Decision fatigue in a social media world

Our Social Media Manager, Sarah A. Parker, likes to opine on all things social media from time to time, so we’ve given her space to do just that here on our blog. She’ll cover everything from the new and unusual to the outdated and annoying. Got something she missed our something you’d like her to cover? Find her on Twitter @SparkerWorks


We all know the feeling of coming home exhausted after a long day from work, but I often find myself incredulous that spending a day behind screens leaves me feeling so drained.

It’s not like I’ve been foraging the wilderness all day to survive; nearly all of my basic needs are met on the nearest grocery store shelf. That I’m too tired to go to sometimes.

Those shelves represent even more choices to be made in the course of a day, which leads me to the crux of all this exhaustion: Decisions.

While the long-held belief that willpower- and therefore decision-making- is a finite resource is being challenged, a simple truth remains that when we’re tired we make poorer choices. We give up and eat “x” for dinner because it’s what is there (mmm gelato and “crispeas”). We put off doing “x” task on our to-do list because we’re too tired. Etc.

So how do you avoid this, if you’re a normal human person and willpower isn’t even what we thought it was? Vox has a great writeup about it, and it’s one of those obvious-seeming solutions when you think about it:

“‘People who are good at self-control … seem to be structuring their lives in a way to avoid having to make a self-control decision in the first place,’ Galla tells me. And structuring your life is a skill. People who do the same activity, like running or meditating, at the same time each day have an easier time accomplishing their goals, he says — not because of their willpower, but because the routine makes it easier.”

This is especially true for those of us working in social media, with constant, fast-moving demands on our attention and decisions to be made about every tweet and Facebook post and Instagram comment we’re moderating, responding to, reporting, deleting, encouraging.

The answer is to build as many routines as possible into your day. That way it’s less exhausting having to juggle regular duties along with anything unexpected that gets thrown at you. There is no one-size-fits all answer; you’ve got to build systems that work for you and your team.

But if you don’t know where to start, here are some ideas:

  • Create a list of standard responses to use on social media, almost like an FAQ. Tweak as necessary when actually using them to avoid seeming robotic.
  • Prep as much of the rest of your life as you can: Simplify your closet, make meals ahead, outsource what you can’t or don’t feel like doing whenever possible (not everyone can afford that, but consider switching off duties with a roommate/partner etc)
  • Make yourself “eat the frog”: Do that one hard thing you don’t want to and/or have been putting off do first thing.
  • Keep a running to-do list you update and scheduling a standup meeting with your team every morning where you report what you’re working on and have time to troubleshoot anything you need help with (keep both short to maximize effectiveness).
  • Don’t be above self-bribery: This really works for me. If I REALLY don’t want to do something, I think about what I’d really like to have as a reward for doing it.

Find more ideas in this Fast Company piece.

What systems do you have in place to avoid making tired, poor decisions? I’d love to hear about them! Find me on Twitter @SparkerWorks.


Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash