I found the article immensely helpful in analyzing my own decision-making. In summary, the article cites a number of studies that conclude that when we are required to make many decisions, our ability to make them well diminishes. As we become decision fatigued, we are more likely to act impulsively or even to say “no” in order to prevent making a regretful decision. Even small decisions cause us fatigue and deplete our energy.
As I mentioned in an earlier post, I recently took the Birkman Assessment (A Workplace Psychological Assessment), and was intrigued by what it offered regarding my decision making process.
For instance, while others perceive me as decisive, I often pore over decisions for long periods of time, causing me undue stress. The assessment’s interpreter encouraged me to act more quickly in decision-making when I sensed that a decision is causing me undue stress (likely I have contemplated long enough). Below are some suggestions that I have recently gleaned as well as ideas that I have gained from observing others and myself:
Prioritizing Decisions – Not all decisions are equal, and they must not be given equal weight. Many decisions do not deserve immense energy while others do.
Those that affect others directly – Decisions that directly affect others should be given priority. When others are waiting to make decisions based on your decision, you must make the decision carefully and efficiently. When the decision directly determines another’s future (reference, termination, hire, promotion, etc.), it must rise in your stack. Furthermore, time sensitive decisions must be made promptly (applications, deadlines, payroll, newsletter, worship order, etc.)
Those which weigh you down — Decisions that impede your forward motion should be given high priority, and should be made as timely as possible. Often, a postponed decision, or the inability to act on an already-made decision, restricts our ability to move forward and think creatively. Acting on a weighty decision can release us to resume productivity.
Decision-Making Styles – Everyone has a decision-making style. Knowing your personal tendencies helps you to discover ways to act from positions of strength.
Too quick to pull the trigger – Some leaders are too quick to make decisions and often make decisions that they have to try to retrieve. For instance, I once had a supervisor who instinctively acted quickly and continually spent her time revising the decision once she realized that she had failed to get the appropriate input from others. Likewise, I worked with a person who often surprised us with quick decisions. While others perceived that a decision was still in the input stage, he tended to make a decision before getting the amount of input that others thought appropriate.
Lingers too long – In contrast, some people linger endlessly and struggle over the smallest decision. Lingering too long can manifest itself in the leader who procrastinates on a decision until the decision is no longer needed, i.e., the failure to make the decision is the decision.
Know your own style – Each of us as leaders must know our style, and we must be open to the input of others in analyzing our own decision-making. Know where you have a tendency to become delayed or to rush ahead. Observe your decision-making track record and attempt to discern what has worked well and what has not.
Eight Practical Suggestions
Be well rested and have stable blood sugar When possible, postpone critical decisions when you are overly tired, haven’t eaten in a while, or are physically drained from other activities.
Time important decisions In order to maximize your decision making capacity, determine in advance when major decisions will be made and make important decisions when you are fully awake but not yet tired. Avoid life-changing decisions later in the day and when you are in too close proximity to other big decisions.
Know when to get input from others Some decisions should never be made alone, and you must discern which decisions need input from whom. Learn to identify the major stakeholders and those who have the wisdom to offer input into which decision.
Categorize decisions based on past experience and results As you make more decisions, learn to identify patterns and similarities among decisions. While every decision may deserve to be considered on its own merit, it may be informed by a decision you have made in the past.
Make small decisions in batches Grouping similar decisions can save immense time and energy. For instance, deciding a choral anthem list for the next six months will save you hours of decision-making time as opposed to adding one anthem every week. On a personal level, laying out your clothes for the entire week is a much better use of your decision making energy that deciding each morning.
Decide small things when energy is low Relegate low-risk decisions to the end of the day when your energy is low. These are good times to organize stacks, file papers, answer benign email messages, and return routine phone calls.
Prioritize decisions at the beginning of each day At the beginning of each day peruse your “to do” list and move the biggest decisions to the top of the list. Unless an emergency arises, attempt to defer other big decisions to another day.
Set decision deadlines Deciding when to decide can be empowering. When you are struggling with a significant decision, calendar a time to make it. The act of setting a deadline helps us to prorate our energy during the intervening period in order to be prepared to decide when the deadline arrives.
People who make decisions well rise as leaders. All of us will make decisions even if our decision is to decide not be decisive. As with all leadership strategies, we must be intentional in decision making. As you move forward, start by becoming conscious of your own instinctive decision-making practices. Once you have identified your tendencies, begin to analyze how your decision-making strategies might be enhanced and implement some of the suggestions offered above.