What is decision fatigue?

Making hundreds of decisions everyday in a fast-paced, high-stakes environment with tangible consequences can become harder as time goes on. Jess dancer describes decision fatigue and how to combat it as a trainee solicitor.

Decision fatigue is the idea that the more decisions one makes, the harder it becomes to make decisions. 

In particular, decision fatigue can emerge in the workplace. Law is a typically fast-paced, high-stakes industry and the decisions solicitors make can have significant impact on their clients, the firm and others, and may also have a lot of inherent value associated with them. Solicitors make many decisions every day to solve complex legal problems and provide the best client experience possible. As a trainee I may find myself making numerous micro-decisions as I review and amend a contract, draft a report or correspond with clients.

Some of the effects of decision fatigue include feeling tired, making poor or impulsive decisions, procrastinating and feeling unable to concentrate. Therefore, decision fatigue can have a significant negative impact on performance and efficiency in the workplace and can also diminish a lot of the excitement and interest in being a trainee in a busy law firm.

Top tips to combat decision fatigue

Fear not! There are plenty of ways to combat decision fatigue so that you can be your best self, both inside and outside of the workplace.

  1. Find your favourite ways to reset and recharge

    Whether it’s a hot soak in the bath after a long day, dinner after work with friends or going to Shoosmiths London’s weekly running club, find your best method to reset and recharge. It’s easy to go day-to-day feeling like you should be working all the time but maintaining a solid work-life balance can help to minimise decision fatigue, allowing you to perform better and be more efficient with your time. From personal experience, I find a quick coffee break with a colleague or stepping outside at lunchtime really helps me to power through the day. 
  2. Stay hydrated and well-nourished

    Decision fatigue can be compounded by being tired and unenergized from lack of nutritious food and hydration. I find that maintaining a balanced diet and keeping my Shoos’ water bottle always topped up, puts me in the best headspace to work.
  3. Let your team know your capacity

    This includes letting them know when you feel like you have too much on your plate as well informing them when you are able to take on more work. Learning to manage your workload so it doesn’t get too much is an important part of becoming a solicitor. 
  4. Structure your day around when you work best

    Find the time of day when you feel most energised to do certain types of work. For example, I like to start my day with getting out quick short tasks where possible, for example checking and organising my emails and files, chasing clients and others for documents and comments and updating document trackers. I find that by completing some relatively straight-forward tasks first, this encourages and motivates me to tackle the larger tasks later in the day. 

Shoosmiths has lots of support and guidance available to assist us with managing everything that comes with the day-to-day role in a law firm. There’s far too much to mention here, but a few that I’ve been impressed by are: 

  • On the trainee induction week, we heard from a nutritionist about how to fuel your body and mind for work in a corporate environment.
  • The firm regularly shares tips, guidance, and event information specific to wellbeing and mental health. The firm has a group of champions who drive much of these initiatives, and anyone in the firm can get involved.
  • The firm’s performance and talent development team provide personal coaching sessions, as well as the usual “managing your workload training” that you’d expect.
  • As a trainee solicitor, you’re invited to attend an ongoing trainee programme with resident performance and talent development manager Yvonne Oakenfull. Yvonne helps guide us through the reflection of our learning and gives us the space to step away from the day-job to think about how we can make the most of developing our careers in the best way for us as individuals. 
  • Webinars and learning sessions provided by external parties, such as the firm’s employee assistance programme by Care First, Thrive, Law Care and more.
  • Easy to access information about financial wellbeing, working families, working from home, and more.

I’d like to end this article reminding you that it’s always OK to reach out and ask for help, and I recommend having a look at Law Care’s website, they are the mental wellbeing charity for the legal sector. 

You may also be interested to read Gillian’s blog where she sets out three apps that can be used to improve productivity, focus and wellbeing.

If you have any questions you can email us at [email protected] or have a look at some frequently asked questions here.


This information is for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. It is recommended that specific professional advice is sought before acting on any of the information given. Please contact us for specific advice on your circumstances. © Shoosmiths LLP 2024.



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