Every day, you make thousands of little decisions about what to wear, eat or focus on while at work.
Many of these happen on autopilot, but if you’re busy, decision fatigue inevitably sets in.
Consider if you’ve ever opened the fridge after a long day at work, gazed into the white light and thought, “I just don’t know what I want.”
Your brain can’t decide what to do anymore. So you reach for last-night’s take-out.
Decision fatigue has more serious consequences at work.
One study found, that U.S. clinicians were 26% more likely to prescribe unnecessary antibiotics to patients during the fourth work hour of a typical day.
The overworked executive replies to an email that pops into his overloaded inbox because it’s the most recent.
The struggling freelancer decides to contact the client she likes rather than the difficult one who pays the most.
And so on.
How To Avoid Decision Fatigue
It’s best to make a decision when you feel mentally fresh.
Let’s say you want to work out three times each week.
The fresh, motivated you decides Sunday to train at the gym after work at 6 p.m. every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. You pack gym gear in advance each night.
And the result?
No more moments when you wonder, “Am I too tired to train today?”
This approach applies to healthier eating too.
I train with a CrossFit athlete who prepares her food for the week every Sunday night. During the week, she simply reaches into the fridge or freezer and picks a meal that she decided on days ago.
If you’re an entrepreneur, you might spend hours reading up on potentially useful business tools. Gathering information about these different tools turns into a form of procrastination that wears you out.
Decide in advance to spend money without question on a tool or software if it costs less than $50 or saves an hour of work.
If it’s the wrong tool, you can always move on. But at least you’ll know without having spent hours on a low-value decision.
Ask Your Teams To Use A Decision Log
As your business grows, let your decision-making process evolve too.
It’s fine for you to decide in advance to train at the gym three times a week. That’s not much help for a business decision like a crucial hire or a product launch.
An engaged team records their criteria for business decisions and what they agree on.
Otherwise, they’ll turn into Sisyphus, eternally pushing a large boulder up a steep hill.
A decision log should record:
● The topic(s) under discussion
● A three-to-five-line description of the decision
● Supporting rationale
● Who approved what and when
● The impact of these decisions
● Any other options and follow-up items
● The process and timelines for reviewing said decision
Put this information in a spreadsheet (I like Airtable.), a shared document or another collaboration tool.
Ask your team to review this log at the start of the next meeting. That way, everyone knows what the plan is, even if they disagree.
A decision log shouldn’t take so long to complete that you or your team members procrastinate. Instead, it simply enables everyone on your team to avoid having the same conversations repeatedly.
Whether you’re a team of one or one hundred, the art of decision making takes time to master.
Save your mental resources for higher-value decisions and automate or handover everything else.
Want more? Join my newsletter and get weekly advice about creativity, productivity and leadership.