One Essential Thing to Avoid for Effective Decision-Making

Like it or not, your life is filled with decision-making. From the moment you wake up until the time you sleep, you have to make decisions.

That’s why it’s important that you improve your decision-making skills. Doing so will improve the quality of your life.

For effective decision-making, there is one thing you need to avoid: decision fatigue. What is it? This excerpt from Michael Lewis’s profile of Barack Obama explains it:

“You’ll see I wear only gray or blue suits,” he said. “I’m trying to pare down decisions. I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing. Because I have too many other decisions to make.” He mentioned research that shows the simple act of making decisions degrades one’s ability to make further decisions… “You need to focus your decision-making energy. You need to routinize yourself. You can’t be going through the day distracted by trivia.”

Decision fatigue happens when you can no longer make good decisions because you have already made too many. The fact is: your “decision space” is limited. Once you use up this space, your ability to make good decisions will drop.

Because of this, you should reserve this space as much as possible. That way, when the time comes to make an important decision, you can still think clearly and make a good one.

Here are some tips to free up your “decision space”:

1. Eliminate.

The first thing you should do is eliminate what you can from your life. If you have too many responsibilities, you should remove some of them.

Apply the 80/20 principle. Figure out the few things that give you the most results, and eliminate the rest.

2. Delegate.

For what you can’t eliminate, think whether you can delegate it. Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should.

Fortunately, it’s relatively easy these days to find someone who can do your tasks for you. You can use outsourcing websites such as Fiverr or Elance.

3. Create routines.

For what you have to do yourself, the excerpt above has good advice: routinize yourself. In the case of President Obama, he made his dressing choice a routine.

One way to apply it is by creating a morning routine. A morning routine helps you start your days right by default. It’s as if you can automatically have a great start to your day.

4. Make checklists.

If you frequently do something that requires several steps to get right, you might want to make a checklist for it.

For instance: rather than thinking about how to pack your bag every time you travel, make a checklist. That way you can be sure you won’t miss anything. Plus, you don’t have to think about it.

If a task requires several steps to get done, it’s a good idea to make a checklist. Or, you can create a step-by-step document that describes exactly what you need to do.

5. Write stuff down.

This concept comes from Getting Things Done. Whenever possible, get stuff out of your mind by writing them down. For example, rather than remembering an appointment, put it on your calendar right away.

If you apply this tip, you will free up a lot of space in your mind. Instead of remembering, you can use the space for creative thinking (which includes decision-making).

6. Create a buffer for emergencies.

A crisis could consume your mind so much that you can no longer think clearly. You are then prone to make bad decisions that could worsen the situation.

To prevent this, you must create a buffer for emergencies. The buffer gives you peace of mind that enables you to make good decisions.

An emergency fund, for instance, can help you navigate through a financial crisis. When something bad – such as losing your job – happens, you won’t panic. You know you can still maintain your standard of living for months to come so you can think clearly about what to do next.

Another example is a spiritual buffer in the form of faith. If you build your faith through spiritual habits, you can handle a crisis well because you know you will go through it.

Create a buffer for emergencies in your life. You might not need it now, but it will help you a lot during critical times.

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Don’t let decision fatigue hinder you from effective decision-making. Avoid it from the beginning. You will be glad you did.

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8 Comments

  1. Donald, it’s a very important point you make as we can waste valuable time and energy before we’ve hardly started the day. It’s a good reason why unnecesary shopping is such a drain. I buy the few clothes I need at the same store and order on-line to collect. It narrows down the choices and makes it quicker as I’m recyclig a previous decision – those trousers, that shop.

  2. Sometimes just buying bread becomes tiring. Too many choices. I see many of my clients bogged down by too many choices and too much stuff that clutter space and mind. Thanks for the good tips.

  3. Hi Donald, I like the idea on routines. It gets the job done without much thinking on my part. It allows me to free up my mind to think about the more important things in my business.

  4. I like the tips for freeing up decision space. I need to work harder on
    the first 2, but I do pretty well with the last 4. One tool that I find works
    especially well with making checklists is an app called todoist. It allows you
    to assign 4 different priority levels to your tasks, so when I check it every
    morning, I immediately know I need to focus on the tasks with the red flag
    first. That way, I can pare down my decision-making to the things that matter
    most.

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