Recognizing and Combating Decision Fatigue


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Are you struggling with making decisions in the new year after the holidays? In this podcast episode, Becca Eberhart, CEO at Maximum Lawyer, tackles the issue of decision fatigue and its toll on business owners. 

The end of the year is a time where many people have decision fatigue. Decision fatigue is when there is a decline in the quality of decisions after making too many decisions in a row. Becca delves into what causes this, especially during the holidays. This season is full of holiday parties, shopping, cooking, and events. Making decisions can become overwhelming when there are so many to make for different people and different things.

Becca shares how decision fatigue can affect the growth of a business. Running a business and being a leader means making a lot of decisions. Whether it be how to market your company, if you need to hire staff to help with the growth or what vendors to work with, decision fatigue can lead to feelings of overwhelm. This is more so if you want to be innovative and different in how you run your business. Becca provides some tips to use in order to avoid decision fatigue. One tip is to plan out and schedule your day according to the decisions that need to be made. For example, if you are thinking about working with some new vendors, schedule chats with those vendors in the morning. From this, you might be more inclined to be more alert and can make a decision on who to work with after all meetings are complete. Another tip Becca provides is to really think if a decision needs to be made at that moment. If not, tell yourself to come back to it at a later date so you can relieve some of that stress.

Listen in to learn more tips on decision fatigue from Becca!

Episode Highlights:

  • 00:24 The impact of decision fatigue during December
  • 2:20 The impact of decision fatigue on business growth
  • 4:38 Strategies to manage decision fatigue


Transcripts: Recognizing and Combating Decision Fatigue

Speaker 1 (00:00:01) - Run your law firm the right way. The right way. This is the maximum Lawyer podcast. Maximum lawyer podcast. Your hosts, Jim hacking and Tyson new tricks. Let's partner up and maximize your firm. Welcome to the show.

Becca Eberhart (00:00:24) - Welcome to another episode of the Maximum Layer Podcast. I'm Becca Eberhardt, CEO at Maximum Layer, and right now we're a couple weeks into the new year. But I've been reflecting on the month of December. And so today I want to talk about decision fatigue. I don't know about you, but December is the month that I experienced the most decision fatigue. There's so much added into the month of December that piles up quickly. Multiple holidays, gifts, school activities, family meals, volunteering, winter activities, work parties. And that's not to mention the busyness you're running. Your alarm goes off and you're faced with your first decision of the day. Hit the snooze button. You walk into your closet. Next question what should you wear? Then you glance at your phone. You have eight new emails.

Becca Eberhart (00:01:09) - Should you respond now or wait till later? These are just your first few seconds upon waking. On average, most people make around 35,000 decisions each day, and the more decisions you make, the more difficult it is to continue making high quality decisions. This is decision fatigue. Roy Baumeister, a social psychologist, coined the term decision fatigue in reference to the decline in the quality of decisions that a person makes after making many decisions that have been made in a row, which I found interesting because in my own experience, I've always related decision fatigue to my tendency to not want to make decisions at all. Then I found that decision fatigue does affect people differently. It can cause impulse purchasing, decision avoidance, and a decline in the quality of your choices. Decision fatigue can be disruptive for anyone, but for business owners, it has a much bigger impact. Most entrepreneurs have a bias for action. You're good at getting stuff done, but a side effect of getting things done is the countless decisions it creates, increasing your chance of dealing with decision fatigue.

Becca Eberhart (00:02:20) - When the goal is business growth, there are so many decisions to be made on a daily, even hourly basis. And as you grow old, systems stop working and new opportunities are constantly popping up. It can be overwhelming. You're also keeping a finger on the pulse of everything from intake to marketing to hiring and being a leader. Calls for being innovative, adapting to changes in the market and the legal industry. Decision fatigue can inhibit your ability to embrace change and make decisions that are essential for staying ahead of your competition. This isn't just a theory. Multiple studies have been done on decision fatigue and its impact on business. In research published by Royal Society Open Finance, they looked at the financial implications of making too many decisions. Their report, Quantifying the Cost of Decision Fatigue, revealed that people making tons of decisions every day will eventually get tired and start defaulting to the easiest choice. The Washington Post also sums this up really well. When decision fatigue kicks in, you may feel like you just don't have the mental bandwidth to deal with more decisions.

Becca Eberhart (00:03:32) - This can lead you to avoid making certain choices entirely, to go with the default option, or to make ones that aren't in line with your business goals or values. And decision fatigue from the office will have negative impacts on your personal life over time, too. For example, after spending ten hours at the office, what decision are you more likely to make for dinner, ordering some takeout, or cooking at home? You'll likely take the path of least resistance. And if you're not careful, as the snowball of stress grows, you'll continue taking that path with one unhealthy decision leading to another, which eventually makes you feel as if the only choice you have is to sacrifice your mental or physical health for the sake of your ambition. One major factor is the sheer abundance of choices in our modern society. We're bombarded with options in every aspect of our lives, from the countless apps on our phones to the overwhelming variety of products on the store shelves, softwares for every aspect of our businesses, and everyone promising to have the very best way to solve all of your problems.

Becca Eberhart (00:04:38) - The paradox of choice a psychologist Barry Schwartz coined. It suggests that while having choices is generally a good thing, an excess of options can lead to decision paralysis and ultimately, fatigue. Decision fatigue may be inevitable in our complex world, but with the right tools, we can navigate it more effectively and make choices that will align with our values and goals. Here are a few of my favorite strategies. Back in 2011, a research study on parole hearings looked at more than 1100 judicial rulings over a ten month period. Researchers found that prisoners with court appearances early in the morning were granted parole about 70% of the time, while those towards the end of the day had less than a 10% chance of getting approved for parole. Why? Because every subsequent parole decision depleted judges mental energy, and by the end of the day, they were more likely to reject parole. As The New York Times puts it, researchers also found that the judges harbored no ill intent for the prisoners. They just ran out of the mental energy to make difficult decisions.

Becca Eberhart (00:05:45) - So what does this teach us? Don't take a parole hearing after lunch. No, but what you can do is you can look at your business and schedule things earlier in the day to help ensure you're making better decisions for your business. For example, you could spend your mornings taking important meetings and making decisions that move your firm forward instead of cleaning out your inbox that may be better suited for later in the afternoons. Jeff Bezos has shared that he schedules his most important high IQ meetings between 10 a.m. and noon, and anything that comes in later in the afternoon. He typically saves for the next day. Another strategy in combination with increased self-awareness is to ask yourself, is it absolutely necessary to make this decision right now? If not, put a pin in it. You can always revisit the decision at a later time. Next is the biggest player in the decision fatigue game in my opinion. I was recently listening to an episode of The Hustle Daily Show, and they were comparing two of the hosts push notification settings on their phones.

Becca Eberhart (00:06:55) - One of them had them all turned on and the other had them all turned off. I personally leave only time sensitive ones turned on on my phone like I want to know when my target pickup order is ready, but most other apps on my phone I turn off all the notifications. I don't even allow badges on many apps either. This just takes your attention away from what you're doing constantly. Even if you don't address the banners, badges, or notifications, your brain still has to make the decision to not address it every time you get one or the number increases. I would recommend scheduling some time to go through your settings and just turn it all off and then going forward, do this each time you download a new app. This way you don't slowly have notifications piling up again. It's easy to think, oh, this is just something else I need to do, but you need to recognize the return value you're getting from this is unmeasurable. Investing your time maybe 30 minutes max, depending on how many apps you have, will ultimately save you a ton of time going forward and will decrease your decision fatigue because you won't know when Starbucks releases a new flavor, or have to decide if you're going to make a quick run to go grab it during lunch.

Becca Eberhart (00:08:13) - Another great way to not let social media take any more of your time or mental bandwidth is to eradicate social media noise by replacing your entire newsfeed with an inspiring quote. Jim shared this great Chrome extension with us. If you often go to check social media and then find yourself consumed by endless scrolling, this is where the Newsfeed Eradicator Chrome extension comes in. Newsfeed Eradicator removes the most addicting part of Facebook, Twitter, and other social networks the feed, and it replaces it instead with an inspirational quote. You can still use the other functionality as usual, you just won't get sucked into the attention hole. Then there's email. One way to cut down on decisions related to checking email is to choose a time or two that you will check emails each day. For example, Tyson's autoresponder lets every sender know that he checks his emails at noon and 4:00 pm each day. Not having to ask yourself if you should check or respond to emails all day long can cut down on a lot of daily decisions. You can also check out the book A World Without Email by Cal Newport.

Becca Eberhart (00:09:24) - It explains how having a healthier relationship with emails would make the office be a much happier place. And lastly, anything you can put into your daily routine and put it on repeat will help you decrease your decision fatigue. Just like Mark Zuckerberg wears the same type of outfit every day, creating habits and fixed schedules for everyday tasks can go a really long way into saving your mental capacity. Following a morning routine that covers simple tasks such as your wake up time, brushing your teeth, what's for breakfast, etc. this way, you don't have to waste a ton of energy in deciding when to wake up. Will. Will you make coffee? Or if you want to exercise? It's all automated by your routine and routines cut down significantly on decision making. In short, with so many things vying for our attention, we have to put in the effort to simplify as much as we can. If we have any chance of cutting down on the 35,000 decisions we all make on a daily basis. Start small and build habits that will compound into less and less overwhelm and stronger decision making abilities.

Speaker 1 (00:10:39) - Thanks for listening to the Maximum Lawyer podcast. Stay in contact with your hosts and to access more content. Go to Maximum Have a great week and catch you next time.

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