Have you ever struggled to make a simple choice, debating the merits in your mind as though it is the decision of a lifetime? You’re likely experiencing decision fatigue, a condition that most of us suffer from on a day-to-day basis.
When people need to make a series of demanding choices, they slowly lose their decision-making abilities even for the smaller things in life.
Adrienne Gormley, Head of EMEA & Vice President of Global Customer Experience, Dropbox.
According to a report in The Journal of the American Medical Association, doctors are more likely to prescribe unnecessary medications as the day wears on, opting for the “safe” and easy option of writing a prescription instead of finding more nuanced responses to their patients’ complaints.
Similarly, studies suggest that judges often deny parole later in the day, as most of their mental power has been used up and they start to make default decisions.
Everyday decisions driving us to distraction
What these examples tell us is that decision fatigue impacts all of us at work, and research tells us that the average person is making 35,000 decisions a day.
Email (opens in new tab), chat, smartphones (opens in new tab) and business apps (opens in new tab) were meant to help us manage all of the files, folders and documents that we create and use on a daily basis. We are now more connected than ever before, but there has been a price to pay: we now receive more notifications than ever before; an average of 60 phone notifications and 140 emails each day, to be precise.
Some of these are vital to our work, but many are trivial – requests to do low-priority tasks, irrelevant information and the odd cat GIF for good measure. Every time we get an alert, we have to make micro-decisions about whether we will read or ignore, act or delay, stay focused or shift our attention. It is this constant decision-making that is draining our brain power for those more important activities.
The future of the workplace is a smarter workspace
In short, employees face on-screen distractions every day, and technology isn’t fulfilling its original promise of making our work-life easier. Instead of technology creating distractions, we need to harness technology to minimize the chaos and bring some calm instead. An alternative reality would be to use the very technology that is burdening us to make our load lighter.
Machine learning (opens in new tab) has become an invaluable tool for businesses across all industries to streamline and automate processes. The benefits aren’t only felt in the backend, but also have real-time uses for everyday employees through its ability to simplify workloads.
When applied to workplace tools such as collaboration software (opens in new tab) and productivity apps (opens in new tab), machine intelligence can cut through the clutter and bring to the surface what matters most. For instance, it can suggest which content you may need ahead of a meeting or what might be relevant to a document you’re editing. You can even save time getting to the images you need by searching for what you see in the image rather than trying to remember the exact file name.
Content, tools and people have become fragmented and scattered. By harnessing the power of machine intelligence, and having a space that connects everyone and everything, there is a way forward. We may not yet have a cure for physical fatigue but hopefully we are going some way towards curing decision fatigue. It all starts with smart technology to quiet the chaos and restore focus.
Let’s make our work tools part of the solution again - not the problem.
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