Make better decisions by making fewer decisions

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I’ve heard it said that successful people make decisions quickly and change their mind slowly, if at all. One advantage this confers is that it helps the decision-maker avoid “decision fatigue,” a phenomenon that refers to the “deteriorating quality of decisions made by an individual after a long session of decision making.”

One study of judges reviewing parole applications found that judges were more lenient earlier in the day than they were after a long session of decision making:

What the researchers found was that at the beginning of the day, a judge was likely to give a favorable ruling about 65 percent of the time. However, as the morning wore on and the judge became drained from making more and more decisions, the likelihood of a criminal getting a favorable ruling steadily dropped to zero.

After taking a lunch break, however, the judge would return to the courtroom refreshed and the likelihood of a favorable ruling would immediately jump back up to 65 percent. And then, as the hours moved on, the percentage of favorable rulings would fall back down to zero by the end of the day.

Apparently, our willpower becomes weaker after we have made a lot of decisions or we are otherwise fatigued.

To make better decisions:

  • Make fewer decisions. Once you decide on something, stick with it, unless there is a very good reason to change your mind.
  • Make important decisions earlier in the day. Similarly, save less important decisions for later in the day, to avoid impulsive decisions.
  • If you have to make important decisions later in the day, eat something first.
  • Schedule important tasks for earlier in the day. When decisions come up, you will be more likely to make better ones.
  • Sleep on it. Before making important decisions, make sure you have had a good night’s sleep.
  • Take breaks throughout the day. Even a few minutes of rest can help you avoid making impulsive decisions.
  • When making important financial decisions, such as for a major purchase, decide as much as possible in advance. For example, when buying a car, decide on as many variables before going to the dealer and speaking to a sales person.
  • Turn off distractions (email, Internet, social media) when working. Constant decision making (e.g., should I check my email?) is wearing and inefficient.

Of the lot, making fewer decisions will probably give you the biggest bang for your decision-making buck. Lawyers have the most difficultly with this, don’t we, what with all that “one the one hand” and “one the other hand” conditioning? Life is easier, however, when you can get some things off your decision-making plate and be done with them.

For example, let’s say you are undecided about the use of social media in your marketing. You hear everyone and his brother saying “you must” and you hear me and a handful of others saying “not necessarily.” Then you hear about the different platforms you can use and how best to use them. Every day, you are bombarded with information and advice.

Wouldn’t it be nice to know what you will and won’t do?

Spend enough time researching the subject and make up your mind. Then, move on.

If you’re not going to do anything on Pinterest, you never have to read about Pinterest or think about it again. If you don’t like social media and don’t want to use it, don’t beat yourself up about it. Done. Next subject. If you are convinced that Facebook is essential for building traffic and engagement and meeting prospective clients and referral sources, then get busy with it.

The word “decide” comes from the Latin meaning “to kill the alternative”. Go forth and slay some alternative dragons, young warrior. You’ll sleep better knowing they are dead and buried.

How I use social media in my business. Click here.

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Comments

  1. Life has certainly become complicated. In the old days you got paid in cash, banked from your pocket and, when the cash dried up, you did without until pay day. Nowadays life is so busy that it’s hard to get the mind space to know what’s what, let alone how to make a well thought through decision. One of my favourite strategies for decision-making is Edward de Bono’s Six Thinking Hats. Read how I implement it here: http://www.winterwisdom.com/difficulty-making-decisions-simple-technique