4 Tactics to Help Leaders Reduce Decision-Making Fatigue

by Mike O'Neill

As a leader, you know you’ve got work to do. You’re staring right at it, and yet, you let yourself get distracted by random Google searches, email, Reddit, Facebook, and your Amazon wish list.

You tell yourself, “I’ll just take a second to look.” And, before you realize it, minutes or hours have passed by.

Does this sound like a typical day for you? I bet it does. I bet you also feel like you spent your whole day making a series of decisions, some small, but often big ones that are vital to your company's continued growth and success.

By the end of your workday, something as simple as choosing what to eat for dinner can suddenly be too exhausting. You’ve reached the point where you don’t want to make any more choices.

The day-to-day requirements of making decisions for your business are never going to go away. As a leader, you’ll have to make decisions that will drive your company forward, or in some cases, hold it back.

This doesn’t mean you’ll have to live in a constant state of being overwhelmed by the volume of decisions you have to make. Keep reading for some simple tactics you can implement immediately to help solve your decision-making fatigue.

What Is Decision-Making Fatigue?

Simply put, decision-making fatigue is the depletion of the ability to make good decisions after a long session of decision making. Social psychologist Roy F. Baumeister coined the term after determining that “decision fatigue is the emotional and mental strain resulting from a burden of choices.”

“When humans are overstressed, we become hasty or shut down altogether, and that stress plays a huge role in our behaviors.” - Tonya Hansel, Ph.D., director of the Doctorate of Social Work at Tulane University.

The more decisions a leader has to make, the worse it’ll get when you need to weigh-in on all of the options and make a well-educated, research-backed business decision.

As if that wasn’t enough, decision-making fatigue doesn’t just come from having to make too many choices. As explained by Baumeister, decision fatigue is “ego depletion” or the idea that:

  1. People have limited willpower, and when your willpower runs dry, you end up making poor choices. Leaders can't afford that.
  2. When working long hours for days at a time or when forced to make highly critical executive decisions, you become depleted at a faster rate.

If you’ve felt those moments where your energy levels are low, and you feel like it’s impossible to decide, you’re in luck. Believe it or not, there are tactics you can use to reduce this decision fatigue, and I’m going to share them with you.

Tactics to Reduce Decision-Making Fatigue

Repetitively doing any task can cause fatigue. But physical fatigue is different from mental exhaustion, which often happens before we're consciously aware of it. There's no room for mental fog when it comes to decision making for businesses. By implementing these tactics, you can reduce your decision-making fatigue and be on your way to less stressful decision making.

Simplify Choices

As silly as this may seem, your workday starts before you even get in the office, with your wardrobe. You may have noticed people in your own business who stick to a limited wardrobe of similar colors and styles.

Former President Obama wore only blue or gray suits while serving his eight years in office. Apple’s Steve Jobs was known for his signature uniform of turtlenecks and blue jeans.

Here are some other ways you can simplify your choices and reduce decision-making fatigue:

  • Work from the same place every day.
  • Create and stick to a meal plan.
  • Set a routine and stick to it.
  • Schedule your day, hour by hour.
  • Set reminders.
  • Turn off alerts.
  • Limit your ‘to-do’ list to five items or less.

The reason? Fewer choices at the start of your day leave room to make more choices later in the day.

Set Priorities and Make Big Decisions First

Schedule your most important decisions first thing in the day. Studies show that while decision making does fluctuate throughout the day, morning decisions tend to be “slower but more accurate.” Whereas decisions made late in the day were made “more abruptly with less accuracy.”

Prioritize your day by tackling your priority list and big decisions first thing to start your day.

Focus on Momentum

Decision-making fatigue can have you feeling out of control. One way to get this control back is to build momentum around a task. If you have a large project you’ve been working on for days, you know the project completion is looming.

There are last-minute decisions you need to make that you’ve been putting off. This is when leaders start to make snap decisions and bad choices. The length and complexity of the project may have worn you down.

Chaining smaller tasks together takes away that big decision of having to get started because our brain tells us that once we get started on a project, we have to finish it.

By breaking the tasks up into smaller pieces, you’ll be completing them with less fatigue.

Take a Nap

If you don’t already have a nap option in your business, you should think about adding it. Allow employees to take power naps during their workday if they choose — this includes you. A 20-minute nap during the day can lower stress levels, increase alertness, and improve your mood.

It may help to put a sign on your office door, letting your team know they’re not to disturb you. Make your office as dim as possible. You can even invest in a sleep mask or earplugs to shut out light and the noise.

Get Help With Decision Making

Delegating decisions will help reduce fatigue. Look at delegating decisions the same way you delegate tasks across your team.

By getting help with making decisions, you reduce the number of decisions in your workday. To do this effectively, you’ll have to stop micromanaging those you delegate to and trust they’ll do a great job.

Are you still feeling stuck? Let us help you discover what’s keeping you stuck and preventing your business from growing. Together we can work through some of the challenges you’re facing and identify a few solutions that you’re confident will deliver the results you’re needing.

When you sign up for our Get Unstuck And On-Target Workshop, you’ll learn how to avoid decision-making fatigue and start putting what you learned into practice. It gives you three core things to focus on to improve your business. We’ll also break down the exact steps necessary to achieve each of those three things.

Sign up for your seat in the workshop now.

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