This is How High-Achievers Make Smart (And Avoid Bad) Decisions

Photo by Olu Eletu on Unsplash

Do you know how many decisions you make every day?

Various internet sources estimate that an adult makes about 35,000 remotely conscious decisions each day.

And it might seem absurd, but we make 226.7 decisions per day regarding food only, according to study conducted researchers at Cornell University. The study showed that we spend a way more decisions than needed on things like what to eat, how much to eat, with whom to eat, which restaurant to eat, and many more.

Doesn’t it sound so fatiguing?

Just like physical fatigue, there is a concept of Decision Fatigue.

The fact of the matter is decision fatigue can lead us to analysis-paralysis situation. While we love to have many choices in life, as it gives us possibility to improve the quality of our life by choosing the best. But the downside of too many choices is that it often becomes overwhelming, when we need to make so many choices each day like what to eat, what to wear or whether or not to respond to this email now.

A study was conducted in 2011 to examine the factors that influenced the decision of judges in Israel in a particular type of case of granting parole to criminals.

It was noted that during the morning, judges have the tendency to deliver positive rulings that resulted in approving the parole of criminals almost 65% of the time. But as the morning hours went by, the chances of giving favorable rulings dropped to zero. Again immediately after the lunch break, the judges started to give favorable rulings almost 65 percent of the time. But this percentage moved to zero from the late afternoon again.

The study established that judges’ quality of decision-making ability deteriorated by making more decisions, so they started to avoid making decisions and thus rejected the parole applications.
The downside of this decision fatigue is two-fold: when we get tired of making decisions, we either (1) start avoiding making decisions and (2) worse we don’t make the right decisions.

But high-achievers selectively choose to avoid decisions, which are not worthy of their precious time.

Former President Barack Obama was once asked generally about how he makes decisions. He said, “You’ll see, I wear only gray or blue suits. I’m trying to pare down decisions. I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing, because I have too many other decisions to make.”

Also, look at Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg — they all wore pretty much the same outfits everyday giving themselves one less decision to think about.

Here are few ways, by which you can you start avoiding decision fatigue and make better decisions:

  1. Make your best decisions in the morning. Your mind is clearer and you’re not worn from the the day’s activities yet. You could also include decision making within your Most Important Tasks (MIT’s) and commit to finishing them first. This is what Brain Tracy calls as Eat That Frog.
  2. Limit your options: If you have too many options, narrow it down to limited few only. If you are offered ten choices, you cannot make a better decision of choosing one out of ten. The best course is to start eliminating the options one-by-one based on your decision parameters. Only after you are left with three choices, then make your decision.
  3. Decide the night before about what decisions you’re going to make. If you’ve a pre-planned agenda already set the night before, then you wouldn’t be inclined to indulge in something that doesn’t align with your day’s pre-determined schedule.
  4. Don’t make big ticket decisions,when you are hungry. A study showed that if your blood level lack glucose (the body’s fuel) due to hunger, you can’t make decisions which are beneficial for long term. Lack of glucose adversely affects your will power and you tend to choose smaller but short term reward. Make important decisions, when your brain has more inventory of glucose as energy.
  5. Excuse yourself from the situations or places that are simply distracting. For example, to avoid getting in the trap of social media, you need to build self-discipline to watch it a specific allocated period only. Similarly, if you’ve nothing to contribute in any meeting, try to avoid such meetings.

The High performers know how to develop their self-discipline and avoid situations of decision fatigue, which enables them to make smart decisions.

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