Decision fatigue is a term coined by Dr. Roy Baumeister to describe the phenomena of our will weakening as the number of decisions we have to make increases.
Decision fatigue is the state of mental or physical exhaustion caused by energy depletion that results from the necessity to make too many decisions.
It’s a problem that affects most entrepreneurs at some stage, but with the right strategies, it can be better understood and managed.
The problem of decision fatigue can arise from various factors, all of which could be attributed to either an excess or a deficiency of something:
- too many choices
- lack of time
- personal responsibility for the outcome
- feeling powerlessness.
Decision fatigue occurs when we become overwhelmed by either the sheer number of decisions we have to make in a given day or the abundance of options available to us.
Choices and decisions managers face👩🏻💼👨🏻💼
Depending on the responsibilities of top managers, they may need to make various decisions on a typical workday.
These are daily decisions that are necessary to keep the organization running smoothly. This could include determining staffing requirements, assigning resources, overseeing stock control, etc.
These are decisions related to financial management and planning. For example, deciding on budget allocation, investments, pricing strategy, cash flow management, etc.
These are choices that pertain to managing personnel. For example, deciding on employee recruitment, performance evaluation, onboarding, training, firing, etc.
These are decisions that have a lasting effect on business development. For example, deciding on a launch of a new product, market entry, market expansion, competitive positioning, mergers and acquisitions, etc.
Crisis management decisions🛠️
This is an area that requires prompt decision-making. For example, deciding on how to handle a data breach, resource allocation failure, natural disaster, or public relations crisis.
Implications of Decision Fatigue🤚🏻
The effects of decision fatigue can have a broad scope, potentially influencing employee welfare, organizational efficiency, and morale.
In extreme cases, it can even lead to failures in various domains.
Poor risk management🌊
Overstrain and cognitive overload lead people to take unjustified risks that could have been avoided if they had been less mentally drained.
Without the energy to thoroughly weigh up their options, employees are prone to making uninformed decisions.
Increased employee turnover rate🙁
Employees who are exhausted from decision fatigue are more likely to quit their job.
When decision makers are too depleted to analyze data and think strategically, they may miss out on potential opportunities.
Low employee morale😔
As employees become mentally fatigued, their morale and overall attitude can suffer, leading to a lack of productivity and motivation. Decision fatigue can cause absenteeism as individuals try to avoid making more decisions.
It can lead to poor performance and a decrease in motivation. Employees can become disengaged from their work and have difficulty concentrating on tasks, which reduces productivity and results in fewer accomplishments.
Organizations may suffer from decision fatigue as well.
First, if a decision needs to be made quickly, decision fatigue can be a huge obstacle.
Secondly, too many decisions lead to failure to capitalize on innovation.
Thirdly, decisions also can become mired in bureaucracy, resulting in an inefficient and costly decision-making process.
The Bottom Line: Employees may become overwhelmed with too many decisions and run the risk of burnout due to a lack of decision-making efficacy.
Both employers and employees face decision fatigue as a daunting challenge. Yet, employers have more instruments to address this issue. In particular, they can ease decision fatigue by streamlining processes and providing clear instructions on job responsibilities.
Furthermore, employers should ensure that the decision-making process is fair and transparent, and offer necessary tools and strategies for coping with causes of decision fatigue.
Can decision fatigue be completely avoided?🛑
Decision fatigue cannot be completely avoided, but it can be reduced by implementing strategies to simplify decision-making and conserve energy.
It's also important to recognize the signs of decision fatigue (procrastination, impulsiveness, reduced focus, irritability, lack of motivation) and take steps to avoid its negative effects.
However, some decisions are unavoidable and require careful consideration. In these cases, it's important to:
- recognize tasks of low and high value
- double-check your data
- challenge your assumptions to ensure accuracy
- remember that decision-making skills can be honed through regular practice.
Ways to Manage Decision Fatigue✍🏿
Break Big Decisions into Smaller Ones💁🏿
One of the most effective ways to manage decision fatigue is to break your biggest decisions into smaller, bite-sized chunks. It will help you set a suitable challenge-to-goal ratio when setting objectives.
Besides, you will be able to tackle one area of the decision at a time, create a plan of action that’s much easier to digest, and cope with cognitive overload.
As Amen MD Daniel G. put it:
Think ahead and always try to make one simple decision now that will prevent you from having to make thirty decisions later on.
Here are some more tips to follow:
✅ Prioritize tasks and focus on the most relevant information
✅ Implement productivity tips specific to your business
✅ Reduce external factors that contribute to cognitive overloads, such as noise or distractions
✅ Avoid an onslaught of new information by cutting it up into smaller pieces.
Automate Repetitive Decisions🤖
Another way to manage decision fatigue is to automate as many of the repetitive decisions as you can. This could include:
- automating analytics reports
- setting up triggers for emails to customers
- scheduling regular meetings with team members
- applying advanced time tracking solutions for accurate work time calculations.
Using automation for routine tasks can help you save time and energy, allowing you to distinguish between factual data and subjective interpretation.
Build your time management strategies ⏰
Constructing your lifestyle in a manner that limits the requirement for self-discipline is an assured method to enhance control.
This requires avoiding situations that will challenge your limits, such as overlooking your sleep management, attempting to manage multiple assignments all at once, or scheduling back-to-back meetings.
First and foremost, effective time management implies establishing habits that eliminate the need for constant decision-making.
For example, rather than relying on your willpower to manage your time, you can use a reliable time tracker that automatically clarifies how realistic your time allocation is.
This will not only conserve your willpower but:
✅ indicate when you are most productive
✅ ensure the prevention of burnout.
In the end, the most skilled decision makers are those who can save energy, identify their peak productivity times and allocate them for handling critical decision-making tasks.
Take Time to Recharge🔋
Research in the field of cognitive psychology suggests that:
...a break is simply an opportunity to rest and return with more energy to the problem.
This means following simple tips:
- prioritizing self-care by getting enough exercise
- reducing decision-making outside of work by simplifying other areas of your life
- delegating decision-making
- using aids like checklists and templates to streamline decisions when possible
- taking regular breaks
- scheduling some time for yourself to relax and unwind
- building a healthy bedtime routine
- giving yourself permission to take time away from work when it’s needed.
All of these small breaks will help to re-energize your mind so that it is better equipped to handle complex decisions.
A suggestion we would also offer is to consider refraining from treating every decision with a sense of gravitas as if they all hold equal weight and importance.
Create a Routine📆
Creating a routine can also be a great way to manage decision fatigue. By having a set schedule and routine in place, you will be better equipped:
- to handle the number of decisions
- to manage your energy efficiently.
This could involve setting aside specific times for making decisions. It can aid in addressing emotional concerns.
As a side note, difficult emotions can cause people to make decisions too quickly or too slowly. If managing emotions proves to be difficult, it may be beneficial to get assistance from a third party to determine the best time to make a decision.
Build clear protocols in your organization📃
To combat decision fatigue, organizations should look for ways to streamline the decision-making process:
- Set clear expectations and criteria for decisions.
- Prioritize decisions that require urgent attention.
- Utilize empirical data and objective facts to inform decisions.
- Involve multiple stakeholders in decision-making to alleviate cognitive overload.
- Establish a timeline for decision-making and ensure that all decisions are made within that timeframe.
- Make use of decision-making tools and automated systems to aid in the decision-making process.
- Incorporate feedback from employees and other stakeholders to ensure that decisions reflect different perspectives
When making a decision, it's important to have all the necessary information and commit to the choice you make.
Putting off a decision will only increase the mental strain. It's also helpful to have a contingency plan in place for likely outcomes or complications so that you can make decisions ahead of time and be prepared for urgent situations.
Attending to one's mental and physical well-being may also serve to alleviate the effects of decision fatigue.
Further, it is advisable to utilize established protocols within your company instead of attempting to devise a new solution in the heat of the moment.
By following the strategies outlined above, entrepreneurs can significantly reduce their decision fatigue and maintain a level of energy and focus throughout their work.
SM: It's a tough world out there for decision-makers. The constant barrage of choices, trade-offs, and uncertainties can leave even the best of us feeling depleted and overwhelmed. Fortunately, there are ways to beat decision fatigue.
SM: Making decisions can be a daunting task in today's world. The sheer volume of choices, trade-offs, and uncertainties can easily overwhelm even the most capable individuals. However, there are strategies that can help us overcome decision fatigue and emerge stronger.
Firstly, it's essential to break down complex decisions into manageable pieces. Attempting to tackle everything at once is akin to swallowing a whole meal without chewing. Instead, we should approach the decision-making process by breaking it down into bite-sized chunks that we can handle one step at a time.
Secondly, it's crucial to be mindful of our workload. Taking on too much at once can lead to feeling bogged down, while too little can result in boredom and complacency. It's important to strike a balance between challenge and motivation that keeps us moving forward and performing at our best.
Lastly, prioritizing self-care is key. Neglecting our physical and mental well-being can lead to failure in decision-making. Therefore, it's essential to take care of ourselves by getting enough rest, exercise, and proper nutrition. By doing so, we can approach decision-making with a clear mind and the energy needed to make sound choices.