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  • Amina Aitsi-Selmi

Preventing and treating decision fatigue: apply the die

Preventing and treating decision fatigue: apply the die.

In a 2017 advert, Microsoft used a statistic estimating that we make 35,000 decisions a day…

As someone with a PhD in epidemiology and statistics, I’m not one to take unqualified statistics at face value.

However, it’s entirely plausible that we’re making many more decisions today than we did on an average day when our human brains first evolved, because we’re faced with so much more choice.

As thought leaders and decision-makers, Barack Obama, Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg must have been onto something when they simplified their wardrobe to save decision-making capacity.

But what if you don’t know what to cut out from your daily decision-making load?

What if you’re in a phase of rapid or multiple changes when a large number of decisions need to be made?

Or what if you’re going through an emotional time processing intense feelings like sadness, anger or grief and have less energy left to think things through?

Decision fatigue can creep in swiftly and saddle you with lower quality decisions, frustration and unpleasant results.

You don’t even need a reason to want to reduce your decision load. Assuming you don’t enjoy making decisions for the sake of it, and want to have plenty of energy to use in the best way possible, it’s perfectly legitimate to want to free up headspace to relax and enjoy being alive in different ways.

The second ever Wise Wednesdays blog and video (two years ago) was on a similar theme (“goal-setting fatigue”. See here for a few tips: One quick solution that’s worked quite well for me, when decisions are accumulating, is outsourcing decisions and calling on my trusted assistant: the die. Meet my personal assistant and decision making guru:

The die is completely fair, has no biases and just follows the laws of the universe… If you’re dealing with big decisions, you can outsource things like what colour shirt to buy, whether to go to that office party or which hotel to book for the trip. If you get really skilled at using it (there are indications and contra-indications for its use), you might even outsource big decisions like whether to take a secondment or move into a new flat…

Legends in the making: The decisions we make on our careers are among the most important since we spend a significant amount of time working. We had two hours of deep connection, sharing and learning at the Leaders Circle last week on this. Every one of the ten people present had a nugget of wisdom to share on how the personally navigated unusual career pathways, being different, overcoming resistance and discouragement from within and from the systems we’re embedded in as we step into realising an inspired vision for our careers, and much more. Dr Anu Kumar who was much further ahead in her career, gave us the aerial view of the terrain you’re on in your 20s, 30s and 40s, which was eye opening and reassuring in many ways. We almost overextended our stay at Harley Street. Luckily, we found a place to continue the conversation nearby. The next one is on the 26th of July at 6.30pm. Pencil it in your diary – details to follow.

According to cognitive psychologists like Nobel Prize Winner Daniel Kahneman, after a certain number of variables (fewer than 10) enter the equation, you’re in the realm of complex decisions. At that point, your rational, conscious brain can’t process the data load and your intuition will be a better guide…

Either your intuition, your best guess or the die.

When I need to outsource decisions and avoid decision fatigue, I use the die to help me. It saves, not only brainpower, but it also saves time spent trying to think things through endlessly, in post hoc rationalisation, or in entertaining any guilt/buyers remorse after the decision.

I use the die for small decisions like what to wear for an occasion, or bigger decisions like investing in a home improvement or volunteer project.

You’ll be surprised how quickly things can get back in flow and your mental clarity amplified.

Remember this is a temporary solution to preventing decision fatigue or getting you unstuck if you are already in fatigue. The die process will help you loosen up, get back in the present and energise you as you start to see that most decisions are not all that serious, anyway.

Since most of our decisions in life are a best guess, how about playing with a die or a similar process with small decisions? It will give your thinking mind a break and it may take you to interesting places.

Most of all have a little fun!

Compassion ~ Courage ~ Wisdom


p.s. If you can’t make it to the Leaders Circle in person, I’ve created an online version (a 45 minute webinar) by popular demand. I’ll share key insights and tips from the Circle on how to create the right career path for you and have question and answer time including on how the Leaders Circle works, as well. More details to follow but you can sign up here for the Leaders Circle webinar, if this speaks to you. It's planned for Wednesday 11th of July at 6pm UK/ 10am PST / 1pm EST.

26th of June: Managing care for patients with multimorbidities. National Institute of Health and Care Excellence Annual Conference 2018. 6th of July: Birthing babies, birthing your dreams: a parent’s power to create the right life and career. PLUSbaby (physicians returning to work after parent leave). Register here: 11th of July: Leaders Circle online webinar. Transform your communication to transform your career. Sign up here: 26th of July at 6.30pm: The Leaders Circle: Transform your communication to transform your career. Details to follow.

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