Decision Fatigue is now widely accepted as reality.  It basically means that your ability to make good decisions, or in fact any decision decreases over time during the day.

Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerburg

Everyone knows the stories of Steve Job’s black turtlenecks and Mark Zuckerburg’s sweatshirts.  For a long time I thought it was sort of their trademark and part of their personal brand.

However, I have come to learn that it was their way of lessening decision fatigue and willpower exhaustion.  I have come to see how decision fatigue can destroy our ability to make good decisions and that we have a limited amount of willpower that we use up during the day.

High level executives like Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg are called upon to make many critical decisions every day.  Wearing the same thing every day eliminates one decision they have to consider every morning.  (It should be noted that they probably own dozens of black turtlenecks or gray sweatshirts, so they are wearing “clean “ ones each day!)

Decision fatigue can show up in several ways besides simply making bad choices.  You can become irritable and easily angered by others.  This is certainly not the behavior you want in a leader trying to motivate people.

Sometimes important decisions are delayed because you simply don’t have the energy to make them.  This can result in chaos, missed opportunities, and needless stress.

So How Do You Deal With Decision Fatigue?

First you can automate everything possible.  This eliminates the need to make any decision at all.  Or at least it means you only need to make a decision once.

Examples include:

Wardrobe – Works for Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerburg.  Maybe you create your system by arranging your clothes for the week in your closet ahead of time.  Know what you are going to wear on Monday through Friday so you don’t have to think about it during the week.

Finances – Everyone knows you should pay yourself first. Set up an automatic transfer to your savings account.  And set up as many of your bills as possible to be paid automatically.

Daily Planning – Before you finish for the day at least have a plan for the next morning so you don’t have to think too much about it the next day.  You can just get to work on your priorities without having to make decisions about what to do first.

Weekly Planning – Same idea for the week.  Figure out your main goals for the week on Sunday when you are fresh.

Procrastinate on purpose – Procrastination is usually bad but it might be better than a hasty bad decision.  However, make it count by setting up something where you know when you will have the information available to make a good decision.

Does There Need To Be A Decision?

  • Is the decision too small to matter?
  • Will it resolve itself?
  • What happens if I do nothing – worse case scenario, if you can live with it, forget about it.

How To Quickly Make A Decision?

Limit Choices – In a work environment maybe an assistant or subordinate can whittle down the possibilities to two or three choices, along with a recommendation (and it’s good for their training.)

Pro and Cons List – On a scratch pad make a quick list of pros and cons and see if the decision becomes obvious.

Seek advice from a small team (spouse, kids, friends) – You don’t want a huge committee, but input from a trusted few can make all the difference.

Congratulate Yourself On Little Wins.

This one is so important.  You make lots of good decisions.  Maybe track them in your journal.  You will build self confidence which will help take the stress out of future decisions.

Image by Concord90 from Pixabay