We probably all know what it’s like to get to the stage where we feel we can’t make any more decisions in a day. If you’ve had a very busy day at work, you often have to make lots of decisions on strategy, resources, management issues, budgets etc. When you get home you may be faced with even more decisions to make regarding the family, what to eat, where you might go on holiday, activities with the children, red or white wine!
At some point you’re likely to get to the stage where enough is enough and some decisions will just have to wait for another day. If someone asks you to do something else and make even a small decision, you can get to the stage where you just stop. I know when I was at my most busy at work my friends and family got used to me joking “I don’t make decisions at home – I make decisions all day, so am not doing any more!! Someone else can decide and I’ll just go along with it!” I admit, I may not have been joking!
We could think of our decision making capacity like a battery, which is successively drained a little with each decision they make. Eventually, over the course of a day or week, the battery flattens and the ability to make difficult decisions will be depleted.
Unfortunately, this could have considerable impact on the motivation to make decisions, especially in the workplace. And, more importantly, this is significant when it comes to risk-taking: we are more likely to not take a risk when we should, or we could take bad risks (as we may also have lower willpower).
When making decisions we need to be aware of any cognitive biases that could be at play. We all have them, as they are the result of our neural networks needed for quick decision-making abilities, and use our beliefs, experience and knowledge. However, we should be aware that these can cause the tendency to make decisions or take action in an unknowingly irrational way, rejecting information or causing us to miss opportunities. One example is confirmation bias, where we look for information/statistics that supports our existing understanding, and we may reject data that goes against what we believe.
When we think our decision making battery is low, we could be more at risk of missing vital details. And the consequences can be significant.
However, different people can have different sizes of decision making battery. And although you have felt this way, there is actually no limit. Therefore you could upgrade the “perceived” size of your battery and top it up with different techniques:
· Limitations – if you believe your battery is limited, it will be – but it is as big as you decide it will be.
· Reframe – if decisions seem difficult, what are the alternatives to thinking about the situation, what other options for a positive focus could you choose?
· Positivity – celebrating successes tops up the battery. Thinking about what you can achieve/learn from making the decisions helps decrease anxiety and allows for more creative and innovative thoughts to flow.
· Exercise – this increases brain capacity and provides energy and the space to think effectively.
· Enjoy the moment – for example, going outdoors, going for a walk, yoga etc helps increase your battery. Short naps also work.
· Feedback – get feedback on how you are doing (constructive and positive), as this helps you understand your decision-making processes and gives you vital information to improve your ability to make decisions in the future.
Rather than suffer “decision fatigue”, try these techniques on yourself and with your team. It can help increase motivation and reduce stress and anxiety, as well reducing the risk of bad or delayed decision making (with all the consequences that could bring). Help others to increase their batteries too by giving positive feedback, celebrating successes and reframing difficulties.
Source by Karen J Goold