It’s 3:30pm on Friday afternoon. Your morning consisted of 3 back-to-back, high intensity meetings. Your lunch was eaten over your keyboard while you pounded out 35 emails. You’ve been making rapid fire decisions for 7 hours straight. Suddenly, your colleague is standing in the doorway of your office asking if you want the chocolate doughnut with sprinkles or the jelly-filled long john. You start to vacillate...
No, neither. My clothes are getting tight.
No, I hardly had lunch. It’s been a stressful day. I deserve it.
Your colleague laughs as both doughnuts are set before you. Ten minutes and two doughnuts later, you’re kicking yourself. You’re supposed to be on a diet.
You are not alone. We have all succumbed to decision fatigue at some point. Every decision we make requires mental energy. After a long session of decision making, the quality of our decisions begins to deteriorate. Our brains respond to low levels of mental energy in a biologically efficient manner - conservation. We tend to take two kinds of energy-saving shortcuts in this state: 1) act impulsively (without thinking through consequences), or 2) do nothing (which often creates a bigger problem down the road).
So what’s the answer? Obviously, we can’t stop making decisions. However, we can limit the number of decisions we have to make with commitment. By committing 100% to certain decisions one time, we can eliminate the need to negotiate those same decisions in the future.
Let’s take the doughnuts, for example.
If, in my quest to become healthier, I commit 100% to “no treats at the office,” when my colleague shows up at 3:30pm with 800 calories, my decision has already been made. No, thank you!
This 100% model applies to most decisions that are solely yours to make. If you commit 100% to “family movie night” on Fridays, when your co-worker invites you to join the company softball team, your decision has already been made. Sorry, I can’t!
If you commit 100% to “not borrowing money,” when a competitor offers you to buy them out and you don’t have the cash, your decision has already been made. I have to pass.
If you commit 100% to “no work emails between 8pm and 8am,” when that negative email shows up in your inbox at 10pm, you won’t see it until 8am, and you just saved yourself from one sleepless night. When you see it in the morning, you’ll address it with renewed energy and clearer thinking.
It doesn’t work if you’re 99% committed because that still necessitates deliberation and deliberation is what zaps your mental power.
By committing 100% to a few decisions within your control, you can automate some of those taxing decisions and preserve your mental prowess for the big decisions.
What’s one thing you can commit 100% to today to avoid decision fatigue?
Try it! You might like it.
Onward and Upward,