Decision Fatigue

In today’s high-velocity, high-execution world, an executive decision-maker makes thousands of decisions in a day: big strategic choices determining the future of an organization, all the way to small, but very operational ones. So what does this lead to? It leads to decision fatigue: an executive’s inability to make judgments clearly. The Beverly Hills Therapy Group makes use of psychology and empathy in its executive coaching programs in order to help top-level executives take the battle against this fatigue further, making a difference in the decisions they make.


Here Are 10 Tips on How You Can Defeat Decision Fatigue

1. Prioritize Decisions

Not every decision can carry the same weight. Identify those that are high-leverage decisions and absolutely need to have your fingerprints on them, and delegate the ones that are small and not so critical. In that way, you focus on what’s really important, and you save mental energy for the high-stakes decisions.

At the core of decision prioritization should be good judgment about what high-impact decisions represent. Ones that meaningfully alter your organization’s trajectory, culture, and performance: big investments, strategic partnerships, key personnel changes. Delegating relatively low-stake decisions—e.g., routine operational ones—to trusted team members builds trust in your team and frees your cognitive resources for more critical thinking.

2. Establish Routines

Routine tasks should not drain you of your ability to make decisions. Setting definite routines for routine tasks can minimize the number of decisions that need to be made. For example, having a routine for clearing time in the morning, or having a fixed, scheduled number of meetings during the week that a person does not need to reassess every time, can save a lot of cognitive resources for more important types of decisions.

Routines add some predictability to your day, which takes some of the weight off your mind. Automate or pre plan elements of the daily routine. For example, a morning routine that involves exercise, breakfast, and a quick check of the day’s calendar can set a positive tone and reduce the quantum of cognitive load that starts your day. Likewise, a set schedule for meetings and another for administrative tasks makes it easier for you to decide to do focused work—instead of task switching all day—by reducing the amount you need to decide when to address different responsibilities.

3. Simplify Your Choices

Simplify your choices whenever possible. The application of a common framework in decision scenarios can help reduce this dimension and thereby simply reduce complexity. Simplified choices reduce cognitive loads and speed up decision making.

For instance, frameworks such as the Eisenhower Matrix can be used to very quickly classify which tasks must be urgently addressed based on their importance. You apply such frameworks, and under time and efficient constraints, you make decisions on investment of time and energy. Having SOPs for recurring decisions would also bring in clarity and consistency; this may nullify the need for elaborate deliberation in any such case.

4. Take Breaks and Rest

Decision quality consistently deteriorates over the course of a day from overworking the mind. Plan breaks when you recharge, and your mind will, too. A short walk, a few minutes of meditation, or just a rest could do wonders for your mind, thereby improving your capabilities in making good decisions.

Studies have shown that breaks keep the focus intact and, thereby, the productivity level. More specifically, use the Pomodoro Technique—a focused 25-minute work period and a 5-minute break. Longer breaks, such as at lunch or in the early afternoon when going for a short walk, are taken determinedly off the mind, such that when one gets back the attitude is fresh. Get involved in mindfulness activities, such as meditation or deep breathing exercises, to reduce stress and improve cognitive functionalities.

5. Limit Distractions

Constant interruptions will only aggravate the situation. Set up a bit of a workspace with minimal distraction so that your head can think straight. And let your team know that you are checking emails and messages at these times and that the deep work you are doing right now is really important.

Create a distraction-free environment physically and digitally. Physically, try to have your workspace organized and free from extraneous material. Digitally, one can use a host of different sites and apps that assist in blocking other distracting sites and apps when it is time to work. Establishing communication boundaries with your team helps. Let coworkers know when you’re available to discuss issues or have meetings so that you can designate times for yourself to work uninterruptedly, enabling your focus on making key decisions.

6. Leverage Technology

Decision fatigue can be managed through technology: task and decision support management applications and software, data analytics leading to better information management and visibility of alternative courses of action, therefore reducing the mental burden. All this, therefore, means that factoring in applications such as Trello or Asana, where you can keep line of sight to all your projects and deadlines to have control over them all, will ensure you will never let one slip between the cracks. Such a type of decision-making software could assist with the use of options against identified criteria, and it makes choosing the right option a systematic approach to a complex decision. Finally, perhaps, there could be data analytics tools for giving you the power of insights and trends in use to inform your decisions, helping you make data-driven selections with confidence in your results.

7. Seek Expert Advice

Talking to experts or advisors will give you valuable insight and provide different views on the problem; hence, ways of breaking down the complex decision into manageable parts. Surround yourself with a trusted team who will advise you, hence share the decision load.

An advisory and even mentor network could be very helpful. These people tend to come from completely different backgrounds and may provide insights that you had not even thought of. Regular consultation with the executive team or board members will certainly result in better decisions based on the wisdom of all the members. Further, industry experts offer that depth of knowledge to enrich the process.

8. Practice Self-Care

Here, the latter is true—cognitive function really depends on physical health, so be sure to get enough sleep, be active, and keep your diet balanced. Difficulties in leadership just ask for a well-fed and rested body to support a sharp mind.

This includes healthy practices such as prioritizing self-care. Sleep is one of the most central activities for your brain, so aim for 7-9 hours per night of highly effective rest. Physical exercise also forms the soundest basis both for good physical health and for mood and cognitive enhancements. Quite obviously, a balanced diet with nutrients will also soundly support brain health, and hydration will keep you alert and focused. You may add the practice of relaxation through some form of yoga or something connected with nature to help reduce stress and increase mental clarity.

9. Reflect and Learn

Take time to reflect on past decisions. Understanding what worked and what didn’t provides valuable lessons for future decision-making. Regular reflection can also help identify patterns of fatigue and implement proactive measures to address them.

Reflection involves analyzing both successful and unsuccessful decisions. Journaling about your decision-making process can provide insights into what strategies worked well and what areas need improvement. Regularly reviewing these reflections can help you identify patterns and triggers of decision fatigue, allowing you to develop strategies to mitigate its impact. Additionally, seeking feedback from peers and mentors can offer valuable perspectives that enhance your decision-making abilities.

10. Engage in Executive Coaching

Decision fatigue can be managed with the help of professional coaching programs. At The Beverly Hills Therapy Group, our psychology-based executive coaching helps leaders enhance their decision-making capabilities, handle stress, and achieve a balanced, effective leadership style.

Executive coaching is very individualized support, specific to your needs and challenges. Our one-on-one coaching can help home in on areas of improvement, make realistic goal-setting possible, and facilitate the creation of the right kinds of effective decision-making skills. It also provides confidential spaces where one can talk about the challenges and explore solutions that encourage both personal and professional growth. Our coaching service focuses on the psychological and practical components of being a leader in order to enable you to lead confidently and clearly.

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