Decision fatigue can have a major impact on our lives, personally and professionally.
Every morning, we hear the alarm and wonder—should I snooze the hit button or sleep more? The day has just begun, and the decisions keep piling up as hours go by. Real problems arise every day at workplaces across the world, where workers and managers are confronted with several issues, such as deciding which candidate to hire or whether to go ahead with a certain business plan.
Decision-making is a skill that can be used in any phase of life, from high school competitions to interviews and leadership roles. Organizations rely on top talent to make thoughtful decisions to keep their business moving forward. But decision fatigue can quickly set in, leading to sub-optimal decision-making.
What causes decision fatigue?
Decision fatigue is a concept coined by social psychologist Roy F. Baumeister. The concept means that the more decisions you have to make, you will begin to feel mentally exhausted and make low-quality decisions. Over time, it will become harder for you to make good and sound calls.
“If your work requires you to make hard decisions all day long, at some point, you’re going to be depleted and start looking for ways to conserve energy. You’ll look for excuses to avoid or postpone decisions. You’ll look for the easiest and safest option, which often is to stick with the status quo,” says Baumeister in his book “Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength”.
This can be problematic in our career and personal lives where we need to be decisive. If we’re not careful, decision fatigue can lead us to make poor choices that we later regret. An example that you and I can relate to is probably impulse purchases. Imagine doing grocery shopping at a supermarket with your very long to-buy list. By the time you are ready to check out, you will find it hard to resist buying candies and snacks close to the cash register. It is because you’ve spent a lot of energy deciding what to buy, and you are left with very little willpower to make rational choices.
Fortunately, there are things that we can do to prevent decision fatigue from impacting our ability to make informed decisions. Here are a few tips!
Make important decisions early in the day
When we’re bombarded with choices throughout the day, our brainpower dwindles, and we make impulsive decisions. To avoid this situation, make your critical decisions early in the day when you are fresh and refreshed. That way, you can be sure that you’re thinking clearly and not just going with your first instinct.
According to sleep expert Dr. Michael Breus, timing is crucial to being innovative, productive and creative because of our biological clock. Chronobiology, or the science of “good timing” shows that we tend to make bad decisions late at night and first thing in the morning. Generally, the best time to make important decisions is within one to three hours after waking up, which is when your cognitive powers are the strongest. So, the next time you have a major decision to make, try to do it in the morning. Your future self will thank you!
Take the strategic route
It can be tempting to just go with your gut instinct when facing a decision. However, this isn’t always the best course of action. Sometimes, it pays to take a more strategic approach. One tool you can use to help you make decisions is a decision matrix. This is simply a table that allows you to weigh up the different options and choose the one that offers the best combination of benefits and drawbacks.
To use a decision matrix, simply list out the different options and then consider each one in terms of key factors, such as cost, risk and timeframes. You’ll see which option offers the best overall solution by doing this. Hence, if you’re stuck with a decision, don’t just go with whatever popping up in your mind—use a decision matrix to help you make the best decision for your business.
Start delegating tasks to others
One way to be more productive is to delegate tasks to others. This can free up your time to focus on more important tasks. If you are leading a team of people, start assigning them tasks and allowing them to make some decisions on their own. This will help distribute the decision-making load and allow you to focus on the bigger picture. In addition, delegating can help foster teamwork. So next time you’re feeling overwhelmed by decision fatigue, remember that delegating can be helpful.
Take breaks between making decisions
While some decisions are easy to make, others can be quite difficult. That’s why it’s important to take breaks between making decisions. Step away from the decision at hand, and give yourself some time to relax. Maybe take a walk, listen to music or talk to a friend. Clearing your mind will help you approach the decision with fresh eyes. And who knows, maybe taking a break will help you find the perfect solution.
Making decisions is tough work, and reducing decision fatigue is certainly no easier. We all experience something from time to time, especially in our professional lives. You can ensure that you’re always making the best decisions for your business by avoiding it.
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