Have you ever had someone ask you what you want for dinner, and a sudden feeling of overwhelm or anxiety kicks in? You’re scrambling around in your brain, thinking of everything and anything that may sound good that night, yet you can’t come up with anything. Then when you finally do, you have four or five places competing for what sounds the best. Suddenly, you are saying “I’m not even hungry” and throwing your hands up in the air as you storm off.
As over-dramatic as this may seem, situations like this may be caused by decision fatigue.
The more choices you make throughout the day, the harder each one becomes for your brain, and eventually, it looks for shortcuts. This may cause you to become reckless in your decision-making, acting impulsively instead of thinking things through. Or you may simply do nothing, which can create bigger problems in the long run.
Here are five signs to help you spot decision fatigue so you can stop it in its tracks.
Impulsivity may manifest as showing an intense urge to jump all-in to projects or contracts immediately, without proper preparation. You may find yourself rushing into things without creating any kind of plan or doing the necessary due diligence, which can be frustrating to your team, and a potential waste of time and resources.
Avoidance may look like completely neglecting, avoiding, or ignoring necessary decisions, even if they are important for moving the business forward. A common sign of avoidance is the “ugh, I’m too busy for that!” lie we can often catch ourselves telling. Decision fatigue can cause intense anxiety in some people, and our brains find it easier to just throw out the idea altogether than to face those anxious feelings.
Indecision may appear like constantly jumping back and forth between decisions under the guise of “needing to have all the facts”. This is often accompanied by what I call “analysis paralysis”, which is our brain’s attempt to take in every bit of information possible to make sure we make the “perfect”, “safe” decision. But the truth is, you will never actually have all of the information you need to make the decision, so you continue spinning your wheels until an external force interrupts you.
Procrastination looks like always being “too busy” to tackle or even discuss a project or spending too much time doing the “easy” tasks in your business. If you catch yourself spending a little too much time cleaning out your email inbox or organizing your desktop rather than writing that client contract or sending those prospect emails, you may be experiencing some decision fatigue. While there are many reasons someone may be procrastinating, it’s worth a look to see if this might be the cause.
Obstruction is creating unnecessary obstacles in your business to prevent projects from going forward, therefore decreasing the number of decisions necessary. It’s hard to believe that we would ever do this to our own businesses that we work so hard to build. But while obstruction sounds (and can be) incredibly destructive, it can actually manifest as something as common as perfectionism. Using “perfection” as a standard for your business creates unobtainable expectations that will keep you and your team stuck, therefore, decreasing future decisions, fear, and anxiety.
So you recognize that you may have some of these behaviors happening. What now? Here are some ways that you can combat your decision fatigue:
I know what you’re thinking. “I can’t just NOT make decisions” **insert eye roll**, but the truth is, yes you can. By setting clear goals and a vision for your business, you should be able to differentiate what’s actually a business-forward decision and what isn’t. If it’s not – take it off your plate, delegate, or automate it.
Delegation is a hard word for a lot of business owners. The most common excuse I hear from my clients is “it’s just easier to do it myself than have to explain it to someone”. But this dreaded sentence is what ends up getting them into hot water later down the road when they are carrying too much and burnout. Surround yourself with a team that you trust to get things done, and let them take things off your plate.
If this is something you have difficulty with, try using my Decision Tree for Delegation.
Processes & systems are the lifeblood of your business. Whether you know it or not, you have some – they are probably just floating about in your head. By getting those processes written down and ironed out, you can prevent a lot of chaos and decision fatigue. By creating processes and automating simple tasks, you’ll be able to see how many little decisions you are making over and over each day, and free up emotional and mental room to take on those business-forward decisions.
The number one thing you can do for decision fatigue is to learn to recognize it. It happens to everyone at some point and is not a reflection of you, your business, or your leadership abilities. It’s human nature! So by learning to recognize when you may be falling into it, communicating with your team, and taking the necessary action, you can prevent a lot of stalling or backward movement for your team and business. And remember, taking slightly messy action is better than inaction.