Credit: Stressed business man covering face with hands in office. Working over time or too much. Problem with failing business or confusion with crisis. Entrepreneur in bankruptcy. Burnout and overwork.
Should you take on that new client? Which button should you press after the green one on that new app so you don’t lose your post? Which accounting cloud package should you use? What will you do if you choose the wrong one, who will you choose to help sort that out?
Your brain just started to go into shutdown mode and say “no more” or worse, “whatever”. It’s called choice overload. Do that too many times a day and choice overload quickly turns into decision fatigue.
Everyone from dieters to law court judges suffers from decision fatigue. In fact, research shows if you’re ever in court and the decision is to be made by a judge, you’re more likely to get a favourable ruling if your case is decided first up regardless of the case.
Especially for small-business owners though, decision fatigue can be particularly bad. Why? Well, primarily because most of us don’t have a fleet of minions, like those in larger businesses, who can make all those smaller decisions on our behalf. According to the ABS, for most SME owners – we’re likely to be it. And worse, often there’s a lot riding on many of the decisions we make.
How do you know you’ve decision fatigue?
You know you should chase some new business – but you’re just too tired, maybe tomorrow. You know the gym will make you feel better, but it’s been a big day. You get home wanting to curl up on the sofa forever. If asked what you’d prefer for dinner, you say “food” – to consider a more fulsome answer is too much to ask.
Small decisions hurt too
Even bouncing between little decisions takes its toll. Do you answer that call or let it go to voicemail? It could be really important – even if you don’t recognise the number. But you’re busy and should just focus (even though you lost your focus the second the phone started to ring). You decide you should answer just as it goes to voicemail. Now you have to wait for the voicemail – that’s irritating. You decide to check voicemail and discover it’s a random sales call. Ugh, what a waste of time and your brain’s decision making capacity. 5-10-20 times a day is flat-out tiring.
How to save yourself for decisions that really matter?
Drop the number of smaller decisions that are required every day. Outsourcing your phone answering, accounting and admin can help significantly there. Lots of small tiresome decisions – gone.
Make decisions in batches. Decide what you’re wearing, eating, doing a week in advance. Write a list and follow.
Take the Steve Jobs option. Wear the same thing every day. That’s 365 decisions less a year!
How to make better decisions
Do your most important thing first. Don’t stop to consider anything else until you’re done – for as long as it takes.
Schedule everything and batch similar tasks – return phone calls in one block. Make new business phone calls in one block. Do your cloud accounting in one block – every second Friday at 3 PM. If it’s not the scheduled time, it doesn’t require your consideration or brain’s decision capability.
P.S. Don’t believe bogus research
The “research” doing the rounds that says we make around 35,000 decisions a day is bogus. It’s made up and not real, academically rigorous, peer-reviewed and published research.
Think about it – that’d be a decision nearly every other second of the day even whilst you’re sleep. The ones have to make are exhausting enough.
Roland Farrugia, Virtual Services Advisor, Serviced Offices International