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Decision fatigue refers to the progressive decline in the quality of choices made by an individual, brought on by the sheer volume of decisions one must make.
Essentially, the brain has a finite reserve of decision-making power, and as one navigates through many choices, this cognitive reserve becomes increasingly depleted. As a result, the quality of decisions made starts to deteriorate.
In SEO, the implications of decision fatigue are particularly salient. SEO professionals are faced with plenty of daily decisions, from selecting the right long-tailed keyphrases to optimize for to dissecting intricate analytics data from websites.
While some of these daily decisions may appear trivial and others vital, it’s crucial to recognize that they all draw from the same cognitive pool.
The brain isn’t equipped to differentiate between decisions of varying importance. Every choice consumes a portion of your finite decision-making energy.
As this cognitive reserve drains, one becomes increasingly susceptible to judgment, focus and productivity lapses. All outcomes can be particularly detrimental in the specialized field of SEO.
Consider, for example, the task of diagnosing the reasons for poor website performance. The decisions you make and plans you put in place to make much-needed improvements can be the make-or-break action for that business and its survival.
Beyond the desk
While SEO professionals need to manage decisions in the workplace, it’s important to remember that this doesn’t clock out when you do.
You’re faced with choices from the moment you wake up to the time you go to sleep. What outfit should you wear? Should you eat Frosted Flakes or Cheerios for breakfast? Should you call your dad on the way to work?
Though seemingly unimportant, these decisions draw from your finite reserve of decision-making “juice.”
These small choices add up, and before you know it, you may find yourself too mentally drained to make crucial decisions at work or in your personal life.
Therefore, managing this aspect of your cognitive health can pay dividends in multiple areas of life, including better focus and improved productivity.
Strategies for avoiding decision fatigue
Be more intentional about what decisions you focus on so that you don’t have to worry about the small stuff.
By adopting the strategies below, you can help preserve your decision-making capability for things that matter.
The power of habit formation
One effective way to manage decision fatigue is to create habits that remove the need in the first place.
Take, for example, your morning coffee. You don’t deliberate about it; you simply make it because it’s become a daily habit.
The same goes for actions like brushing your teeth, checking emails or scrolling through Instagram.
These actions are done almost automatically. You don’t need to think about it. You just do it.
Consider establishing more habits early on in the day whenever possible.
The strength of routine and choice
After forming habits, the next step is to weave them into a routine. A well-structured routine adds predictability to your day, reducing the cognitive load of making decisions.
For instance, if you’ve made it a habit to go for a run in the mornings, include it in your daily routine at a fixed time.
This removes any deliberation over “if” or “when” to do it. By structuring your day around solid routines, you create a framework that supports automatic behavior.
Another strategy to minimize decision fatigue is to deliberately limit your options.
A classic example is the wardrobe of many successful people, like Steve Jobs and his iconic black turtleneck.
The power of preparation
Preparation is a pre-emptive strike against decision fatigue. Here are some preparatory measures you can take:
Lay out your clothes the night before to avoid the morning dilemma of what to wear.
This can make your mornings more efficient and leave you less stressed, allowing you to start the day on a strong note.
To-do list preparation
Writing your to-do list the day before can have a similar effect.
It helps you organize your thoughts and eliminates the need to decide what task to tackle first when you start your workday.
Calendar scheduling and time blocking
Take this one step further by scheduling your calendar in advance and employing time-blocking techniques. Assign specific blocks of time to individual tasks or types of work.
This method streamlines your decision-making since you only have to follow the pre-established plan, sparing your cognitive load for more significant decisions.
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Implement systems, processes and SOPs
Having a consistent set of processes, or standard operating procedures (SOPs), can be a lifesaver in the SEO industry.
It ensures that everyone on the team knows the steps for common tasks, minimizing the number of decisions needed for each project. Automation can also play a significant role in this.
For example, you can use tools that automatically track changes and provide summary updates instead of manually checking keyword rankings.
Reducing the number of low-level decisions you must make frees up mental energy for more complex strategic decisions.
Prioritize difficult work for high-energy times
One common recommendation for battling decision fatigue is to tackle the most demanding tasks early in the day during your peak energy levels.
For SEO professionals, this may include complex tasks like strategy planning, running in-depth analytics, or brainstorming content ideas.
As the day progresses, decision fatigue can set in, making it more difficult to focus and make sound judgments.
Starting with the most challenging work lets you take advantage of your freshest, most decision-capable self.
Incorporate rest periods and varied tasks
Rest is not just about getting adequate sleep. It’s also about giving yourself a break from constant decision-making.
Don’t jump from one complicated SEO project to another without taking time to recharge. Insert easier, less mentally taxing tasks between your major projects to provide your brain with a respite.
You might opt for more routine tasks like responding to emails, reviewing previously completed work, or updating your task list. This allows your mind to recover, improving your decision-making capability for the next challenging task.
Even if you are highly skilled, you can’t – and shouldn’t – make all the decisions yourself.
Delegate less important decisions to trusted team members to reserve your cognitive load for the decisions that truly require your expertise.
Empowering your team not only boosts their skills and confidence but also ensures that you are in the best mental state to tackle critical issues.
For example, let junior team members take on tasks like basic keyword research or managing social media updates while you focus on interpreting analytics or developing long-term SEO strategies.
Beating decision fatigue in SEO
The benefits are clear: improved focus, greater productivity, and, most crucially, better decision-making when it matters the most.
For SEO professionals, where the quality of each decision can directly impact a brand’s visibility and revenue, managing decision fatigue isn’t just advisable – it’s essential.
If you’re in the field of SEO, ignoring decision fatigue is not an option.
To stay at the top of your game, it’s crucial to understand that it exists and take proactive measures to mitigate its impact.
Doing so will enhance your professional performance and improve the quality of your life outside of work.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.