With the advent of mobile technology, it has become easy to feel tied to the workplace at all times. Do you clear e-mail waiting for dinner to arrive? Do people ask you to stop texting during the movie? Is everyone passing you on the road because you find it tough to focus on a customer call and drive at the same time? (You know who you are.) A recent survey conducted by Robert Half International found that 96% of managers say their people have too much to do every day.
The result of this, of course, is decision fatigue, that feeling that you’re just plain tired of making decisions and figuring stuff out. This condition impacts both sides of the employment relationship. For the employee, it fosters resentment, a feeling of helplessness and even anger. For the employer, it impacts productivity, quality of work, and staff turnover levels. With the ever-increasing emphasis on efficiency and the bottom line, however, the solution is not simple.
But what can you do, personally, to battle this insidious affliction? After all, it’s not what happens to you that counts. It’s how you respond. So, here are five quick strategies to commence the fight:
Number one, take stock. If we take a hard look in the mirror, most of us will realize that we can be our own worst enemy. We’re doing things we shouldn’t be doing. We’re making decisions others should be making. We’re doing things the old way rather than adapting. So, take a couple of days and catalog the tasks you complete and the decisions you make. Nothing fancy. Just a list. Include everything from the time you get up to the time you go to bed. Then look for items that can be eliminated, performed by someone else, or simplified. Even if you find one or two, it will be worth the effort. You may say, “Who’s got time for this? You’re just adding to my decision fatigue.” But if you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten. ‘nuf said.
Number two, say “no” more often.Sometimes, we are reluctant to challenge the endless parade of assignments handed down from above, for fear of irritating someone or even putting our jobs in jeopardy. Yet well thought-out and rehearsed responses to assignments that get piled on will generally be met with dialog about how to accomplish the work without overwhelming everyone. I address how to accomplish this in more detail in this post.
Number three, say “yes” less often.How often do you say, “Sure,” or “Happy to do so,” or “Not a problem,” during the week? You might be doing this out of a desire to please. You might worry that if you don’t say “yes” you’ll lose an opportunity. Or maybe, you naturally want to help, but fail to consider your calendar and existing commitments. The best decision makers have trained themselves to hesitate before committing impulsively. They say things like, “I might be able to help, but let me check my calendar,” or “I’d be happy to pitch in on part of that. I just need to be mindful of my time.” In this way, they frame the agreement on their terms.
Number four, rid your phone of useless conveniences.Have you ever watched someone swipe left over and over trying to find the app that will save them a couple of minutes. Then they wait a couple of minutes for the latest update to load because the WIFI is slow. Maybe this has been you. We tend to download apps because they seemed like a good idea at the time. Truthfully, most are just sand in the gears of our decision making. The next time you’re sitting in line at the car wash or waiting for the movie to begin after 13 minutes of trailers, delete a few of the apps you really don’t need. Doing this once a week will relieve some of that background stress you feel from having too many options.
Number five, learn what others do to cope.Who around you is the best about managing all the daily decisions and tasks we now navigate? What are these individuals doing that you should be doing? What are they not doing that you should not be doing? Chances are, they have learned these strategies from others. You should learn from them and then pass them along to others who also need the help. These five tactics will not alleviate all of the decision fatigue you feel. But they will serve as a start toward your recovery.