“You cannot make progress without making decisions” – Jim Rohn
The Anatomy Of A Decision
The word “decide” originates from a Latin word decidere that means “to cut off.” In essence, the anatomy of a decision begins with cutting off things irrelevant to what matters. At the base of decision-making is a ferocious approach to cut off anything that does not contribute to your future. This may sound harsh and aggressive, but such is the nature of decision-making.
Cutting off added sugar from your diet is associated with choosing a healthy lifestyle. Similarly, cutting off friends that consistently speak negative words to your life is subsequently deciding to have a positive outlook on life and your future. I believe that our best decisions are impeded by what we are unwilling to cut ties with. Cutting off unnecessary expenses from our budget is directly proportional to the decision of a better financial picture. In hindsight, I’ve noticed how difficult it is to cut off things that hinder quality decisions because of decision fatigue.
Every decision is preceded by a challenge or circumstances. The relentless challenges and circumstances that demand our attention daily, can lead to decision fatigue. This phrase, coined by journalist John Tierney, is the tendency for people’s decisions to be impaired due to having taken multiple decisions. This overload of decisions is a major culprit in making quality decisions. According to Tierney, when the quantity of decisions to make goes up, the quality of our decisions goes down. The vagaries of the last two years have served to compound the number and impact of our decisions. We’ve had to make decisions we never needed to before. Professor Barry Schwartz, the author of The Paradox of Choice, says, “things that used to require no thought now require a lot of planning. In the covid world, so much is uncertain. We haven’t had practice making decisions under these circumstances.”
Figure 1 below expresses the impact of decision fatigue.
Dangers of Decision Fatigue
Have you noticed that candy bars are displayed at the cash register of a grocery store even though they have a dedicated aisle for candy and sweets? The store preys on our decision fatigue. After making many decisions on what to buy based on the options provided, they hope decision fatigue will lead to an emotional purchase of candy by the time you reach the cash register. Either you will feel you deserve candy after accomplishing a successful grocery run, or you will have no willpower to say no and make an impulse purchase. Decision fatigue robs us of the ability to cut off our impulsive desires and make quality decisions. In this mentally depleted state, we go with the flow or choose the path of least resistance.
Overcoming Decision Fatigue
Life is a series of decisions. Motivational speaker Tony Robbins observed that “it is in our moments of decision that our destiny is shaped.” We make big decisions and then manage them daily with smaller decisions. Placing such a premium on our decisions necessitates we determine when to make key decisions.
You can create an environment for effective decision-making using the following questions as a barometer. They will significantly reduce unnecessary decision-making and keep decision fatigue at bay.
What Can You Automate?
The military taught me to prepare for tomorrow by taking small steps today. I learned to pick out my clothes to wear (and iron if needed) down to polishing my shoes. It’s a habit I practice to this day. Doing this postures my mind to the expectation that I will start my day from an advantageous position. Another method I use to automate decisions is using a calendar or planner. This creates if-then scenarios. For example, if my planner has an exercise entry for 7 am, I will work out regardless of how I feel. Training your mind around if-when scenarios ensures you don’t have to make a decision repeatedly but instead focus on execution. Automating some decisions gives me valuable mental currency to spend on making important decisions.
When Are You At Your Best?
Take advantage of times when you are mentally fresh to tackle important decisions. I am at my best early in the morning. I block off time to handle big decisions and make commitments. If a big decision (one that’s irreversible) comes my way in the evening or night, I do my utmost to take a pause from making a hasty decision and commit to revisiting it in the morning when I can pray and commit quality mental energy.
Tackling critical decisions when tired or reeling from decision fatigue is detrimental to life. I learned that when I am exhausted, I develop tunnel vision. I am less likely to think openly and clearly. My willingness to listen to valuable inputs from others is fogged up by my heightened impulses and am more likely to make an emotional decision that I regret after I had time to rest or “sleep on it.” When is the best time for you to make an important decision? Once you find it, use those moments wisely.
Final Thought: Decision-making is a valuable tool that none of us should squander but ferociously protect. The anatomy of every decision begins with what you are willing to cut off so your quality decision can have staying power. Figure out decisions you can automate and track when you are at your best to handle big decisions and turn them into commitments. As pastor and author Craig Groeschel says, “We make our decisions, then our decisions end up making us.”
Keep on keeping on