my blog post.


  1. Barry Schwartz's "Paradox of Choice" TED Talk

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