From the second you wake up to the moment you fall asleep, countless decisions shape your day. You might decide to hit the snooze button a few extra times, skip breakfast or take a different route to work. According to a study completed in 2017, the average worker decides to switch tasks more than 300 times per day at work alone. Each of these hundreds of daily decisions can add up and cause mental strain. Once these choices start to pile up, you may experience something called decision fatigue.
Job seekers are particularly subject to decision fatigue due to the volume of choices that they face during a job search. If you are looking for a job you may ask yourself whether or not you have enough experience to apply for a position or you may wonder if you should include a cover letter. After days, weeks or months of these decisions, the strain can wear you down.
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What is Decision Fatigue?
Decision fatigue describes the state of mental exhaustion caused by making constant choices. Due to the lack of energy, decision fatigue can negatively affect performance and efficiency. This effect can make a significant difference in the jobs you choose to apply to, the quality of applications you send and ultimately, your long-term career goals. Though you can’t stop making decisions, there are many ways to optimize your job search so that you can make every choice efficiently and find your new job as fast as possible.
How to Avoid Decision Fatigue in Your Job Search
The key to conquering decision fatigue is simple. Make fewer choices. Though that goal may seem impossible, learning to make decisions efficiently will decrease your choices in the long-run. For example, if you decide to limit your job search to a 20 miles radius, you won't have to decide whether or not you should apply to any of the available positions that are too far away. These simple tactics will allow you to preserve mental energy and make smarter and faster decisions.
1. Establish Hard Edges
One of the best ways to decrease the decisions you make is to set a schedule for yourself and stick to it. These hard edges will keep you from scrolling through postings for hours and wasting mental energy. Time block a few hours to focus on finding job openings, updating your resume and sending applications. For best results, make time for job searching early in the day, as mornings are the best time for decision making.
2. Utilize Deal Breakers
When you look through hundreds of postings, you see that every job has pros and cons. You might find a position that you are qualified for that doesn’t have 401k matching or it might have great benefits but the salary is less than average. Weighing the pros and cons of these positions can be difficult and time-consuming. To help you make quicker decisions, choose three deal-breakers and keep them on your desk. As you search through job postings eliminate any positions that list your deal-breakers to reduce your decisions. Some helpful deal breakers are low salary, lack of benefits, long commute, heavy workload or frequent travel.
3. Use If-Then Rules
Once you have your list of deal-breakers, come up with some if-then rules that will prompt you to apply to positions that are a good fit. For example, if you see “requires 4+ years of experience” then you submit your application. These quick tools can help you eliminate and pursue jobs quickly so that you reserve more mental energy for future applications.
4. Limit Your Search
One of the biggest mistakes that you can make in your job hunt is applying for unreachable positions. Sending applications that you aren’t qualified for wastes time, forces you to make unnecessary decisions and may cause you to get blacklisted from future applications at the company. To stay on track, make a list of keywords that will bring up appropriate positions. For example, if you teach English, list keywords such as “English teacher”, “literature teacher”, “language instructor” or “liberal arts teacher” to bring up qualified positions.
5. Take a Break
Finally, once you feel like you are starting to hit a wall, step away from your computer. This could be a sign that you are starting to fatigue and it is best to pause. During your break, there are a couple of activities that you can try to clear your mind and improve your decision-making abilities. You can take a walk outside to increase decision-making and focus or you can have a snack to avoid getting low glucose levels which are associated with bad decision making.
If you are in the middle of a lengthy job search, protect yourself from decision fatigue with these helpful tools and tricks. Reducing the number of decisions you have will help you keep your endurance as you find job postings, build your resume and apply to jobs. Your career future comes down to your decision, make them carefully.