I make decisions all day, every day. Big decisions, small decisions, and decisions that end up creating the need to make even more decisions. I had never heard of the term “decision fatigue” until about five years ago (even though I have been living it throughout the past decade).
As I face decisions each day, I often question myself.
“How will I know if I made the right decision?”
“How do I prioritize my time and energy so that I make the best decisions?”
Do you ask yourself similar questions or constantly doubt your own judgment when making decisions? If “yes,” you’ll want to read onward!
What Is Decision Fatigue?
Let’s first explore what decision fatigue means. I’m not usually one to “Google” definitions and use them as a source for my blog, but I think this post calls for it.
According to an article from Medical News Today, “Decision fatigue is the idea that after making many decisions, a person’s ability to make additional decisions becomes worse.”
While the article states decision fatigue has not been determined a “real” condition, I believe that’s mainly because of the difficulty in pinpointing its tangible effects. However, one study revealed that nurses who went without work breaks were not able to make the most efficient or cost-effective decisions about patient care. That’s scary — and rather convincing evidence that decision fatigue really does exist!
4 Ways to Keep Your Mind and Decision-Making Sharp
While no one is immune to decision fatigue, there are ways to help avoid or minimize its impact. Here are some tactics that help me.
1. Visualize the worst outcome.
Business owners are no strangers to stress, which can impair our ability to make optimal decisions. It’s no wonder that many of us experience the sting of burnout and fatigue.
I’ve recently engaged with a psychotherapist to help me with anxiety — namely, the ill effects of stress and worry. One of our activities is creating scenarios that generate fear (imaginal exposure). In a recent homework assignment, I had to think about my worst-case scenario, then write a narrative in first-person as though it’s actually happening. And I’m tasked with listening to that message several times a day.
In the book “Effortless,” author Greg McKeown explores a variety of measures to help overachievers counteract the burnout culture that’s become the norm. In the opening chapter, he suggests we ask ourselves, “What if this could be easy?” It’s a simple tactic to reframe how we look at our work. He calls the approach “invert,’ which involves taking the path of least effort. I now apply it to decision-making by asking myself, “What if this decision could be easy?” This tactic forces me to stop overthinking everything.
In McKeown’s first book, “Essentialism,” he says, “If it isn’t a clear yes, then it’s a clear no.” It’s incredible how many decisions can be distilled to such a simple concept. Try it the next time you’re feeling on the fence about a decision.
3. Rely on purpose.
Ultimately, when I need to make a decision, I go back to our company’s purpose and core values. I ask myself, “What’s in alignment with what we stand for and where we want to go?” That’s the litmus test for all decision-making for the business. Whenever I feel uncertain or unsure, I get the answer and direction for moving forward quickly by snapping back to our purpose.
“Our highest priority is our ability to prioritize.” ~ Greg McKeown
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, another tactic is to consider which decisions you must handle NOW. Likely, you can delay many until later as you work through higher-priority items. “No decision is, in itself, a decision.” There is seldom anything that requires our immediate attention, even though it sometimes feels like we are pulled in a million directions.
Just don't stall lower-priority decisions for too long.
The sheer volume and impact of our decisions can be overwhelming. So, it’s critical to find ways to prevent them from zapping our enthusiasm and energy. Now, the holidays are in full swing, which further compounds our already challenging decision-making responsibilities. We don’t have to let it overtake us, though. Hopefully, one or more of my tips will help you combat decision fatigue successfully.