Decision-Making: A Hidden Source of Fatigue and Inefficiency

Let me take you back for a minute. Can you remember the first week of your current job, or the first month you lived in a new city?

If you’re able to recollect your state of mind in those days, it probably included a good measure of exhaustion. You were tired.

Part of the reason change is so exhausting is that a new environment deprives us of routine and habit. At a new job, for example, we can’t go get a cup of coffee on autopilot, because we may not even know where the coffee is. We can’t drift through a normal day because there is no normal yet… we have to learn about our environment and make decisions on how to spend our time.

Decisions Require Energy

Decisions take energy. The more decisions we have to make, the more tired we are likely to become. It’s also true that our energy to make decisions is finite; there are only so many high-quality decisions we can make in any one day. With this in mind, we might consider how many decisions we have on our plate, and when we have them.

Rob Hatch says “decisions are distractions.” That’s not to say that decisions are unimportant and can simply be ignored. Yet we can and should manage when and how we make our decisions.

One application of managing decisions is used in many different approaches of time management: task planning. Your morning will be almost certainly be more productive if you decided on your priorities and plan the night before.

If you arrive at your desk with an open slate, it’s easy to spend 45 minutes spinning in startup mode and sorting through different tasks to figure out the right order. On the other hand, when you are looking at a list that tells you your top priorities and the order of their importance, no motion is wasted on wondering where to begin.

What is your Plan?

Can you make your plan for tomorrow morning? Or, if you’re already into the day, try taking ten minutes to plan the next three hours. Then follow through on your plan, and look back at the end of the day.

Did your focused “deciding session” make you more productive?