How I Learned to Make Better Decisions, Faster
The antidote to decision fatigue is decision commitment.
Ask any entrepreneur how he or she approaches decision-making and each will offer you a different response. Some may tell you that they base it on five key criteria. Others may rely on routines specific to the task at hand. But, no matter the approach, we can agree on this: The act of making numerous decisions can sap our energy and drain us to the point of fatigue. Is exhaustion borne of making decisions an actual phenomenon? And if the answer is yes, what's an entrepreneur to do?
Turns out, decision fatigue is real and documented by research. Clinically, decision fatigue is characterized as "the deteriorating quality of decision-making by an individual following a long session of making decisions." When I first began researching the term, I came across a study that was conducted by a team of academics in psychology and management. The study found that decision fatigue exhausts self-regulatory resources. Moreover, it negatively impacts one's physical and pain tolerance, weakens their persistence in the face of failure and, ultimately, leads to greater passivity. Decision fatigue is a force that we as entrepreneurs need to stay ahead of -- for ourselves, our business partners and those we love.
After years of trial and error, I've learned a few lessons about how to manage decision fatigue. Considering my three main roles in life -- entrepreneur, CEO and dad -- I've devised systems that help me stay committed to what matters most. Try them on for size, use them as you wish and, above all, don't let decision fatigue drag you down. As the kids say: You've got this.
Role one: A dedicated entrepreneur
Life as an entrepreneur has often reminded me of our most basic needs, like shelter and food. Hunger can wreak havoc and lead to decision fatigue that has massive consequences. It's a scientific fact.
Take judicial rulings, for example. A research study revealed that the likelihood of a judge approving a criminal for parole correlated with the time of day during which the judge had taken a food break. The researchers, who spent 10 months evaluating more than 1,100 court cases, reported that the percentage of favorable rulings dropped steadily from 65 percent to nearly zero within each decision session. However, regardless of the severity of the crime, the percentage of favorable rulings rapidly returned to 65 percent following a food break.
What can we learn from this study? We've got to get ahead of hunger. And not just our own, but also that of our colleagues and business partners. We want them to be able to make smart, strategic decisions. At every meeting I run -- whether it lasts for an hour or is a two-day workshop -- I commit to providing food, beverages and snacks. It's simple but profound: We need to nosh or our creative neurons won't fire.
Role two: A committed CEO
As a CEO, it's my job to commit to nurturing the careers of my peers. And in turn, they do the same for me. That's why I'm proud to be a member of Vistage, a peer-to-peer organization designed for CEOs and business owners. Vistage has broadened my perspective and strengthened my decision-making capabilities. It also affords me the opportunity to travel regularly as a Vistage Workshop speaker, connecting with other Vistage members and advancing our shared mission.
With travel comes a heavy dose of decision-making. I've devised a three-part system that addresses the critical elements of work travel decisions: packing, flying and driving.
Part 1: Packing
Get it down to a science so that you can carry on your luggage. For the gentleman, bring just the number of dress shirts you need. For the ladies, a professional black dress that you can wear with multiple blazers or scarves will take you far. Pack your dress clothes in dry cleaning bags and, when you get to your hotel, hang them in the bathroom to steam while you shower. Don't waste time trying to decide which toiletries to bring. Call the front desk and request the toiletries you need. They'll gladly deliver.
Part 2: Flying
Again, the theme is saving time by streamlining decisions. Invest in TSA PreCheck, which allows eligible, low-risk travelers experience expedited security screening. You'll be able to breeze through security lines and get to your gate with time to grab a coffee, check your email and check in with your team at the office.
Part 3: Driving
Once you've landed from a five-hour fight, the last decision you want to make is which car to rent. Membership to a service like Hertz Gold Plus Rewards is well worth your time. You can book a car with ease, quickly pick up and drop off your car and avoid having to take time-consuming shuttles to the car rental depot. Plus, it's free.
Role three: A devoted father
By far, my most challenging and rewarding role is that of Dad. I relish my time with my family and am constantly inspired by my three sons to do and give my best. Over my time as a dad, I'm reminded of all that I don't know, but the one thing that I know with absolute certainty: I love my sons unconditionally. And I'm committed to spending time with them and helping them grow. That's why a bulk of my free time is spent coaching my sons and their peers on the basketball court.
Anyone who plays competitive sports will tell you that decision-making is a critical factor in the game. You are, literally, running against the clock. As a coach, I equip my team with knowledge so that they can lead themselves to victory. I inform them about the purpose of every practice, outlining why they're doing a particular drill and how it will serve the team in a win. The result: They're learning to identify which decisions are critical and which aren't; which require immediate attention and which don't.
In the boardroom and on the basketball court, we face challenges. Those challenges can be multiplied by decision fatigue or we can triumph over it. Sometimes we win. Sometimes we lose. But, with every game -- on and off the court -- I know that I've committed to streamlining the decisions in my life so that I can focus on what matters most: the smiles that appear on the faces of my colleagues, team members and sons when they run toward their goal, shoot and score.
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