What Is Decision Fatigue? 

You’ve reached the end of a long, busy day, and one of your staff members comes up and asks if they can have tomorrow off. It’s a simple question with a simple answer — you either have enough coverage or you don’t — but you’re still drawing a blank. 

If this scenario sounds familiar, you may be suffering from something called decision fatigue. It’s a psychological phenomenon sometimes known as ego depletion, and its cause is simple: the more decisions you make in a day, the harder it becomes to make more decisions. 

Even small decisions like what route to take to work can contribute to decision fatigue, but more stressful decisions have an even bigger impact. When you are suffering from decision fatigue, you may start to feel drained and experience brain fog as you move throughout the day. 

As a pharmacy owner and manager, decision fatigue can have a negative impact on your business. It may cause you to avoid making important decisions or make decisions without fully considering the consequences. 

Use these strategies to beat decision fatigue and make thoughtful choices in your pharmacy. 

Minimize decisions 

There’s a reason Mark Zuckerberg wears the same outfit every day — it means he doesn’t have to expend mental energy deciding what to wear in the morning and can save his brainpower for bigger problems. 

Create routines that minimize the number of small decisions you are making. Whether that’s eating the same breakfast every single day or always doing your grocery run on Tuesday at 6 p.m. 

Look for opportunities to automate in your pharmacy, like implementing an IVR phone system or using an automated will call. 

Schedule for success

If you have a big decision to make, schedule time to come to your conclusion in the morning. In a study of online chess players, people tended to take their time and make better decisions in the morning. In the afternoon, people made their decisions more quickly, but they were also less precise.

This was true even for people who considered themselves night owls, so even if you’re not an early bird, it’s still a good idea to set your alarm on the days you have important decisions to make. 

Change your framing 

You might think that breaking a big decision into a few smaller decisions would be helpful, but even small decisions can contribute to decision fatigue.  

Instead, keep thinking about the big picture. Determine the two or three best options and weigh them individually. It may seem simple, but having a clear idea of what your options are can have a big impact on decision-making stress. 

Collaborate and delegate

You are in charge of your pharmacy, so you may think you have to give the go-ahead on every single thing that happens under your roof. But that is a lot to lay on a single person’s shoulders. 

Instead, rely on your staff members. Solicit input for big decisions, because your managers and employees may have insights that make the decision easy. For smaller decisions, trust your staff. If they have been trained thoroughly, they should be able to make day-to-day decisions without getting your permission. 

Take breaks

One study in Health Psychology found that when nurses went a long time without a break, they tended to make decisions that were less efficient and more expensive. 

So if you’re slammed at the pharmacy, it’s still critical to take your break. In fact, it may be even more important to take a break when you are busy. Without a reprieve from the chaos, you could end up making less than optimal decisions. 

Give yourself time 

Don’t try to rush a big decision. When people make decisions under pressure, they often fail to weigh all of the implications and have to deal with unintended consequences. 

If you know you have a big decision coming up, dedicate a small amount of time every day to think about your options. Recognize that sometimes you will have to postpone a decision in order to come to the best conclusion. 


A Member-Owned Company Serving Independent Pharmacies

PBA Health is dedicated to helping independent pharmacies reach their full potential on the buy-side of their business. Founded and owned by pharmacists, PBA Health serves independent pharmacies with group purchasing services, wholesaler contract negotiations, proprietary purchasing tools, and more.

An HDA member, PBA Health operates its own NABP-accredited secondary wholesaler with more than 6,000 SKUs, including brands, generics, narcotics CII-CV, cold-storage products, and over-the-counter (OTC) products — offering the lowest prices in the secondary market.


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