Making Better Decisions

… and what habits have to do with it

Signs: over here – no, this way

I came across the video “3 simple tips of making better decisions” (3:31 min) by the BBC, and it tickled my interest. Human beings constantly have to make decisions. In a research done at Cornell University in 2018 it was estimated that on average an adult will make approximately 35,000 remotely conscious decisions each day. That’s a lot.

Of course, not all of these decisions have the same weight or impact on our lives, in fact, we make most of them unconsciously. And that’s good, because if we would think about each one, we would suffer analysis paralysis and would be totally overwhelmed.  

So far so good. But if we consider that, according to Dr. Modgil, all decisions, big or small, require the same amount of brain energy, then it doesn’t really matter if we make a big or small decision. It is far more important when we make a decision. How could we ensure that we have enough energy for the ones that are really important? How do presidents, CEOs, or doctors, who constantly have to make decisions, have or preserve energy to make (mostly) good ones? And more importantly, what could we as entrepreneurs learn from them to improve and get better at decision making? After all, our livelihood may depend on it.

The answer is surprisingly simple. Some of the most successful or creative people just don’t bother with small decisions. They create habits instead, eliminating as many small decisions from their days as possible. I‘m referring to decisions such as what to have for breakfast, what to wear, how to start the day, or what to do first after arriving at the office. By creating these habits they eliminate energy sucking decisions, energy that would be far better used for more important questions or problems.

I’m not sure if this was his intent, but take Steve Jobs for example. He would only wear black turtlenecks and jeans, every single day. When he stood in front of his closet there wasn’t anything he had to think about. He just grabbed any turtleneck and any pair of jeans, done. This is a little bit too extreme for my taste. But there are other options to remove this decision from your morning. One option would be putting your clothes out the night before. Or maybe deciding what to wear for a whole week. If you’re traveling you do it as well.

Or consider a “morning routine.” As the word suggests, it refers to activities in the morning that you repeat every day preserving brain energy for other decisions later in the day. Depending on your personal schedule and lifestyle you design your morning routine based on what is important to you and what you would like to gain from it. The book “The Miracle Morning” by Hal Elrod and Cameron Herold provides a lot of examples of routines successful people created for themselves to guide their days in order to meet their professional and personal goals.

Creating habits is only one of the three aspects mentioned in this video, but surely worth giving it some extra thought considering it may have a positive impact on our businesses and our lives.

As a side-bonus, it also gives some structure to your day and, based on my own experience, a morning routine guarantees a good start into the day. But you don’t have to stop here. Take a moment and look at your day and your work. What else could you either simplify, delegate or altogether eliminate? What is eating precious brain energy that would be much better used for more pressing or more important questions or challenges? Give it some thought.

Also, consider the time of day when you make big decisions. For me the saying “You should sleep on it” just got a completely new meaning. Give your brain the time to work on your question overnight and recharge. I’m sure it won’t be the first time that you find a brilliant solution while standing in the shower.

See you in two weeks,
Regine

2 thoughts on “Making Better Decisions

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