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How entrepreneurs can overcome decision fatigue

Posted by Shivali Anand

February 1, 2022    |     5-minute read (809 words)

An entrepreneur's success is largely predicated on their ability to make decisions. Many of these decisions have to be made quickly and with little time for consideration, even though they could have serious repercussions. Knowing that certain choices will have a lasting impact on your company’s future can become a heavy weight to bear.

After all, it takes a lot of mental energy to evaluate every aspect of an issue before coming up with a viable solution, especially when this happens frequently. Handling strategic choices, such as how to handle a transaction, what tactics to use against a rival and how to pivot during the pandemic, is exhausting even for the most tenacious entrepreneur.

What is decision fatigue?

The mental labor of making several judgments can result in a state of mind known among psychologists as decision fatigue. As many entrepreneurs can attest, prolonged and repetitive decision-making sessions can chisel away at one’s patience and cognitive abilities. Depending on the individual, it may eventually cause procrastination, poor choices or a loss of willpower. 

This is not to argue that successful entrepreneurs are incapable of making decisions; far from it. Almost every day, they have to make tough decisions. However, this does not guarantee that they always make the best decisions. According to psychological researchers, the more decisions you make during the day, the more challenging each one gets for your brain, leading you to take “shortcuts” such as behaving rashly or simply doing nothing.

10 techniques for dealing with decision fatigue

You can do a few things to refuel your stamina and regain control of your energy and restore efficiency to your decision-making process. Here are 10 expert-vetted strategies for managing decision fatigue listed.

  1. Get a fresh perspective – While making every decision on your own may feel empowering, getting an impartial second point of view can be helpful. Step outside of your head and imagine yourself advising others on the decision you're facing. Or consult with a trusted mentor who has likely been faced with similar decisions in the past. The idea is to reignite your capacity to judge from afar while still coming to your own conclusions.

  2. Prioritize and establish deadlines – Examine your to-do list, and prioritize. To avoid procrastination, mental health experts advice setting micro-deadlines for each task. However, entrepreneurs are the most likely to encounter decision fatigue after completing a long, challenging project. Due to the project's intensity, this is the stage where people tend to make hasty decisions. Deferring a decision at this time increases your ability to apply better judgment.

  3. Schedule your time – Plan your day in advance and devote particular hours to specific projects. Set a time limit for critical thinking in the routine. Entrepreneurs seldom consider the time they spend thinking about essential company tasks as work, but this is incorrect. By setting aside time for critical thinking, you no longer regard these times as "free time."

  4. Create a decision matrix – A decision matrix can help you make the best decision by removing emotion from the equation. By design, it guides you to see possibilities by listing the aspects to consider and ranking their importance.

  5. Delegate – Assigning or sharing decision-making duties reduces decision fatigue. You shouldn't be the only one who weighs factors involved in picking an important option. Ask those you trust to describe what they would do in your position. Consider their points of view, then compare yours to see what unfolds. By showing your trust in your employees, you empower them.

  6. Establish a routine – A daily routine simplifies your options. Consider setting an alarm for the same time every day, eating the same healthy breakfast and wearing the same outfit throughout the week. You can also batch tasks by assigning them to specific days of the week.

  7. Limit alternatives – Restricting your options reduces the odds of decision fatigue. The theory is that the fewer options you have, the less energy you need to expend. When facing a plethora of options, you face more uncertainties and can be tied up in decision-making, which saps brain function. When you have only two or three options, it is much easier to choose.

  8. Get quality sleep – Research shows that getting 8-9 hours of good-quality sleep every night is conducive to a positive emotional state and optimizes people’s mental capacity. Adjust glare from computer screens, room temperature and bedding to promote sleep.

  9. Develop good habits – Constant decision-making drains our willpower, which can lead to junk food intake, a lack of exercise and poor health. Automating good habits frees up your brain for work.

  10. Regulate mood – It's important to regulate your emotions before making a decision, which can be challenging when faced with an emergency. Techniques such as meditation or taking a pause can help you control your emotions. The objective is to review choices in a less stressful, less emotional environment.

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