Boost Your Writing Focus: Effective Strategies to Overcome Decision Fatigue
Too tired to write? Decision fatigue may be why...
Imagine you're at a buffet with an endless variety of dishes. At first, you're excited and make thoughtful choices. But as you go back for more, the overwhelming options start to drain you. Eventually, you might grab whatever's closest, not what you truly enjoy.
That's decision fatigue: when too many choices lead to poorer quality decisions. And as we go through our days, we make anywhere from 25,000 to 35,000 decisions (Source: PBS).
Decision fatigue also refers to the deteriorating quality of decisions we make after a long session of decision-making (e.g., living each day). This is why nutritionists advise you to meal plan instead of trying to figure out what to eat when you’re starving or otherwise engaged, leading to poor choices.
Writers especially face this when we're bombarded with choices: plot direction, character development, or even just the right word.
Here’s how to avoid decision fatigue in your writing:
Create an outline, even if it’s a sticky note filled with scribbles. Setting a specific theme or character limit can guide our creativity without overwhelming us. Or choose word count as your limit.
Sounds counterproductive - limit myself before I start? However, you’ll find that an outline works as a roadmap. Pick a direction.
Writers, just like children, benefit from routine. Ideally, writing at the same time each day, in the same environment, can reduce the number of decisions about when or where to write.
In real life, this may mean waking up earlier or staying up later to get your writing in. Or maybe it’s as easy as turning off social media, Netflix, or your Kindle, and focusing on your writing tasks.
You know how important it is to tackle high-priority tasks first, right? Writers are no different. Focusing on major plot points or character arcs before delving into finer details is one example in writing.
Or perhaps you need more marketing time. How will you fit that in as well? On top of being a parent, partner, cat mom, consultant, and business owner (and those are just the basics), where does WRITER fit in?
It’s a struggle, no doubt. Prioritizing is crucial (and at times, incredibly difficult). Writing can easily get a pass. Don’t let it.
Breaks Are Essential:
Writers absolutely need to take regular breaks to clear our minds, reducing the strain of continuous decision-making (decisions we may not even realize we’re making).
As discussed in my last newsletter, taking a break is critical to help us continue to focus. These breaks can be one minute or one hour. Whatever works for you.
Read more here:
Mental health is crucial. We know that. But do we practice self-care regularly?
While writing, hydrate. Light a candle. Remember to take deep breaths. Take an exercise break. If the weather is bad, walk around your house or up and down stairs if you have them. Read for fun. Watch a favorite show. Eat something yummy. Pet your cat (here’s Pip, below, being ferocious).
A well-rested, mentally healthy writer makes better decisions. Prioritize self-care as you write, just as you would advocate for your own mental well-being. Great tips here from NY Book Editors.
Delegate When Possible:
Outsource certain social media tasks, and delegate some decisions, like research or editing, to others you trust. Use apps like Grammarly or ChatGPT to help when you’re stuck (both have free options). Hire an author assistant who can take some of the burden for you.
➡️ Caution: you and the person you hire may not mesh.
Start slow with someone new - pay for an hour and see how it goes.
I have many clients who have zero patience for writing newsletters, blogging, or social media - which is why they’re my clients! Delegating is an act of faith you may or may not be ready for.
Remember, the goal is to reduce cognitive load (aka, eliminating unnecessary tasks), allowing for a more focused, creative, and enjoyable writing process.