Too Much Stuff: A Symptom of Decision Fatigue and Stress
Do you end each work day exhausted and mentally drained? Wishing a magic wand could wave away unmade decisions with the flick of the wrist?
More often it feels like a spell gone wrong - stacks of papers, backlogs of emails and to-do lists growing like bewitched pumpkins.
Impact of Decision Fatigue
Maybe you are numb to your situation and have zero mental energy to take action on physical and digital clutter in your space. It gets pushed off again and again, while guilt, despair and frustration compound the situation.
According to WebMD, all of the “stuff” in your work environment is likely impacting your physical and mental health, and possibly your work-related well-being.
Decision- and emotional-fatigue experienced in fast-paced, demanding roles depletes the ability to make seemingly simple decisions. As Dao and Ferrari documented in their research, “...the presence of [office] clutter positively predicted a person’s level of emotional exhaustion and stress”. Leaving your job may appear to be the only way to resolve your extreme fatigue. But changing positions without any modifications to your behaviors might land you in the same situation, just with a different employer.
Clutter-busting Action Steps
Take control of your work environment one area at a time. Make a choice to shed the extra and unnecessary piles of papers, old emails and binders of who-knows-what from the shelves. Yes, it can be overwhelming to declutter. Especially after the pandemic-induced disruptions to the world of work, but that makes it even more critical to steady yourself by assessing what you actually need and purging the rest! Evanesco!
Here are some tips to simplify the process.
Step One: Start Small
- Set a timer for three to five minutes MAX (or play two of your favorite songs)
- Identify a pile, file drawer or shelf in your work space that needs attention.
- Ruthlessly eliminate waste by asking - If I leave my role, will anyone need this item? NOPE = junk it. YES = decide who needs it and how to store it.
- BUZZ! Time’s up. Pat on the back.
- Do this a few times throughout the day, and practice self-control by stopping when the timer goes off or song ends.
Step Two: Capture Straying Thoughts
Keep a notepad (paper or electronic) and record all those other ideas that come up while you are sorting and selecting what to remove from your space. When that conference badge reminds you of the Broadway show you saw in NYC and your favorite tune, which sparks a memory of the CD pile in your basement collecting dust alongside the bins of holiday decorations that need to come out and the wrapping paper stash in the closet next to the pile of kid shoes that are too small and need to be donated - AHHH!!
STOP! Exit the rabbit hole.
Jot down the items, and go back to your current task.
Ask for Help
If these simple actions seem impossible to implement, you are not alone. Adult ADHD, which is underdiagnosed in women, anxiety or depression may be contributing factors. Seek support from your supervisor, HR department or outside professionals if your workload is causing extreme emotional and mental fatigue. Or, hire a coach who will support your desire to be productive, healthy and clear-minded in life and at work.