How many decisions do you make every single day?
Decisions like which socks to wear with your outfit, which jam to put on your morning toast, which route to take to work, which calls to make at the office, which emails to answer (and which to ignore), what to prepare for dinner, which book to read for the children and which film to watch in the evening.
A normal person makes hundreds of micro decisions every single day.
By late afternoon your brain is so tired that you don’t have energy for any more decisions and you go into one big “NO!” mode.
Oh yes. Studies have proven this.
A US study of 1,100 parole hearings found that the prisoners were much more likely to get parole if the judge had to make the decision in the beginning of the day and less likely later in the day.
The numbers are actually stunning: prisoners who appeared in the morning received parole 70 pct. of the time, while those appearing later in the day only received parole 10 pct. of the time.
In other words, the prisoners shouldn’t worry too much about their appearance, race or general prejudice – they should really worry about the judge’s level of decision fatigue. In other words, how many other decisions had that judge already taken that day?
Judges are not the only ones who get tired after making many decisions. You do too.
You really have to look at how many decisions you expose yourself to every single day and do your best to minimize that.
Most people spend some of their best brain time making mundane decisions and when it’s evening, the kids are off to bed, they sit down to take serious decisions about what to invest the family’s hard earned savings in.
Do they ever make that decision? Maybe not, and if they do, there is a risk that it will be a bad decision made with decision fatigue.
What can you do to overcome decision fatigue?
Obviously, you can learn from the judges and make important decisions first thing in the day.
But most of us are busy with kids and full time jobs, so some of our best hours are reserved for making breakfast, going through a commute, attending meetings, going through another commute, shopping for dinner and preparing dinner.
So what do you do if you want to reserve some strength for making great decision later in the day?
Here are five steps:
1. Make One Decision that Removes Other Decisions
This would be something like a meal subscription box that delivers the recipe and the ingredients for cooking meals.
Most people consider them convenient as they no longer have to do the shopping.
But what is really great about meal subscription boxes is that they eliminate hundreds of small decisions about what to put in the shopping cart and what meal to prepare and how to prepare it. It releases brain capacity for more important stuff.
If you really enjoy shopping, you can simplify the meal decisions by making a meal plan for 30 days that you recycle each month. Decisions taken once.
You can set up the same kind of system for your wardrobe.
You can do this like Steve Jobs and wear the same kind of sneakers, blue jeans and black turtleneck sweater for the rest of your life.
Alternatively, you can create a kind of “meal plan” for what to wear. Plan seven days and reuse it for the season. Switch to a new plan each season.
2. Simplify Your Life
A lot of people fill up their lives with more and more stuff.
More social media accounts, more connections on each account, more connections in real life, more stuff and more events.
This is a slippery slope, because the more stuff you have and the more activities you engage in, the more fatigued you become.
So the solution is to keep only what is most important to you.
Only have things in your life you really appreciate or that fulfill a specific need (the Spark Joy woman Marie Kondo explains this much better than I do. Check out her book or her Youtube videos if you need help with this).
The same thing goes for relationships. Only keep the people in your life who really matter to you. Stop seeing the people who make you feel deflated. The superficial relationships that do not nurture you sap at your energy much more than you think.
Coaches like Tony Robbins say that you become like the people you surround yourself with. Who do you want to be?
3. Establish Routines
Routines help you overcome small decisions about what to do when.
Let’s say you always spend time arguing with yourself if you should go for a run. I know people who spend more time debating if they should go for a run than the actual run takes them.
It’s terribly draining to fight with our own ego about doing exercise. Better to have a fixed time to do it, like early in the day. I would suggest getting up 30 minutes earlier and do your exercise – then you don’t have to think about it for the rest of the day.
You can establish routines on a daily level and you can establish routines on a weekly level – or even monthly.
Let’s say that you often discuss with your partner when to spend quality time together. You can set up a weekly date night.
Or let’s say that it’s very hard for you and a group of friends to find time to see each other. You spend a lot of time doodling and coordinating each time, emails flying back and forth. You can set a specific monthly day (e.g. the 4th of every month) to have dinner and catch up.
4. Turn it Off
I remember ignoring a knock on the door. I was an exchange student in Spain, and the dormitory was a very lively place. There was always someone who wanted to play, drink coffee or just chat.
I remember feeling guilty for ignoring a knock on the door, but it was necessary for me to do it sometimes. Otherwise, I would never learn anything.
Those days were so simple. All I had to ignore was a knock.
This was before the internet was widely available and before smartphones.
Now you have to ignore a phone call, text messages, notifications from Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Whatsapp, Twitter and what not.
Turn off the notifications so they don’t pop up on your phone or learn to ignore the knock.
5. Make Decisions Fast and Stick to Them
We can’t avoid all decisions. We need to eat, do stuff, see people after all. But when there is a call for a decision, make up your mind very fast, within a few minutes really and then stick to it.
The worst thing you can do when facing a decision is not making it.
Decisions that are still lingering in the background suck the energy out of your brain like few other things do.
That’s because your mind knows that you have unfinished business and it keeps wanting you to return to it and finish it.
So just make up your mind and stick to it.
Make Big Decisions
You really have to practice making big, powerful decisions. Most people spend a lot of time on small decisions and ignore the big strategic ones.
They will spend hours discussing which vacation to take, which restaurant to dine at, which course to take, which Chardonnay to drink or which movie to watch.
But when you ask them about their finances, they can’t even remember what the status quo is.
They don’t know how much money is in their retirement pot, what it is invested in or who is investing it for them.
They haven’t even gotten around to the family’s saving pot.
Maybe it’s not invested. Or maybe they don’t have one. Or maybe it’s invested in the easy way where someone else makes the decisions for them – but they don’t know what it is invested in.
These are decisions that can change the financial destiny of the family. Their life can change really.
Why do these decisions get ignored?
It’s called decision fatigue. All the will power was used up on small matters like dinner planning and color coordinating socks.
If you need help with making important decisions about investing in specific companies, you might want some help with my check list with 12 questions you should investigate before you put your money in a company. You can download it here.
Do you want to learn how to evaluate and calculate the value of a company? I teach you how to do that in my e-book Free Yourself. You can download it here.