We all make decisions constantly; what to have for dinner, the best route to work, when to schedule a doctor’s appointment and the smartest way to ask for a raise.

If we take care of children, we’re making their decisions too. Breakfast, clothing, scheduling and schooling.

The decisions run from unimportant to life-altering and somewhere on that scale, we need to save our decision making energy and pronto! We are exhausting ourselves with decisions that leave us with little mental stamina for the important stuff, like searching for another word besides “stuff.”

You may not be aware of how many decisions you make each day.  And although your mind is an incredible machine, there is a limit to what it can accomplish.  Being smart about how you spend that mental energy, can be a big factor in success (and possibly happiness.)

In Extraneous Factors in Judicial Decisions, Shai Danziger, Jonathan Levav, and Liora Avnaim-Pesso, note; 

Prior research suggests that making repeated judgments or decisions depletes individuals’ executive function and mental resources (6), which can, in turn, influence their subsequent decisions.  For instance, sequential choices between consumer goods can lead to an increase in intuitive decision-making (7) as well as a reduced tolerance for pain in a subsequent task (8). Sequential choices and the apparent mental depletion that they evoke also increase people’s tendency to simplify decisions by accepting the status quo.” 

But decisions are not only about this or that – they are also about whether or not to make a decision at all or put it off.

And decisions can include saying no when you would like to say yes.  We call that willpower, but it’s also a decision and it can really take it out of you!

According to John Tierney in his article Do You Suffer From Decision Fatigue?

These experiments demonstrated that there is a finite store of mental energy for exerting self-control.  When people fended off the temptation to scarf down M&M’s or freshly baked chocolate-chip cookies, they were then less able to resist other temptations.  When they forced themselves to remain stoic during a tearjerker movie, afterward they gave up more quickly on lab tasks requiring self-discipline, like working on a geometry puzzle or squeezing a hand-grip exerciser.  Willpower turned out to be more than a folk concept or a metaphor.”

And if you are not yet convinced, think about the impact too many decisions are having on your ability to manage your team effectively…

According to Andrew Cohen in his article; Why You Should Limit Your Number of Daily Decisions, 

It is increasingly important that you reduce your non-critical decisions as much as possible to free your brain for more important high-order thinking.  Many managers fail to realize that limiting decisions is not the same as limiting the expenditure of time or financial resources.  It’s easy to wonder “Why should I fully delegate technical decisions to my CTO, or marketing decisions to my CMO, when it would just take me 10 minutes to review their proposals?  

The answer is that those 10 minutes of actual “work” time might have cost you an hour’s worth of your mental resources.  The time it takes your brain to switch between various tasks can be tremendous when you’re talking about high-level thinking.  If time is money, then management’s mental bandwidth is money squared.

There are lots of stories of people in high-level leadership minimizing their daily decisions, and if you have a team of people working for you – it’s probably pretty easy to delegate large categories of decisions to them.

But what if you don’t have that team backing you up?  What can you do to minimize your decision making to become a more effective manager, executive, partner, parent and citizen?  

Coach Me Quick Tips for Less Decision Making:

  1. Morning time is your freshest time– make the important decisions over breakfast!  And, with that in mind – never make decisions on an empty stomachJ
  2. Choose one TV show to binge at a time and develop a queue so that when you sit down to watch TV, you know what you are watching.  Have one book on your bedside table.  You can have a stash of backups hidden in the linen closet, but just 1 by the side of the bed.
  3. Figure out what you like to eat and eat it on a regular basis.  Have the same lunch 6 days a week with a variation on the weekend.  Institute Taco Tuesdays or Pasta Thursdays as a family tradition.  
  4. Trust your choices.  If you are trying to figure out which rug will work best in the living room, give yourself a time limit, do some due diligence and choose from a small array of rugs that you like.  Looking at every rug from here to Istanbul, will not likely provide you with a significantly better rug.
  5. Make the simple decisions for morning, the night before; plan your clothes, breakfast and what you will tackle first when you get to the office.

Save your genius energy for the big stuff, like where to go on vacation…. 

Making fewer choices in L.A.,