Decision fatigue is real: Psychology Today says that an average adult makes about 35,000 decisions each day, from deciding whether to hit snooze or go to the gym, and from establishing the best way to pitch a new client to determining if a multi-million dollar merger is the ideal business move.
Within this massive array of daily decisions, some are more complex than others. Generally speaking, the more responsibilities you have, the more complex and taxing your choices become. Can you relate? For some people, decision-making comes naturally, but for others, every little decision is a hurdle to overcome. And as the impulse-buy offerings at every checkout register suggest, the power to make good choices is a depletable resource.
1. Sweat it out―literally
Exercising isn't just about fitting into your old jeans: Research continues to show the mental health benefits of breaking a sweat, including improving mood, increasing memory and reducing anxiety. Before I head out for a run, I jot down the top most critical decisions that are weighing on my mind, and then I let my brain wander while my heart rate accelerates. The combination of physical movement, endorphin release and stimulation of the prefrontal cortex (the part of your brain responsible for critical thinking) almost always work together to provide the clarity that I've been seeking.
2. Meet about it
I've heard it said that you are the sum of the five people you spend the most time with. Whether it's your spouse, colleague, parent or friend, it's essential to have a close network of trusted sources you can tap to ask questions―no matter how big or how small. Bonus points if this group includes those with different perspectives than you, or at least has quality listeners, which are an invaluable resource. If your ego or pride precludes you from a willingness to share and be vulnerable, consider the possibility that you may be limiting your growth.
3. Sleep on it
If we're being honest, most of us treat sleep like exercise: It's a nice practice if we can make time for it, but hardly a necessity. However, if you let it, sleep can be your secret weapon. Doctors and researchers have found that sleeping for seven to eight hours per night can improve memory, lower heart attack risk and even spur creativity. I keep a journal next to my bed and jot down the most important decisions that are keeping me up at night, and then I let my brain do its thing during my hours of rejuvenation.
4. Establish rules
Early in my career, people would come into my office asking for help, and I would give them answers and send them off to execute. Over time, this became a crutch for them that created more work for me. Eventually, I created a Three Solutions Rule: My door is always open to help with any and all challenges―but, when a team member seeks my assistance, they must come prepared with up to three potential solutions for solving that problem. This simple change was transformative in developing our team culture, took pressure off of me and ultimately improved decision-making across our entire team.
Don't discount the stress you endure when it comes to decision-making, but know that by deploying smart strategies, it can get better. Adopting one of these tactics today may just change your life, one good decision at a time.
Greg Eisen is an Entrepreneurs' Organization (EO) member in Connecticut where he was a founding member of the chapter and served as its president. As an executive business coach with Petra Coach, Greg helps companies achieve success through accountability and alignment in their businesses and personal lives through guidance based on his entrepreneurial experience building, buying and selling successful companies over 20 years.