Insights from Dana
Simple Strategies to Reduce Decision Fatigue

Every day you make countless decisions about how to lead your team, grow your business, and serve your clients. As a business owner, you’re bombarded with decisions all day long, from daily decisions like what to wear or eat, to what comes next for your business and how to get there. 

You start off focused, effective, and decisive, only to end up feeling foggy, impatient, and uncertain, like you’re actually using all your brainpower to get the job done.

It’s called decision fatigue.

What is decision fatigue?

The American Medical Association defines decision fatigue as “a state of mental overload that can impede a person’s ability to continue making decisions”

One of the top skills for really successful business owners is the simple ability to DECIDE, but the more decisions we make over the course of a day, the worse we get at making decisions. 

Decision fatigue is a real thing and it wastes precious time and energy while leaving us feeling frustrated, anxious, and under pressure to make the “right” choice, even when we’ve depleted the mental resources we need to make a good decision.

It’s exhausting–and that exhaustion is undermining your capacity to thrive, to grow your company, and enjoy your life. 

The answer is simple: make fewer decisions and better choices.

Because if we can reduce the number of decisions we have to make, we make better decisions, and we have more time and energy to bring our magic sauce to our work, and to be present in our lives outside of our businesses.

Is it Decision Fatigue or Social Fatigue?

One of the greatest challenges that business owners struggle with is balancing the demands of your business with your need to have a social life. After more than two years of pandemic protocols and isolation, more folks are finding social interactions to be more draining than they were before. 
As we get back into the routine of engaging with the world outside our homes and beyond our screens, how can we distinguish between decision fatigue and social fatigue so that we can be more mindful and intentional with our time and energy?
According to Psych Central magazine, social fatigue is defined as an emotional and physical response to social overstimulation, that leaves you feeling drained and exhausted, you might feel physically tired, you might feel stressed, angry, or irritable. You might notice that being back in the office regularly is more tiring or demanding than you remember it being, or that even after spending time with beloved friends and family, and truly enjoying your time together, you feel worn out or emotional.
Whether you’re learning to manage social fatigue, decision fatigue, or both, remember that these signals are red flags from your body, letting you know that you’re over-extending yourself. While it can be frustrating and difficult to navigate, it’s only when we learn to recognize these physical cues that we can put boundaries and coping mechanisms in place so we can grow ourselves and our businesses in a healthy and sustainable way.

Strategic Step #1: Relax

I know that no one ever wants to be told to relax, but when we’re really grappling with a big decision that has us second-guessing ourselves, we get caught up in the tension of indecision. We consider the options, weigh the pros and cons, talk it through with people we trust, and make a decision, but even then, we keep coming back to worry at our choices like a loose tooth. We’re so afraid of making the wrong decision, that we can’t make a decision at all.

It reminds me of when my kids were in their final years of high school and trying to decide where to go to college. They tied themselves in knots trying to find the best program, the perfect school, the right choice.

In reality, whatever decision they made in the end, they had the power to make it the right decision. That truth applies any time we’re struggling with choices that make us feel like we’re out of our depth; once we make the decision, we can choose to behave as though it is the “right” decision. Because there is no perfect answer. 

Instead of agonizing over the options, consider the possibilities.

What are the predictable outcomes of each choice?

What challenges or obstacles can you identify as a result?

What unintended consequences might crop up if you pursue this particular course of action?

Learning as much as you possibly can about each option and thinking through these questions can help empower you to feel more confident in your decisions.

Once you’ve determined your choice, let go of the other possibilities and relax. Commit to the decision you’ve made. 

Strategic Step #2: Delegate

Effective delegation is an essential skill for any badass CEO. Of course, there are certain decisions that you want to be a part of, but the more you delegate the day-to-day minutiae of how the work gets done, the more time and energy you have to focus on making the visionary business decisions that, as the leader of your company, only you can make.

You hired your team for their expertise, so tell them what results you need and what that looks like, and then trust them to make the decisions that need to be made along the way. Give them room to bring their magic to the table.

Delegate and let it go.

Strategic Step #3: Prioritize

Ditching decision fatigue and setting yourself up to make effective choices means setting some priorities and expectations around your decision-making process.

Make important, time-sensitive decisions when you’re at your best.

Are you a morning person or do you tend to hit your stride later in the day? Identify when you do your best work and schedule time to make significant decisions during that window of time. Taking this approach means that you’ll have the focus and energy you need to process the tasks, meetings, and research necessary to make informed and intentional choices. 

Don’t forget to delegate. You don’t need to make all the decisions. Ensure that you and your team are crystal clear on who is responsible for making which decisions. Remember, when you make fewer choices, you make better choices. 

Some decisions are more time-sensitive than others. Prioritize accordingly.

Practice Your Priorities
Prioritizing the decisions that need to be made and creating space and time to make them can help reduce distractions and decision fatigue.
⇒ Schedule a weekly window for making significant decisions. Identify when you’re most effective and block out a dedicated time to tackle major business decisions. This can help you prepare mentally and, if something comes up, you already know that you have time set aside to manage the choices that need to be made.
⇒ Set aside a specific block of time, once a week, to handle minor decisions that aren’t time-sensitive so you can move through them efficiently. Let your team know when you’ve scheduled decision o’clock so you can spend the rest of your time focused on your magic sauce without being interrupted with distracting decisions.

Strategic Step #4: Automate

Since making decisions consumes so much brain power, and really it does, maximizing the energy you have to make CEO level decisions requires you to minimize anything that demands your energy unnecessarily. Automating tasks takes the guesswork out of getting things done and allows you and your team to focus your expertise where it’s needed most. 

Automation is not specifically a decision-making tactic, 

but it is an energy-saving tactic

Depending on your business, automation might look like:

  • Setting up email autoresponders for holidays, when you’re on vacation, or out of the office (and create clear expectations for yourself and your clients).
  • Using your email marketing platform to create templates and targeted audiences (and stop reinventing the wheel every time you send an email campaign).
  • Automating your email sequences so that they’re triggered when a new client signs a contract, a potential client subscribes to your newsletter, or when the clock strikes midnight on launch day (and take back your time).
  • Implementing Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software to track client data and interactions (and enhance your workflows).

Strategic Step #5: Check In

If you want to reduce decision fatigue and create healthier, more sustainable routines in your work and your life, you need to learn to listen to your body. 

Take time to check in with yourself. 

Are you thirsty?

Staying hydrated isn’t just about survival, it also improves focus and memory. 

Are you hungry?

Eating doesn’t just fuel your body, it fuels your brain, too. Which means that when you’re hungry, your brain doesn’t have the resources it needs for optimal function.

Do you need a bio break?

Your body is telling you what it needs. Go already.

Do you need to get up and move your body?

Take 5-10 minutes to clear your mind and reset. Stand up and stretch, shake it out, or go for a walk around the block. 

Or do you just need to put whatever decision you’re grappling with on the shelf and sleep on it? 

I’ve learned that when I’m tired, I need to stop saying “yes,” and say, “I’ll get back to you,” instead.

I like saying “yes,” but opting to sleep on it instead gives my subconscious time to percolate the decision. It makes me slow down enough that I can look at the situation from another angle and gain some perspective. 

You don’t want to get into the habit of delaying the choices that need to be made, but when it comes to significant decisions in life and business, sometimes the best thing you can do is sleep on it.

Decision-making strategies to simplify your life

Setting yourself up to make better decisions by making fewer of them applies to life beyond your business. 

Here are a few things you can do to reduce stress, reclaim your energy, and simplify your personal life:

⇒ Share responsibilities at home.

My husband is a morning person, so he’s on breakfast duty and I’m in charge of dinner, when I actually have the energy to decide what I want and how to make it happen. Create a chore wheel so that you have clear responsibilities and accountabilities for keeping the household running smoothly.

⇒ Plan your meals.

Meal planning is one of my go to decision-making strategies. I don’t decide what we’re having for dinner every day. Sometimes I press “pause” on the plan and order take out instead, but having a plan in place reduces the decisions I have to make at the grocery store and at dinner time.

⇒ Create your own signature style.

When he was in office, Barack Obama wore his signature suit in blue or gray and never had to make a decision about what to wear to work. Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, and, allegedly, even Einstein are also known for taking this approach to avoid expending energy on seemingly insignificant decisions. I actually really enjoy dressing the way I feel in the morning, so I don’t know if I could put this into practice personally, but it is an amazing strategy. 

⇒ Stay hydrated.

This simple step is so important it bears repeating. Your brain needs water to function properly. Drinking more water = making better decisions. This is even more essential if you aren’t getting enough sleep.

⇒ Get enough sleep.

That means six to eight hours of sleep at night. I am a lifelong insomniac and I know that our bodies don’t always cooperate with our prerogatives. Do your best to take care of yourself and set yourself up for a good night’s sleep. 

  • If you know that scrolling social media late at night will keep you up for hours, use a time blocking app to prevent you from scrolling the night away. 
  • Turn on the blue light filter on your phone at sunset. 
  • Set a timer on your tv so that it automatically turns off when bedtime rolls around.

⇒ Give yourself grace.

Habits are hard to break and new routines take time to establish. Finding out what works best for you and your business is an ongoing process that you are constantly refining. Mistakes are inevitable, so let them be learning opportunities. Beating yourself up is a waste of time and energy, so give yourself grace instead. 

These small steps may seem simplistic in the grand scheme of things, but baby steps are a genuinely sustainable way to establish new patterns and routines and expand your perspective of what is possible.  

So, to recap Strategies for Reducing Decision Fatigue…

#1) Relax. There is no perfect decision.

#2) Delegate. Trust your team so that you can be present and focused on the significant decisions that drive your business forward. 

#3) Prioritize time-sensitive decisions and your body’s natural energy rhythms to help you make more effective decisions.

#4) Automate. Explore the different ways you can use programs and software to automate your business processes and workflows and free up time and energy for you and your team.

#5) Check in with your body. Learn to recognize what decision fatigue feels like in your body compared to how you feel when you are well-rested, sated, hydrated, energetic, and focused. 

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