Decision fatigue

Decision fatigue

Monday morning.

Due to a huge snowfall during the weekend, you find your kids are not going to attend school. You need to arrange many unexpected things for the day: who are going to stay at home with them, what they are going to have for lunch, where to work with a minimum level of noise (in case you stay enjoying a full day of homeschooling).

During the morning, an unexpected request coming from your boss arises. You need to reprioritize your schedule for the week to take charge of it.

More decisions.

After lunch, in a meeting with your team, you need to make some decisions about who will take charge of the mentioned project and how to rearrange the rest of things on going.

And finally, at the end of the day, you find your urgent critical meeting in which you need to present the summary of the year, and confirm the next steps, in front of the executive committee has been postponed. You won’t be able to launch in time some new initiatives for the next 6-12 months. Many questions arise, and you need to make decisions to move on.

When you finally meet your family for dinner, one of your kids says: You know what? Grandma called and ask me if you want her to make apple pie or strawberries pie. She would bring it by the end of the week and needs to know.

And you suddenly collapse. You just can’t make it! Maybe it appears in the form of an ‘I don’t really care!’ statement (and you know you hate apple pie!).

What, under other circumstances, is an easy choice becomes hard if we have already made many decisions.

Does this sound familiar? Have you ever felt this way?

This is the decision fatigue: the more choices we are forced to make, the more the quality of our decisions deteriorates.

This type of stress is very common to those in leadership positions, and you may be surprise how much daily decisions impact how we make important choices.

What to do if you suffer decision fatigue?

I challenge you to consider how many small or big decisions you make every day at home and combine it with the number of decisions you made at work. How was it?

If we know we perform worst when we have to make many decisions, what can we do to cut them down?

Probably, you’ve heard about people like Einstein or Steve Jobs. They exactly wore the same outfit every day. The reason behind is they cut small decisions down to focus on what was important.

Of course, I’m not saying that you should do the same! It is the lesson behind what I’m more interested in.

There are some interesting strategies you can develop to reduce decision fatigue:
  • Simplify. Are you clear about the things you don’t really mind? Let them go. Don’t drain your energy with them.
  • Plan. If you know there is something to decide about every week (agenda for weekly meeting, for example) do it once and don’t go over it.
  • Delegate. Not all your decisions are important the same. How many can you delegate?
  • Focus. Find what you need to take care of and focus on it. To be able to do that you need time to think and evaluate (yes, evaluation is about making decisions). Invest your time in finding what requires your attention once, and then focus on it.
  • Prioritize. Once you decide what really matters, take care of the most important thing first.

Making decisions is a tough and tiring work. We can make a few changes to help us improve the results for the ones that are important for you.