Making Decisions

People hate, hate, hate making decisions and will do almost anything to avoid having to do so. They find it so challenging that they will willing and enthusiastically allow others to make a decision for them. If you doubt it, wait until your spouse comes home from a hard day at work and ask him or her what they want for dinner. I bet the answer is....whatever, you decide. Anybody that is involved in sales recognizes this - the client who procrastinates on picking the house and wants to see one more listing, the car buyer who wants to try that red job at the corner of the lot that's almost exactly the same as the blue one he's sitting in, the child that can't make up her mind on which piece of Halloween candy she wants.

For the sales person, guiding this individual to a decision is part and parcel of the job. A good sales person will help you achieve your goal whether it's buying the right car (for me, the FJ Cruiser - a rig my wife still considers the second ugliest vehicle ever made) or what style to cut your hair. It's also a process that can be fraught with abuse if the sales person puts their interest ahead of the customer's.

Unfortunately, that doesn't work in most situations - there's no sales person to help you run every aspect of your life. And, in part, the way we live our lives is a problem. Many of us have careers that require us to make decisions, lots of them, every day. This process of making decisions wears us down.

They even have a name for it. Decision fatigue. It's real, documented in multiple studies and pernicious. Factor in the 24/7 nature of our world and the problem becomes enormous. The more decisions that you are required to make, the more fatigued you become and the actual quality of your decisions drops.

There are a couple of strategies to deal with decision fatigue that can be helpful.

First, for many routine things, right-size the amount of energy you commit to the process. Not everything was meant to be agonized about. Who you are going to spend the next 50 years with does not require the same level of intensity as whether to have dessert - or shouldn't.

Checklist can be handy and so can schedules. When I am doing an inspection, I maintain a mental checklist of all the things that I will be looking at and, in many cases, certain indicators lead to automatic responses. These trip wires relieve me of the constant decision-making process on something as simple as a drip from a faucet and allows me to focus on that odd crack in the foundation. Breakfast is a checklist item - eggs with tortillas or oatmeal with fruit, orange juice, coffee. I save the fancy breakfast decisions for Sunday morning when I'm relaxed and can dither over waffles.

Likewise, I set up a schedule to manage my decisions - which is why I've been writing at 2AM lately. It's on the schedule. I made a simple decision that I need to get more writing done. The problem is that I have a schedule that is totally swamped this month with cross country coaching two afternoons a week, helping with some of the meets, two training seminars on the far side of the state, a trip to Seattle for the Home Inspector Advisory Board and a trip to Spokane for the State Building Code Council meeting.

Somewhere in there, I have to work and make a couple of bucks to keep the lights on - plus, I like eating. So does the dog.

The solution was to build some dedicated time onto the schedule. Since I'm often up at 2AM anyway, I threw it on the schedule for writing. So far, I haven't needed an alarm and, by the time 4AM rolls around, I'm sleepy again. I grab another three hours of sleep and head for work.

Is it a long-term solution? I don't know. I doubt it but it is good enough for right now. Which is another technique to making decisions. Decisions fatigue often follows a desire to always make the perfect decision. Sometimes good enough is good enough. Save the perfect decision for the occasion that you really need it.

And remember the advice that your Mom gave you? To sleep on it and decide in the morning? Mom was right. You make better decisions when you're rested.

And now it's time for this sleepy guy to go to bed. I have lots of decisions to make tomorrow.