Got Decision Fatigue? Can’t Decide? Here’s My Cure!

samanthasuttonOnce upon a time, I used to make a dizzying number of small decisions in any given day that, let’s face it, took up A LOT of my mental energy. Here is a sampling of some of the quandaries that I use to debate:

“I don’t want to get up and go for a run. It’s early and I’m tired. Maybe I could run after work instead? Or maybe tomorrow? I bet the weather will be better tomorrow, but tomorrow is a busier day.”

“Do I want to go on a second date with this guy? He does ask good questions, but he isn’t very passionate about his job. And how would I feel about our kids picking up his accent? He does seem like he would be up for adventure, though. What should I say at the end of the date?”

“Oh boy, someone brought cake to the group meeting. I want cake. Should I eat it? I haven’t lost that Christmas weight yet. But it looks so good, and would be just the thing to make me feel good after such a long day.”

“Should I spend the extra money on the flight to arrive two hours earlier? What would I do with that time? And it’s on a worse airline. It would be nice to be better rested the next day, but what if my friends will be inconvenienced to pick me up that early?”

If you think about it, you probably spend a good portion of each day making decisions about anything as small as what to eat for lunch, to as big as which vendor you should choose for a multi-million dollar contract. Decisions are the tool of creation, and so it makes sense that when I help clients create and go after their dreams in my weekend workshops, the room is flooded with questions about trade-offs, pros and cons and mental equations for evaluating options.

The problem is that each decision takes mental energy and focus, and we only have so much of that to go around. Studies have shown that we can suffer from something called decision fatigue, which means that the more decisions we make, the harder it gets to make each one, and so you are more likely to make poor decisions.

The solution, then, is to limit the number of decisions you make to just the most important ones: the ones that have you creating your dream. And I have just the tool that does that: personal laws. A personal law is a commitment that you make to yourself about what is and is not “legal” in your personal kingdom. For example, I have made personal laws that address each one of the issues I listed above:

* I run three times per week, and set those times at the beginning of the week.
* If I enjoy hanging out with a man, and he doesn’t have any of my deal-breakers, I go on a second date.
* I can eat whatever I want, so long as my weight stays below 123 pounds.
* Any plane fare difference of less than $50 is insignificant and shouldn’t be considered.

These personal laws, just like any law we have in society, makes decision-making easy. If you are approaching a red light, you know to stop your car. And similarly, if it’s my appointed time to go for a run, then I abide by my personal law and go for a run. Personal laws make it easy to navigate through my daily life, spending minimal mental energy on small decisions, so I can save that for big decisions about where I am going to bring my clients, what is the next innovation I will create in my workshops, and what fabulous birthday bash I am going to plan for my sweetie.

Give it a try. What personal laws would simplify your decision-making? Pick one or two and start to practice living by them. I think you will like the simplicity and ease that they bring to your daily life!

Love,
Samantha

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Dr. Samantha Sutton is a Senior Coach, Vice President and Director of Courses and Seminars for The Handel Group® where she designs and leads the Life Coaching Crash Course.

If you are ready for 2013 to be the year that you step up the results in your life, the Life Coaching Crash Course is the best place to start. See our workshop dates in New York City, Los Angeles, San Diego, Atlanta and Boston.