Spouse: “What do you want for dinner tonight?”
Me: “I don’t know, what do you want?”
Spouse: “You want chicken?”
Me: (with apathy) “Sure.”
Can you relate to this conversation? According to multiple sources on the Internet, the average amount of remotely conscious decisions an adult makes each day equals about 35,000. 35,000! It makes sense why a simple question like “What’s for dinner?” can be so difficult.
As business owners, we are faced with so many decisions. Some of these decisions are automatic and easy. Others require some thought before answering. And there are quite a few big decisions that can be crucial to our business success – or failure.
Should I hire or fire this team member?
Should I make this $10,000 investment in my business?
Do I want to continue to work with this client?
Will this new product idea be successful?
How and where can I find my next big client?
As an online business manager, I work with many clients that feel overwhelmed with decisions. In our interactions, I listen to them process, vent, negotiate, brainstorm, and sometimes even give up. Often times, to make things easier for them, I will jump in with ideas to help them decide faster or make the decision for them. I can see the relief when that decision is off their plate.
Decision fatigue can be overwhelming, exhausting and if we’re not careful, can lead to burnout. Here are some strategies you can use to reduce your decision stress and put you back in the driver’s seat of your business.
- Automate and streamline your life/business as much as possible. Simple decisions can be put on autopilot. Plan your meals for the week on Sunday when you are well rested. Organize things so you don’t need to think about where something goes – everything has its place. All my email goes directly into the right client folder – I don’t need to think about where to file it. It’s just filed. Plan your day so you know exactly what you need to do. Stick to your list so you don’t need to decide what’s next.
- Set boundaries to limit your decisions. Sometimes we fill our lives with so much “extra”. The more people, activities, and events we have to manage, the more decisions we need to make. Should I say “yes” to this coffee invitation? Should I go to this event? Should I do “this” or “that”? Cut back and set some rules around your time and energy. For instance, I have decided I will write two blogs per month. That is what I have time for. If I chose to write a weekly blog, I would need to make four decisions instead of two.
- Delegate your decisions. Other people you trust can make decisions for you. Your spouse (or close family member) can take some of the burden. Your children can take more responsibility for their decisions. An online business manager can make some of your business decisions. Women especially, feel the need to take on more than their fair share of making decisions. It’s okay for you to let go and let someone else decide. Even if their decision is not exactly what you would have chosen, it doesn’t mean it was a wrong decision – just different. At least the decision is made.
Use a process for making complex or tough decisions. When I was coaching, we were trained to use an excellent tool for making decisions. This process works well for “this” or “that” type decisions. Should I keep or fire this team member? Get out a piece of paper and divide it into four squares.
Label the boxes as follows:
- Upper LH box #1: Pros for Keeping this Team Member
- Lower RH box #2: Consequences for Keeping this Team Member
- Upper RH box #3: Consequences for Firing this Team Member
- Lower LH box #4: Pros for Firing this Team Member
The boxes may seem similar but once you start doing deep brainstorming work, you will notice that the answers to your decision lie in boxes two and three. These are the reasons you are stuck. Resolve these reasons and the decision will be easy.
- Make big decisions at your best time of day. Everyone’s biological clock is different. Some business owners are at their best in the morning. Others experience their best time of day in the afternoon, while night owls come alive late at night. Reserve your important decisions when you are at your best. At the same time, if you are having an “off” day, table the decision for another day. The other night I had a terrible bout of insomnia. I was up at 3 AM and never went back to sleep. I would never make an important decision the day after a terrible night of sleep because I know I am being ruled by my emotions.
- Restrict your options. In America, there are literally hundreds of options to choose from. It’s a rich country’s problem. But without getting too political (haha), the idea is to limit the number of choices you give yourself. Why do you think Steve Jobs wore the same thing to work every day? Instead of giving himself a hundred different wardrobe choices, he gave himself one. Easy peasy – he’s dressed without making any decisions. For me, I think I get the most overwhelmed with software options. If I see one more FB post about “your favorite software tool”, I might implode. On one hand, I can get sucked into what’s out there. What shiny new software can I use? I am quickly overwhelmed because it requires too much research and too many decisions. My brain says “Stick to what you have. Simplify!”
- Start with small decisions and work your way up. Sometimes we can get so overwhelmed with decision making that we can’t possibly imagine making any decision. Decision making is much like your never-ending “to do” list. You need the momentum to get started and this often happens by starting small. Make a
coupleof easy decisions to get them off your plate and out of your mind. This free space to make a few more decisions. Keep repeating this process until you’ve cleared enough space to deal with the bigger decisions.
- Get some solid rest and relaxation. One of my favorite pieces of advice from my mother is “Go to bed. You’ll feel better in the morning.” The translation is “you need to take care of yourself. You need to get some sleep. You need to relax and get your mind off things for awhile.” Sometimes when we are overwhelmed with decisions, sleep is the most difficult activity to accomplish. Our mind is racing and preventing us from fully relaxing. If this is happening, it’s time to step away from the business and focus on doing things that are fun, relaxing and refueling for you. Every Friday night after work, I look forward to sitting with my spouse sipping a cocktail. On Sunday evenings, we have been working on a puzzle to get out of the zone of life and into the zone of putting the puzzle pieces together. There is a sense of accomplishment we feel when we find a piece that fits. Everyone’s idea of fun and relaxing is different. What’s important is that you are doing something for you.
What decisions are on your plate right now? Are you feeling stuck or overwhelmed? Which of these strategies will help you move forward, reduce your stress and give you back your business mojo?
Lori Young is a certified online business manager and founder of Amazing OBM. You can delegate business decisions to us. Find out more at www.amazingobm.com.
8 Solid Strategies for Combating Decision Fatigue
April 26, 2019