This is the 150th installment of The Labyrinthian, a series dedicated to exploring random fields of knowledge in order to give you unordinary theoretical, philosophical, strategic, and/or often rambling guidance on daily fantasy sports. Consult the introductory piece to the series for further explanation.

You probably know what decision fatigue is, but if you don’t here’s a half-*ssed definition: It’s the exhaustion that comes from making too many decisions or having too many choices in a series of decisions, as a result of which the quality and effectiveness of the decisions decline.

When people have to make too many decisions or have too many options to sort through in making even just a few choices, they are less efficient when they must make more decisions in the future. They tend to get more of those decisions wrong. They make decisions in arbitrary ways.

The research findings on decision fatigue are persuasive. Judges are less favorable at the end of the work day than the beginning. Consumers are more likely to spend money on unwanted goods or services the longer they have to make buy/don’t buy decisions. In fact, some people become so plagued by decision fatigue that they cease to participate in the fatiguing activity at all — which is called “decision avoidance.”

Famously, some people have attempted to prevent decision fatigue by streamlining their decision-making processes, especially when it comes to everyday decisions, such as what to wear. As noted in Jacquelyn Smith’s 2012 Forbes article, Steve Jobs always wore a black mock turtleneck, jeans, and New Balance sneakers. Albert Einstein had several versions of the same gray suit. Barack Obama as president wore only gray or blue suits in order to cut down on the number of decisions he had to make (per Michael Lewis’ Vanity Fair October 2012 profile). Mark Zuckerberg has a sh*tload of gray T-shirts. Like the Ford Model T, Johnny Cash had one color: Black.

Given that I’m probably the most efficient person in the fantasy industry (who’s currently writing an article on decision fatigue), I’m uniquely equipped to talk about how to deal with or prevent DFS decision fatigue.

What you’re about to read is based on at least a solid 30 minutes of skimming literally (far less than) dozens of internet articles and reading (an online review of) a book by Roy F. Baumeister called Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength.

Your welcome.

Note: I don’t have time to distinguish between “you’re” and “your.” Writerly decision fatigue bypassed, punk.

What Does DFS Decision Fatigue Look Like?

If you build seven cash game lineups using seven different construction strategies and then use the lineup you built last, which ends up being the worst of the lineups, you almost certainly have DFS decision fatigue.

If you find it hard to eliminate players from consideration, you might have DFS decision fatigue.

If you know how to play DFS but realize that you’ve recently been constructing rosters without a sense of purpose or coherent methodology, you’re probably suffering from DFS decision fatigue.

If you are regularly making negative Plus/Minus decisions, yada yada yada DFS decision fatigue.

By the way, unthinkingly typing “yada yada yada” instead of having to decide what ‘real words’ to write: That’s a great way to avoid decision fatigue.

How to Avoid DFS Decision Fatigue

There are several forms of DFS decision fatigue. The kind I want to focus on involves the weariness of having too many players to sort through in building lineups and having too many strategies for how to build lineups in the first place.

Figure Out What Is the Most Important

Far too often, people suffer from decision fatigue because they don’t have a sense of what’s important. The get lost in the possibilities because they all seem to be versions of each other.

If you know what’s important, then you’ll have a much easier time removing the negative DFS data from consideration and focusing on the positive data. If you use our Trends tool to research for yourself, you’ll probably find that Plus/Minus and Consistency Rating are important in cash games and Upside Rating and ownership rate are important in guaranteed prize pools. After each slate, GPP ownership patterns can be studied in our DFS Ownership Dashboard.

Also, do some A/B tests to find out what’s important to your process.

Make the Important Decisions First

For some people, the first decision in any process is the hardest because there are so many possibilities. Let’s say that we have a full 15-game MLB slate. Should you lock in a pitcher? What type of pitcher do you want? How much do you want to pay at the position? Should you prioritize K Prediction or the data from our Vegas Dashboard? Or before locking in a pitcher should you lock in a batter? Which batter? At which position? What if he has dual eligibility? Does salary matter?

When you’re almost done building a lineup and have just one spot left to fill, the options are limited. A salary threshold and position requirement restrict your choices. What happens if a player you want (or need) to roster isn’t eligible for your last spot? Then you f*cked up.

When you’re just starting to build a roster, your options are effectively infinite. What should you do to make sure that you don’t get decision fatigue — and also don’t leave important players out of your lineup? Lock in the most important players first. Decide first to put them in your rosters.

If you are building a cash game lineup and believe that Consistency Rating is king, then lock in first the players who steadily provide value. If you are building a GPP lineup and desire roster uniqueness, then lock in first the high-upside players likely to provide an ownership edge.

Prioritize the hard decisions. Make them first.

Make Important Decisions Early in the Day

It’s not enough to make important DFS decisions early in the DFS process. You need to make these important decisions — or at least start thinking about these decisions — early in the process of your day.

Let’s say that you’re a ‘normal person,’ which we both know you probably aren’t, but whatever: Let’s say you’re normal. You wake up, you go to your job, you try to do your DFS research there but get slammed with actual work, you have awkward mind-numbing interactions with your boss and dumb-as-f*ck coworkers, and then you finally get around to researching for and setting your MLB lineups at the end of the workday.

Clearly, this is not an optimal time to think and make decisions. You’re probably already on tilt because of your job, and your brain is tired.

Instead of making big lineup decisions late in the day, take a page out of the ol’ Benjamin Franklin playbook, wake up early, and show that grindstone who’s the DFS boss.

If your DFS lineups are important to you — and they probably are because you read these articles and subscribe to FantasyLabs — then you should make crucial lineup decisions at the most optimal time of the day. For most people, that’s in the morning (or shortly after they wake up).

Enhance Your Performance

At the risk of sounding like Labs Co-Founder Jonathan Bales (or your mother), I want to remind you that sleep is important. You are your sharpest when you’re rested. This is partially why it’s best to make important decisions in the morning. You’ll never be more rested than you are right after you awake.

Sleep enhances your decision-making process and performance.

You know what else enhances performance? Food and exercise. Just because it’s obvious doesn’t mean it isn’t worth saying. In the morning you have breakfast, and that bodily fuel helps your brain function. If you exercise a little bit in the morning — even if it’s just 10 f*cking jumping jacks — that can also help you think: It is solved by walking.

If your schedule doesn’t allow you to make important DFS decisions earlier in the day, then it’s probably not a bad idea to to eat some power food and also to do a little light exercising to get your blood flowing and release endorphins. No matter how sharp and efficient you are at suboptimal times, it’s doubtful that some food and quick exercises won’t make you sharper and more efficient.

When Labs C0-Founder Peter Jennings (CSURAM88) is monitoring the news and making adjustments as lineup lock approaches, he prefers to work while standing up so that his body is moving and he’s more alert.

Also, while I’m not really into caffeine — I amazingly haven’t had a caffeinated drink in over seven years; is it possible to #humblebrag about something nobody gives a f*ck about? — there are a lot of people who have one cup of coffee per day, usually in the morning, because it makes them more alert. Pairing caffeine with DFS decision-making might not be a horrible idea.

Sleep, food, exercise, and caffeine: The performance enhancers of champions.

Plus Viagra.

Manage Your Environment

When I was in college, I had a few select areas where I liked to study:

  • The quiet room on the second floor of the student center
  • One of the big wooden tables near an outlet in the main room on the second floor of the library
  • The small corner table in the third-floor study room in the dorm I lived in for two years

I became used to the patterns of those places: When they would be populated, when the sun would shine into them at awkward angles, which chairs were more comfortable than others, etc. When I was in those places, I was mentally comfortable and at my best. I wasn’t distracted by my surroundings. I was focused. Time slowed down. My mind sped up. I crushed. (Also, I was caffeinated, so that might account for the time distortion.)

If you can make your DFS decisions in an environment you like — whether that’s your kitchen table, a coffee shop, the bed, etc. — that’s what you should do. You’ll make better big choices if your brain isn’t having to make hundreds of micro decisions in reaction to your unknown and/or unpredictable environment.

Simplify Your Important Decisions

In theory, if you commit yourself to focus first on the factors that are most correlated with DFS success, then you will simplify your process by necessity. Of course, you could also prevent decision fatigue by simplifying your process, which will force you to focus on what’s most important — if you want to continue to play DFS.

Either way works.

Simplicity = Speed

If the first and most important step of your lineup-building process is simple — efficient — then it will also likely be fast.

For the sake of argument, let’s say that I am building an MLB cash game lineup and have decided that, since stud pitchers tend to be more reliable and consistent than stud hitters, I will focus first on pitchers. Also, since strikeouts, opponent implied total, and moneyline odds to win are important to pitchers, those will be the metrics I focus on most. And now let’s say that within our Player Models I see a pitcher who has a high K Prediction, a low opponent total, and high moneyline odds. Unless that pitcher is priced as if he’s Clayton Kerhsaw but in fact is not Kershaw, I’m likely to lock that pitcher into my lineup without a second thought and then start analyzing hitters.

Is that the best process ever? Probably not — but it will prevent decision fatigue 100 percent of the time.

The Micro Habit

A few months ago, I wrote a couple of pieces about DFS micro habits, easy-to-do actions that each take less than 60 seconds to complete.

If you find that you’re suffering from DFS decision fatigue, you might want to commit to spending no more than 60 seconds on deciding who you’ll lock into your lineup first. That might sound intense, but if you’ve done the macro research with the Labs Tools to know what’s important than it shouldn’t take much more than a minute to find the player who has what you value most.

If you find that it regularly takes you a long time to decide which player in a slate is the one you most want to roster, you probably need to do some research that has nothing to do with the slate.

Ultimately, knowledge is the primary means to prevent decision fatigue.


The Labyrinthian: 2017.55, 150

Previous installments can be accessed via my author page or the series archive.