Tip for Development fatigue and the desire to give up

Did you know about “decision fatigue?”

Decision fatigue kicks in later in the day and lasts until we have slept. It essentially means that we are too tired to make decisions that have longterm consequences. If you hate your project, look at the time. If it’s late, make no decision. If the project doesn’t suck when you wake up, keep working on it.

“One of the most famous examples of decision fatigue was illustrated by researchers who discovered that Israeli prisoners were much less likely to be granted parole if they went before judges in the afternoon than in the morning. The judges’ decision fatigue negatively impacted their impartiality.” → Decision Fatigue: What It Is and How to Avoid It | WSU Online MBA

Quite stunning isn’t it?

This also applies to asking people for things, booking meetings, set up an interview, share bad news that can wait another day and basically everything and anything that has to do with interactions and communications.

You can actually measure this to find your peak performance hours and these are not the same for everyone.

You create a note document, or a spreadsheet on your phone or even on paper and type in the hours and the days. For a week, or even a month, you set an alarm for every hour you are awake and then type in the document: Very fresh, fresh, doing ok, tired, very tired. Or just a score from 1 to 5.

Once the period is over, you look at the document and if your life is in it’s typical phase during that time, you will unlock information on when you should and should not make decisions that have long term consequences.

For me, the golden hours are 7-9am, 5-7pm and again at 9pm. For you, it can be something totally different. Between 1pm and 3pm, I’m a zombie, with or without lunch.

So next time you feel like giving up, ask yourself first: Is it the project or am I tired?


Yeah I noticed this in myself that in the late afternoon / evening I become unable to efficiently refactor code. I would have to start forcing myself not to hack things into existing structures instead of properly creating new classes and functions. I now make it a habit to postpone this to the next morning whenever I notice it.

Nice to read some scientific background info on this, thanks for sharing!

Yeah I’ve really had to adjust my schedule to combat this.

I try to do heavy decision making work during my peak in the afternoon once I’ve got the engines revved up but not tired out yet. Evening work is only easy stuff, like simlpe quality control work, etc.

Also find that “little victories” which boost morale help a lot too in getting out of a slump. So if I am getting tired working on a tough problem, I might take a day to do some easy stuff that makes an artistic impact just because that will boost my mood.