One of the things that no one tells you when you start a business is that eventually, you will hate making decisions
In the beginning, they are all fun. What will your business name be? What colors and designs should make up your logo? How are you going to organize your equipment in your vehicle that is clearly not made to handle window cleaning equipment? After a few years, however, the decisions can become much more mundane. Should we leave paper invoices with customers or is email fine? Is it time to update our phone greeting? Do we clean mirrors for free as a perk or offer it with an upcharge? That’s the cost of being the boss and you learn to deal with that stress one way or another.
The problems come when the number of decisions we must make in a day intersects with the inundation of needless facts that we receive in this age of information overload. Now we aren’t just making decisions about our life and business. Instead, we find our time and energy being bombarded with so much information that has little to do with our own life or business.
The result is decision fatigue, the inability to give the proper amount of time and attention to important decisions.
The effects of decision fatigue were highlighted in a study published by the National Academy of Sciences. They examined 1,112 judicial rulings of parole hearings over a 10-month period. In the study, they found that the most influential determining factor of favorable rulings for the potential parole candidates was not what you would expect, such as the type of crime committed or improved behavior during their sentence. Instead, it was the time of day that the criminal appeared before the judge!
At the beginning of the day, judges were on average giving favorable rulings to 65% of the cases. However, as the day went on and the judges became exhausted from all the decisions they had to make in a day, those rulings dropped down to zero. Yes, zip, zilch, nada. The more decisions they had to make, the less time and energy they were willing to give to future decisions. This impaired their judgment and had real-world effects on the lives of those depending on their consistent fairness and insight.
What this tells us is that you need to be aware of the effects that decision fatigue can have on you. What can you do to lessen the odds that you fall into the same trap as those judges?
1 – Reduce the number of decisions you need to make in a day
Is it possible that you are using valuable time and energy to make decisions that don’t have a wrong answer? Simplify your life. Not all decisions have a result that will make a tangible difference to your business. Often a decision just needs to be made so you can move on to more important things. Are you really going to spend 10 minutes deciding whether to buy the gold or silver paper clips for the office? Avoid being a perfectionist and micromanager so you can move on to the things that actually matter.
2 – Take control of your social media intake
How many times have you found yourself arguing online with someone you don’t know, about a subject that has no real importance in your life, knowing full well that they’ll never change their mind? I’ve done it way more than I care to admit. Unfriend people who seem to only exist to troll people. If you can’t unfriend them for some reason, then at least unfollow their posts. You are under no obligation to add stress to your life just because a relative or business associate thrives on negativity. Also, limit the time you are on social media during the workday. It’s designed to be a time suck and it does its job well. Remind yourself that your brain needs to be fresh for the decisions that matter.
3 – Empower the people you hire to make decisions for you
The other trap of being a micromanager is that you may feel like you must be the one to have the final word on all decisions. That is not always the best thing for your business. Sometimes your employees are the best ones to make certain decisions because they are the ones the who will be affected by them on a day-to-day basis. By empowering them in this way, you not only increase the odds that the right decision will be made, but you also send a message to them that you respect their judgment and value their contribution to your company. Eliminating some chores from your already busy schedule would be the cherry on top of your business owner sundae.
4 – Make the important decisions early in the day
Learn from the judges in that study! Get the important things done when you have the energy and brain power to give them the attention they need. If you must wait till later in the day to make an important decision, then take a break just before that time. If it falls near lunchtime, eat something healthy during your break so that your hunger doesn’t detract from the focus you will need. Contrary to how you normally treat your body, you are a human and not a machine. It’s ok to accept self-care when you need your mind to function at 100%.
Fatigue is a part of life and owning a business will drain more than just your energy levels. Use discernment to understand what things are truly important to your company.
Will you have enough willpower to do what it takes to make good decisions when the time comes? Only you can be the judge of that.
-By Gabriel Gutierrez